Now is a perfect time to create a kitchen garden, in these times of spiraling prices and often falling quality, a good vegetable garden can make a worthwhile contribution, not only to the household budget but to the flavour of ones food and health, growing organic vegetables using only natural compost and fertilizers.
Laying out the vegetable garden
Select a sunny spot in the garden, deep digging to a depth of 600mm is essential, loosen the soil and then spread with a generous layer of about 200mm of manure or compost. This is the only way to ensure that the soil will be loose, fertile and capable of holding moisture, which will enable you to produce crops quickly.
The dwarf bean is generally more convenient for the home gardener then the runner bean, space them 150mm apart in a double staggered row with 500mm between the rows. Sow seeds 40mm deep, if you have a large crop, these are ideal for freezing.
Prepare them for freezing, by topping and tailing them, blanch in hot water for two minuets and then allowing them to cool, once cooled, place in freezer bags and freeze for up to six months, thus assuring you will always have fresh beans for soups and stews.
Cabbage is another winter favorite, large cabbages must be planted at 800mm and smaller varieties at 600mm.
Red, green and yellow peppers, should be planted out at 450mm intervals in staggered rows, 600mm apart.
Carrots may be grown all year round except for the hottest summer months, sow seeds very thinly in rows 300mm apart. When the plants are about 60mm high, thin out to 70mm apart, carrots will need constant watering and are very good for blanching and freezing cut either into rings or sliced lengthwise.
Cauliflower requires the same planting procedure as cabbage, to freeze, cut into florets, dice the thicker stems and blanch for two minuets, before cooling and freezing.
Aubergine a dozen plants planted at 600mm centres will provide ample supply for the average family. To deep freeze, slice and blanch for just one minuet and place in a plastic container to freeze.
Spinach, the Swiss chard is the best type, it is easy to grow and depending on the frequency of cutting, can lead to plants lasting a year or more, sow thinly however, only 500mm apart.
Turnips are easy to grow and need little space, sow thinly in rows and crop out later leaving the seedlings 100mm apart.
Tomatoes are another favorite, set out at 400mm intervals in rows 1 metre apart, stake and tie the plant up off the ground. Cherry tomatoes are very rewarding and easy to grow and also have the most flavour.
HERBS, GROWING ZEST FOR THE KITCHEN
A good idea is to set aside part of the vegetable garden for herbs. Planting according to foliage and height of each plant, you can make a delightful display in the garden with herb plants, the most popular varieties are:
Basil is a plant made up of aromatic leaves, mainly used in Italian cooking, sauces and with cheese, fish and egg dishes.
Bay leaves come from an evergreen shrub and are used to flavor stews and curries.
Coriander is used for curries and oriental cooking, can also be used to add a different flavour to salads.
Fennel has a strong flavour and is used mostly in the cooking of fish.
Marjoram is commonly known as Oregano, can be used in all types of cooking and is particularly good with meat, chicken and salads.
Mint is one of the must have herbs for any garden, can be used in a variety of ways, including salads, mint sauce, served with peas and carrots, or as a soothing tea for the nerves and digestion.
Parsley is a must have for fish, but can be used in just about any savory dish.
Rosemary is ideal with roast lamb.
Thyme can be used in most meat and savory dishes.
Sage can be added to sausages, used in the cooking of chicken and is excellent with duck or pork.