Cabbage or Carrots? Which Grows Better in your Soil?

At the beginning of the growing gardeners need to make the tough decisions on which vegetables to grow this year and which vegetables to exclude. Certainly not an easy decision to make as I’m sure we would like to grow every type of vegetable out there from Melons to Mange touts but unfortunately we are limited by a number of factors such as plot size, climate conditions, soil type and soil pH. The time of year will also limit what you can grow but you’ll be surprised to note that even in autumn there is a wide range of vegetables that you can start sowing such as Spring Cabbage, spinach, spring onions, garlic, broad beans, lettuce, pak choi and parsley.

Assuming that you want to grow your vegetables in spring then the list of vegetables available is only limited by your own gardens limitations. Soil itself is the first concern as this is where your plants will live, breath and feed. Most vegetables including all Brassicas such as cabbage and broccoli prefer a neutral soil or soils that are not strongly alkaline or strongly acidic (pH 7). Therefore if you have an acidic soil, which are common in the South and West of Ireland you will need to treat it with garden lime to make it more neutral / less acidic / more alkaline.

Soil pH and vegetables:

If soil is Very Acidic (pH of 6.9 to 5.5) these vegetable will thrive

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Fennel

If soil is Slightly Acidic (pH of 6.9 to 6.0) these vegetable will thrive

  • Onions                         (Can tolerate alkaline)
  • Garlic                            (Can tolerate alkaline)
  • Cucumbers                 (Can tolerate alkaline)
  • Courgette
  • Tomatoes                    (Can tolerate alkaline)
  • Beans                            (Can tolerate alkaline)
  • Squash                         (Can tolerate alkaline)
  • Pumpkins                    (Can tolerate alkaline)
  • Lettuce                         (Can tolerate alkaline)

Note: the Ideal pH range is around pH 7 i.e. neutral as this can grow the wide range of vegetables

 

Another way in which soil can limit what vegetables you can grow is its structure and texture. By this I mean the soil type. Most soils in the midlands are a clay or heavy clay soil and such soils hold water and can be difficult to work. In general most vegetables prefer a light, airy soil with good drainage. If you have a heavy clay soil you will require a routine of soil management including turning the soil, keeping off it when wet, adding gritty sand to the soil and adding  well rotted farm yard manure regularly over many years. This will help to build up the soil structure and improve its drainage.

If you have clay soils you can still grow:

  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Kale

 

The climate within your garden, or micro climate will also determine what you can grow. For all vegetables avoid growing in frost pockets – these are shelter areas where air flow is limited and cold air sits. Also avoid exposed areas where wind can damage plants such as top heavy cabbage. Also remember that vegetables prefer full sun and vegetable plots should face south

 

Vegetables happy in light shade

  • Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Kale
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