Paperwork is probably the last thing you have in mind when you think about growing a vegetable garden. Whenever it comes to mind, you probably see yourself leaning on your spade as lush, healthy plants shoot up in front of your eyes.
The fact is however, quite different. A lush and healthy vegetable garden begins not with seeds and a spade but with paper and a pencil. Drawing a plan may not sound as critical as getting outdoors and planting things. But, if you do not spend the requisite time planning what to grow in your garden and when and where to plant it, you may spend the rest of the growing season correcting mistakes you made because you did not have a plan.
Making a plan may seem like a lot of work, but careful planning will help you make the best use of your time and available space and will result in bigger, higher-quality veggies.
Grow what you need
Unless you plan on selling some of your harvest, stick to growing only what your family will eat and enjoy. It makes little sense to put time and effort into taking care of beets if most of your family will loathe them.
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There is absolutely no harm in growing the typical tomatoes, onions and sukuma wiki (kale) that every Kenyan kitchen has. But if you do not throw in something that absolutely drives your family crazy, then you may not have the drive to walk the extra mile.
Whatever you decide to grow, grow only quantities that you need or can safely store and preserve. It is very disheartening to take care of vegetables for a whole season only to watch them rot away at the end.
Planting space and structure
The nature and amount of space you have will determine the structure of your garden. Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways to grow your vegetables even in the tightest of corners. The common ones are flat beds, raised beds, containers and vertical beds.
Flat beds are what we are used to. They are dug out directly on the ground and are appropriate where space is not a problem and the ground and soils are relatively easy. Raised beds require you to retain mounds of soil using an appropriate means.
Containers and vertical vegetable gardens involve planting in portable vessels that can be placed or hanged anywhere. Whichever method you choose, sketch out a plan showing the various beds and what you will plant where.
Ensure there is a well defined path for every one meter wide row of plants. Plus there is no need to restrict yourself to straight rows, try out curved rows and even asymmetrical patterns to add interest to the design.
— The writer is a landscape architect