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Create a Family Vegetable Plot

In fact any part of a garden or greenhouse can be sectioned off to make a garden especially for your children to call their own. Choose crops for them to sow that are quick and easy to grow. Cut-and-come-again lettuces, radishes and carrots are all colourful and can be harvested in quite a short space of time.

A large garden can accommodate fruit trees and fruit cages and a plot of land dedicated to growing vegetables. In a small garden, fruit and certain vegetables can be grown up walls or fences to use all available space. They can even be mixed in with flowers. Some, like marigolds, help to keep pests away from your crops. Fruit trees especially like being trained against brick walls because these retain heat which will help to ripen fruit.

If you only have a courtyard garden or balcony, crops can even be grown in pots, containers and compost bags. If your soil is too poor or your plants will be competing with the roots of large trees, then raised beds can be employed. All of this can be done in an inexpensive way if you recycle containers or other objects such as old tyres or planks of wood.

A lot of fruit trees and vegetable plants have been bred as dwarf varieties to suit the smaller garden. Some crops like herbs, radishes, cress and chillies can be grown on window sills or in conservatories. Strawberries can be grown in ornamental towers.

If you really don’t have enough room to grow everything you would like to grow, then look for an allotment or community garden where you will also find people who will share seeds, plants and knowledge with you. There will probably be other children for yours to play with as well.

Otherwise, when planning your own garden, decide how the light falls on it throughout the day before you decide where to site your green house, cold frames, compost heap, fruit trees and cages and your vegetable plot. If you don’t have room for everything, consider what is most important for you to have.

Grow what you know you like to eat and if you want to experiment with crops, don’t dedicate too much space to them in case they are not a success. You could split a packet of seeds with someone else or swap plants with them.

A greenhouse of any size will extend a growing season but cold frames and cloches can be used for this as well. A compost heap will save you money. Asparagus will need much more room than lettuce to give you a good yield.

You might want to grow things that cost the most to buy in the supermarket or are not even available in your local shops. Or maybe you will choose harvests that can be stored in some way over the winter to reduce wastage or simply crops that will give the highest yield in the space available. Consider what is most valuable for your own family.

If you have never eaten freshly picked vegetables, you will probably not realise how different they taste from the ones bought in the shops. This is especially true of peas, tomatoes and potatoes.

Children can join in with the harvesting of these crops and cooking simple recipes with them. A glut of tomatoes can be turned into sauce for topping home-made pizzas and frozen in batches. A mini mushroom farm can be grown in a dark shed.

Every section of a garden needs to be safe if there are children around. Chemicals must be locked away. Tools should not be left on the ground where they can be stepped on. Support canes pushed into the ground should be capped with film canisters or yoghurt pots stuffed with scrunched up newspaper to ensure they are visible and protected.

Plan your plot carefully to allow each crop room to grow and prepare the ground accordingly. Rhubarb and asparagus will need to establish themselves over a few years so need to be placed in a permanent site. Every other crop should be rotated over a three or four-year cycle. Brassicas follow peas and beans and they follow root crops and potatoes.

Paths need to be wide enough to get a wheel barrow along and you need to get access to all areas that need maintenance. To make paths child-friendly make sure they are level with no ridges to trip over. Buy your small children toy wheelbarrows or pull-along trucks so that they can transport weeds or clippings to the compost heap.

Consider how much time you can spend in your garden and how much attention each crop will need; some are more self-sufficient than others. Think about when you will be away from home on holiday and when your crops will be ready for harvesting.

Choose crops that will do well in your soil and in your climate. If you live in a windswept place, using up some space to grow protective hedges will pay off in the long run. Permeable barriers like trellis and hedges are better than solid walls.

Your crops will need well-drained, fertile soil, good airflow and enough water.

Test your soil with a soil testing kit and distilled water, not water from your tap, before you begin planting. Sandy soil does not retain water or nutrients well. Clay soil holds nutrients but is prone to waterlogging. Soils that are very acid or alkaline will not suit some plants. If you want to grow brassicas such as cabbages or sprouts on acid soil, dress the soil with lime the autumn before.

Sandy soils benefit from added well-rotted manure and clay soils from added grit. Always prepare the soil well before planting. It will pay dividends later. Dig over the plot to loosen the soil adding compost as you go. Avoid walking on the soil wherever possible. Stand on a plank to distribute your weight.