Knowing what you’re growing and what it looks like is important for a few reasons. Knowing how much space your plants will fill in a garden determines how many you can grow. Plant grouping also affects companion planting, pests and diseases. Let’s start with the basics. We’ll split vegetables into recognized groups before looking at how to combine them for their and our benefit.
These plants fix nitrogen out of the air. Making it available for the legumes and the following crops. They do this through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria growing on their roots.
This group provides protein in the form of peas and beans. They can be eaten fresh, allowed to grow to fruition and collected dry. This means they are available all year, with a little planning. Important for vegetarian and vegan diets as that protein source.
Examples of legumes include:
- Snow Peas
- Scarlet Runner Beans
- String Beans
- Bush Beans
- Broad Beans
This family is huge. They are frost hardy, will grow over winter, slowly and will ‘bolt’, that is run to seed in hot dry weather conditions. Often characterised by having blue/green leaves many parts are edible. Leaves (Cabbage, Mizuna, Bok Choy, Turnip/Swede Greens, Kale), flowers (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts) and roots (Turnips, Swedes, Radishes).
This group can provide a huge part of your diet. They must not be grown on the same piece of ground for more than two seasons to avoid a disease called clubfoot which will destroy the crop. Allow three years between sowings on the same plot.
Examples of brassicas include:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Rocket (arugula)
The onion family has been cultivated from the very earliest of agricultural times. They are slow growing and need some care and attention to ensure they are established. Once secure they require steady watering without excessive swings in moisture levels.
Related to the weed Deadly Nightshade, these plants from the Americas took some time to be established outside their native ranges. Amongst the most popular of vegetables, they have great variety and you should be able to find many cultivars suitable to your location. They are frost tender.
- Eggplant (Aubergines)
Vine vegetables that can take up a large area. Some can be trained to grow up trellises to save space. The harder shelled fruits will keep into winter. Frost tender.
- Zucchini (courgettes)
These vegetables come from a variety of groups. They are placed together for the purposes of cultivation rather than species. Many can be left in the ground if you don’t receive excessive snowfalls.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Jerusalem Artichoke
From these plants, a balanced, fulfilling diet can be constructed. Eaten fresh, dried or otherwise preserved, they will provide sustenance all year. How you deal with excesses depends upon the complexity of your garden systems. If you have animals ~ chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, pigs ~ the excess or some of it can become feed and thereby manure to feed the garden. If you don’t keep animals and probably even if you do, preserving will be necessary to ensure all year long food.
There is a separate module of food preservation coming.