I hope you’ve had a good week? Mine has been one ticking things off the to-do list [not as many as I’d hoped to be honest] but with spring hurtling towards us, organising vegetable growing for the year ahead is high up on the list.
Picking vegetables, fruit and herbs is one of lifes’ great pleasure for me, but it can also be overwhelming, or is that just me? What to grow, where to start, how to look after them as they grow are some of the questions that pop up, and can deter even the keenest gardener.
So here’s a few tips for the beginner, and not so beginner, grow-your-own gardeners:
Find a spot in the garden that’s sunny, open and airy, because most vegetables like sun, lettuce is one of the exceptions. You can always plant a container and keep it in the sunniest part of the garden, or use a sunny windowsill
What to grow:
Start with reliable crops and choose vegetables that are sown directly into the soil where they’ll grow and mature, there’ll be no faffing around with transplanting.
sow the seeds thinly in a short, straight row from mid-spring and continue to sow a small row every 3 weeks up to mid-summer. Thin the little feathery shoots leaving 5cm/2in between each plant. Leave 15cm/6in between rows.
sow in early summer in the same way as carrots, but thin them out leaving 10cm/4in between plants, the leaves can be eaten as well. Leave 20cm/8in between rows.
there are 2 types:
- the mixed leaves, snip them 5cm/2in from the groundand and they’ll re-grow
- and the lettuce heads that you pick as a whole plan, thin the seedlings so there’s 20cm/8in between plants.
Sow a row of each these about now, and repeat the process every 2 weeks to have a continuous supply. They grow best in a semi-shady spot.
Buy a small plant or two of chives, tarragon and different types of mint [it’s on a mission to take over the world, so keep this in it’s own pot] and plant them out in the sunniest part of the garden, or grow them in pots near the kitchen. I love basil too, but keep it inside on a sunny window-sill. Freshly picked herbs are wonderful, no need to spray with chemicals, so they’re organic, always available and much cheaper than supermarket ones.
This depends where you live, sowing and growing in Southern England has a two to three week start on Northern England and Scotland.
Soil is also a factor to take into consideration. Light, sandy soil warms up more quickly, while clay soil has more water in it, which makes it colder. You can fool clay soil by covering it with horticultural fleece, cardboard or whatever you have to hand to keep the cold out, to sow a little earlier.
Buy vegetables as baby plug plants
The initial germination and growing, usually the trickiest part, has been done for you, and if this eases you gently into growing vegetables, them do it. They can be bought in most garden centres or order them online to be sent at just the right planting time.
Looking after vegetable plants:
Weed regularly, sowing in straight rows makes it easy to see where the weeds are and water them every couple of days after sowing the seeds and twice a week as they’re growing, water more frequently if the soil looks pale and dry.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson