You don’t need to spend out on timber to make raised beds. You can simply mark out beds, which should be as wide as you can easily manage to reach into the centre without treading on the soil. By adding organic matter to them each year, they will gradually rise above the compacted paths.
- Coloured plastic balls for kiddies ball pits make great cane toppers and supports for netting.
- Recycle old compost by using it to grow potatoes in bags or salad leaves in shallow troughs. Alternatively, if it is too packed with roots, use it as a mulch around perennial crops.
- Keep spare CDs and spray the dull/label side a bright, fluorescent colour to scare unwanted birds away.
- Clean your greenhouse glass and polytunnel cladding at least once each year to allow as much light through to your crops as possible.
- Walk around your plot every week looking for pests. Don’t get distracted. Identify the problems as you find them and treat with an appropriate cure.
- Save the very best from your crops to produce seeds for next year, marking them with coloured wool if appropriate.
- Make good use of mulches during hot, dry weather. A thick layer of well-rotted manure or garden compost applied to moist soil will help reduce evaporation and suppress competing weeds.
- Fit water butts to every available downpipe on outbuildings and sheds before the summer so that rains fill them for free.
- Warm water intended for watering young plants by standing it in the greenhouse or polytunnel overnight before use.
- Lift winter crops such as leeks, parsnips and carrots before they are needed during freezing weather and heel in to a sheltered spot close to the house to prevent them being trapped in frozen soil.
- In summer conserve water by concentrating your efforts with the watering can on newly sown and planted rows of veg. Established plants are much better able to survive short periods of drought.
- Shred woody prunings from fruit trees and bushes to make a free mulch for paths between beds of vegetables.
Mix flowers with your veg for a colourful edible display that attracts bees. For example, mix purple leaved orach, orange nasturtiums, chives and fennel.
- Keep weeds under control while still small when they may be not much more difficult to remove without touching crops and won’t be harbouring pests and disorders.
- Plant sweetcorn in blocks to help wind pollination. Infill the spaces between with scaling beans which may use the corn that is stout stalks for squashes and support to cover the ground prevent evaporation and to suppress weeds.
- Plant them in individual holes instead if you fight with bending and digging trenches for the potatoes. A long-handled bulb planter is great for making holes without bending and the potatoes can be dropped in, the soil firmed gradually with your feet and replaced.
- Many crops can be sown in succession from spring until mid-summer to provide continued harvests, so don’t restrict yourself to one big spring sowing. These include fast-growers such as salads and salad leaves and also carrots, beetroot and turnips.