How different everything is in the short space of time, since I last wrote on here. In our own little way, growing a few fuss-free vegetables will make a difference to our lives & health more than ever before.
Few of us can be self-sufficient, but we can grow a few vegetables & herbs to stretch shop bought supplies. Freshly picked vegetables have wonderful flavours, they’re great value & you can grow ones that aren’t available in the shops.
This is for beginners, the not so confident gardener, or those of you who want a refresher on how to grow vegetables that don’t need a lot of fuss. Buy plug plants, these are small plants that cut out the stage of germination, if you don’t fancy growing from seed.
I’m publishing 3 posts over the next 2 weeks to make life & eating more pleasurable for us.
- How To Grow Easy Vegetables. 5 of the easiest vegetables to grow. See below.
- How To Grow Herbs. This is a must, everything you cook will be more delicious with a few fresh herbs
- How To Edible Flowers. This may not seem important in the grand scheme, but they look amazing & many have great flavours. They’ll elevate the simplest meal into something you’d find in a swanky restaurant
This is the first
FUSS FREE VEGETABLES TO GROW:
Usually known as Cut and Come Again. Ideal because, as the name suggests, you cut a few leaves from each plant & they keep growing, so the plants goes on for weeks. Sow a small row every 3-4 weeks.
Half sun/ half shade is perfect, the soft leaves wilt in too much sun.
They’re not fussy about soil, but it shouldn’t be too heavy & wet. Use * soil-improver to make the soil lighter. Alternatively grow in containers of multi-purpose compost.
You need a few plants, so you’re not picking from the same plants too often, but working along a row, then starting at the beginning again. This gives plants a chance to recover.
One person needs about 4 plants, depending how often you eat salad, scale up to get what you need for your household.
Packets of mixed salads are a good start, giving a mix of amazing flavour & colour all in one packet.
Sow direct into your garden soil or in a shallow, container or window-box.
Make a small *drill, it only needs to be 1/2 in/1cm deep.
Water the drill so the seeds will come into contact with moist soil straightaway
Water the drill & sow a tiny pinch of seeds at roughly 2in intervals along the drill, (not the whole packet!)
Push some of the soil back over the seeds, gently firm it into place & water.
Water 2 or 3 times a week, more often in summer.
Or Arugula if you’re in the U.S.A. It’s a salad leaf, but deserves a paragraph of it’s own. It’s easy to grow & provides that wonderful fresh, peppery flavour that makes a simple dish taste special.
Sow as above, though this is much taller than salad leaves so needs a deeper container.
The quickest vegetable to grow. They’re ready to pick just 3-4 weeks after sowing, so a good one to introduce vegetable growing for children.
In good soil that keeps in moisture.
Sow a couple of seeds directly into the ground 1in/2.5cm apart, in a drill as described above.
Water about 3 times a week, then more in summer. Pick as soon as they’re ready, they become woody if left in the ground.
The leaves can be used in salads.
Make small regular sowings about every 3 weeks throughout the summer.
They need a light soil for the roots to develop, otherwise you end up with those saucy shaped vegetables you see on social media, that have more than one protuberance. While that may be a giggle they’re generally small & unevenly shaped, we’re looking for long straight roots. So dig the soil to a fine crumb, making it easy for the roots to grow directly down into the soil.
Choose a short, stumpy variety, like Parmex, too grow in containers if your soil isn’t right.
They need little water once they start growing, unless it get really hot & dry. This the small plants allowing 7cm/3in between plants. They can be left in the soil until your ready to use them.
Sow a small pinch, thinly (this avoids too much thinning later) into a pre-watered, half inch deep drill. Sow every 4 weeks till the end of summer. Remove weeds as they grow.
Carrot root fly is the main enemy. These insects lay their eggs in the ground next to plants, the tiny larvae burrow into carrots. Damage is not apparent until carrots are harvested. The insects fly low, so erecting a little barrier 50cm/20in, around the growing ares defies them. I’ve never had trouble with these little beasts, but if you’re growing for the first time you don’t want to be unsuccessful.
One of my favourites for flavour. They’re relatively undemanding, delicious roasted or steamed. What’s more, you can use the lovely red veined, green leaves in salads.
It grows best in good fertile soil, with plenty of sun.
There are some wonderful coloured beetroots that you’ll never see in the shops. ‘Burpees Golden’ has yellow flesh & Chiogga has circles red & white flesh.
The seeds are large, so easy to place, they can be soaked in water the night before sowing, to speeds up germination. Pop a seed in a 2.5cm/1in drill, 7cm/3in apart. Keep the area weed free as they develop.
They need a minimum temperature of 7.5 C/45 F to germinate. The weather app on my phone tells me it’s 9 degrees today & warming up over the next couple of weeks.
They need a thorough watering, if it hasn’t rained, every 10 days. Pick them when they’re the size of a tennis ball, or smaller. They take on a woody texture if they get any bigger.
The colours varieties are at their best when grated, they fade a little when cooked.
As we know from Popeye, this is good for you. It contains Iron & vitamins A,C & K.
Choose perpetual over annual spinach. The leaves are less delicate, but much hardier so it’ll last longer, even into next year if you protect it from frost. I’m still picking last years perpetual spinach, that’s been protected only by netting in my sheltered garden.
Small leaves are perfect for salads, larger ones, stalks removed, need just a minute or so to wilt in a pan with olive oil in garlic, or add them to soups & casseroles.
It’s a big plant so not one for containers. Enrich your soil with some kind of soil improver before sowing, if yours is thin.
Spinach needs warmth & a moist soil. Dappled shade for part of the day is ideal.
Sow a small pinch of seeds in a drill, 1cm-1/2in deep, 15cm-6in apart. thin out as they grow leaving the strongest plant 30cm-12in from its neighbour.
If you want small leaves for salad, sow the seeds are thinly & they won’t need thinning.
Keep them watered & the space around them weed-free.
This is a little furrow made by dragging the handle of a small stick in a straight line through the soil.
Water the Drill before you drop the seeds in.
Add a label to the end of the row.
Most vegetables need a rich soil to grow well, the exceptions in the 5 above are salad leaves.
If your soil is thin & sandy, adding any soil improver will make a big difference. Use home-made compost if you have any, or buy soil improver, well-rotted farmyard manure etc online.
Find Pennards Plants here.
Check out their website for other fabulous vegetables to grow.
One of the biggest bonuses of growing these vegetables are no plastic packing, chemicals or huge transportation miles.
We’ve got time on our side right now to nurture some crops, & consider what changes we can make for a healthier life.
Please leave a comment below & let me know your easiest vegetables to grow.
Happy gardening & stay well.
All photos: Jill Anderson.