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My recalcitrant vegetable patch

I have complained before about my veg patch.  I admit to making a mistake when I had it cut when we first moved into the property in 2012  (Newark) and should have waited for all 4 seasons before doing anything; however, what's done is done.  It is bounded on the west side by trees (a 'heritage hedge'); on the south by a trellis, in situ at the time of buying and which does let light through, particularly now that I have cut down the offending clematis and honeysuckle; and to the north by a shed, also there when we came in.

The trees cause the most problem, the 'hedge' extends southwards down the whole garden so sunlight reaches the veg patch only until around 2.00 p.m. in summer, although it is still very light.  However, last year we gained permission from the council to have the trees heavily pruned and all the 'suckers' removed; because of the TPO it took time and we could therefore not have it done until June, i.e. after first fledglings had gone and before the birds started up again with the next family.  Consequently, the veg patch was left to its own devices.  I should also point out that, because of said trees, the plot tends to dry out very quickly (clay soil under the top soil) and needs water every evening that it is warm and sunny - thanks heavens for 3 really good-sized water butts!

I now want to have another go but, as the plot has been left fallow for over a year, I'll need to amend the soil, after which I intend to put a massive load of compost (general purpose) into it.  What 'amendment' products should I use, and when?  Our favourite crops are salad leaves, beans (runner and bush), carrots, zucchini - it's not a huge space.  Tomatoes and peppers, etc. are grown in my unheated greenhouse (ex-Summer house where we had the roof replaced by Perspex and which works perfectly in the summer). 

I have to say, this is its last chance as, if it is not successful this year, I shall revert to grass.  I may even take down the trellis and make what is now the veg patch into a shrubbery to complement the ornamental border which would then lie directly in front of it (and which works!); but I really would like it to succeed!

Any help you can give, Forkers, would be gratefully received. 


  • This is exactly the time of year you should be clearing it. image 

    Rip all the weeds out and dig in some manure or fruit and veg compost and it will be fine. 

  • lydiaannlydiaann Posts: 298

    Thanks, Learnincurve:  Fresh manure?  Or should I just get a couple of small bags of chicken manure from the garden centre?  I'm not a bad gardener at all, but this has just got me stumped.  I was blessed for 20 years with a mild climate and beautiful, friable soil at my last abode which meant that anything, apart from acid-hating plants, grew like wildfire with little or no care!image

  • Fresh manure can burn roots, chicken manure is fine. 

    What I do once I’ve dug over the patch is put down some of that anti-weed matting with bricks/stones to hold it down and then fold it back when plants/sets/seeds go in, saves on weeding. 

  • lydiaannlydiaann Posts: 298

    Sounds good, thanks a lot.  I shall go and bash the plastic tomorrow (now I have the perfect excuse to go to my favourite garden centre...good coffee there, too!)  and get cracking on that.  I don't have the matting but there aren't too many weeds and anyway, I have loads of black plastic that should be enough to cover most of it.  Thanks for the advice - and here's to really fresh salads this year!

  • Try to get a bulk load of Horse manure if you can. Spread it all over the beds then put the plastic on. Let the worms do their work. In spring uncover gradually as you need it & plant straight in. Either you were lucky with your soil before or more likely someone had put lots of bulky organic matter in it over several years. That is what will give you the friable soil we all crave.

    AB Still learning

  • lydiaannlydiaann Posts: 298

    Thanks for the 'horse manure' tip...not sure where to get some.  As we are off to the garden centre today, I'll probably stick with the bagged manure but still do the plastic thingie.

    Our lovely soil was happenstance before.  The previous owners to the property (south of Vancouver, B.C.) simply kept the garden tidy for the 10 years they were there.  It was filled with stones (we did live on Pebble Hill!) which I gathered every spring and scattered along paths.  When I started with the garden, we had to take up loads of juniper which may look wonderful as small feature plants but grow into chaotic shrubs that cannot be controlled.  Once we reterraced the garden, a neighbour and I used to buy a pick-up truck full of topsoil every year and divvy it up between us.  Other people just gardened in what they had and still put on an impressive show.  I still aim to do the same with this one though!

  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,912

    To grow carrots you need to leave an area without manure but well dug over and as many of the stones as you can got out. They fork if you put them in rich soil and grow around stones which makes them harder to clean (although they still taste fine, just harder to cook elegantly). 

    When you get round to planting out your zucchini (it would be June here - don't know when it gets warm enough there), put an extra spadeful of rotted manure in the bottom of the planting hole. It's quite hard to overfeed them, they'll take everything you give them.

    Your runner beans will be the things that struggle most with the dry ground. Why not grow a few climbing French beans alongside the runners, as they will often do better in a hot dry year, the runners in a cool wet one, so plant both and double your chances of a decent crop.

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • lydiaannlydiaann Posts: 298

    Thanks for all the tips.  We have now, finally, managed to finish digging over the patch taking out the few weeds that were there and a ton of 'capillary' roots from the trees.  We've added a load of farm manure (good deal from the garden centre...bagged, not fresh so not too strong) and forked it in lightly then raked it all.  Hopefully, the frost/rain/whatever will do the trick and I can start putting stuff in in the spring.  What I thought was a load of black plastic turned out to be a bag with netting in it, so I'm leaving it as is at the moment.  If too many weeds dare so much as show their faces, I shall run out and get some.   Also, as I put each lot in, I shall tell it that should it not perform - whether it be lettuce or beans or carrots - it will all come up.  [Well, it worked for a plant once (never flowered, told it one morning as I left for work that if it didn't, it was going to be pulled morning, not one but two flowers!)]

    According to a newspaper report this a.m., it's going to be a dry summer, so the climbing French beans sound like a good idea.  I shall maybe report later in the year as to whether all the advice worked.  My thanks again, Forkers!image

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