A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Vegetable Patch

At the JoJo London Head Office, you’ll find more than computers, samples and the odd dog running around; we’re also proud owners of vegetable patches! With meat having such a huge effect on climate change, the United Nations has stated that a global shift towards a vegetarian or vegan diet is becoming increasingly necessary. It’s never too early or late to turn over a new leaf and learn to grow your own – today we’re sharing some useful tips to get you started.

1. Choose a good spot

Build your vegetable patch in the sunniest spot in your garden to help your fruit and veggies grow. Picture a hot summer’s day – where would you usually lay down to sunbathe? You might lose your favourite tanning location, but your plants will make it worth it. Some plants, like salad leaves, could require shade; this is easily resolved by putting up some netting to create a shadow over them.


2. Get your gear in check

There’s nothing worse than being ready to get stuck into some gardening, only to realise that your wheelbarrow tyres are flat, or your garden hose has a hole in it. Check everything you need is in full working order before you begin.


3. Layering black sheeting

If you live in a particularly cold and frosty place or are planning on starting a winter patch, covering your soil with black sheeting before you sow any seeds will help keep the bed warm and soft – and weeds at bay. Mow or trim the area so existing weeds and plants are low to the ground and once covered in the sheeting they should die off. Leave the sheeting on for 2-3 months in summer or 6 months in winter for best results.


4. Give it a quick once-over

Before you start planting, remember to have a quick tidy up of your vegetable patch if it has been sitting unattended for a while. Getting rid of any stray leaves, weeds and old plants will make it easier for your plants to flourish and can help keep pesky critters away too.


5. Dig away

You should also use a gardening fork or trowel to loosen up the soil before planting, as breaking it apart will make it more comfortable for your plants to grow. As you’re doing this, you might want to add some fresh soil or compost to the patch if it isn’t a new lot and needs a top up.


6. Rake it, baby!

If you have quite a big vegetable garden on your hands, you could use a garden rake to separate any clumps that might have formed and get rid of stones to give your roots extra room to grow, and help avoid odd-shaped carrots!


7. Add extra nutrients

Introducing manure or compost to your patch will help your plants to grow. Once the vines develop, leaves flourish or first flowers appear (depending on your plant), follow up with some organic plant feed to fertilize your greens without causing any damage to the environment.


8. Start a compost bin

Whether you'll be starting your veg garden in a few weeks or months, you can start to build your compost bin now in preparation for the next season. Examples of things you can add to it include: fruit and vegetable peelings, lawn clippings and leaves, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, black & white newspaper, cardboard and more!


9. Be brave when buying

Try not to shy away from buying vegetable plants rather than sowing your own. Planting seeds and helping them grow from beginning to end can be overwhelming for new starters, and a few ready-formed plants could be a good helping hand to get you on the right path.


10. Follow instructions

Seed packets will let you know what time of year to sow whichever seeds you have chosen, how deep to bury them in soil, how far apart each seed should sit from each other and more useful information for beginners. Make sure you follow the advice carefully at the start to give your plants the best chance. There are also hundreds of YouTube videos and blogs out there full of handy tips and gardening advice.


11. Select your system

There are various methods of sowing seeds, you might want to do some extra research before you decide what will work for you. Here's a brief overview:

Sow in rows

Use a marker (wooden stick) to create straight lines in the soil. The distance between each row will depend on the size of the seed you're sowing - bigger seeds require more space. Scatter the seeds along the shallow groove, following the instructions with regard to distance between each seed. Cover each row with compost.

- Seed tapes

This is the easiest method. Seed tapes are long strips of "tape" with pre-sown seeds attached, already perfectly spaced at the right distance for growing. All you have to do is create your rows of grooves and lay the tapes down in them and cover with the recommended top layer of soil.

- Broadcast method

This may require a few seasons of practice but when done correctly it can produce the best results. To start, turn and rake the bed so the soil is loose, creating miniature furrows in even lines. Scatter seeds over thinly, then rake them again into the furrows. You can find lots more advice on which directions to rake in here. Lightly water the area with a mist sprayer so the ground is wet but not soaked; do this regularly (every other day) until the first sprouts appear.


Have you recently started your own vegetable patch and have some tips to share? Leave a comment below!