How to Grow Popular Vegetables in Your Garden
Beans — Dwarf French
Dwarf beans can be even more tasty than runner beans, and can be cooked and eaten whole. They need no support and stand up better to drought.
We suggest ‘Masterpiece’, ‘Loch Ness’ and ‘Tendergreen’, which is stringless and excellent for freezing.
Sow seeds outdoors in early May, then make two more sowings at fortnightly intervals. Sow two seeds together 2in deep, 9in between pairs, and 18in between rows. After germination, remove the weaker seedling of each pair. Put down slug pellets to protect the seedlings from slug damage, and support the plants with twiggy sticks when they are becoming laden with beans, if necessary. Beans should be grown in a different part of theeach year.
Harvest when the pods are about 4in long, from July to October. Pick ‘little and often’ and with care, so that the plant is not loosened from the.
Beans — runner
‘Streamline’ — a good all rounder; ‘Desiree’ — a stringless variety; ‘Enorma’ — good flavour.
Sow seeds outdoors in late May. Sow two seeds together, 2in deep, 12in between each pair and 12in between rows. Make two more sowings at fortnightly intervals. When each seed has germinated, pull out the weakest seedling of each pair. Support for the plants will be necessary to a height of 6ft in the form of string, net or canes; these can be placed to form a ‘wigwam’ where space is restricted. Keep well watered in dry weather, watering the base of the plants rather than the leafy growth. When the plant reaches the top of the cane, pinch out the top.
Blackfly can be a problem; spray with rotenone (derris) or other suitable insecticide. Harvest from August to October. Pick often; do not allow the beans to get too big. Beans are very good for freezing.
Quite an easy vegetable to grow. Storage of crops in autumn means that you can have freshly cooked and prepared beetroot with winter salads.
Sow the seeds in rows 9in apart, and thin to leave 4in between plants. Sow first in April, then every two weeks until the end of June.
Hoe between rows to keep weeds down and water in dry weather. Beetroot can be pulled from the time they are the size of a golf ball, from early July through the summer. In October dig up with a fork the beetroot still in the ground. Shake off the soil and take off the leaves, and store the beetroot in a box of dry peat in a cool, dry, frost-free place. Small, young roots can be frozen.
Vegetables classified as brassicas include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale. They all require similar treatment when raised from seed, although young plants are generally readily available at the appropriate time. They should also be grown in a different part of the vegetable plot each year.
If you decide to grow from seed, sow seeds in a ‘nursery bed’ in rows 6in apart, and thin the seedlings to approximately 1in apart in the row. The plants should be lifted, using a hand fork, when they show five or six young leaves; do this when the soil is damp, or in dry weather water the night before. Transplant the young plants to their final position in rows, 18in between plants either way. It is important to ensure that there is no cavity left under the roots, and that the soil is pressed firmly round the plants. Finally, water thoroughly.
Possible problems of brassicas
One of the most troublesome pests is the caterpillar of the cabbage white butterfly. Crush the eggs when they appear on the leaves in late summer, and if possible pick off the caterpillars. You can also spray with rotenone (derris), particularly the underside of leaves. Cabbage root fly maggots eat the roots and stems of young plants. If they attack, the plants and the soil immediately around the roots must be dug up and burned. A precautionary measure is to dust the soil around the plants with bromophos just after they have been transplanted. Club root is perhaps the most serious of diseases, detectable by stunted growth and swellings on the roots. The best way of avoiding this is to grow brassica crops in fresh soil each year, returning to the original patch only after two years, and to add lime to the soil where brassicas are to be grown. The simplest brassica vegetables to grow are:
Purple sprouting broccoli has two varieties; ‘early’ can be harvested from February to March and ‘late’ from April to May. Green sprouting broccoli or calabrese is very useful, for the heads or spears are ready to harvest in autumn, and it is a delicious vegetable that is often expensive to buy at the greengrocer.
All seeds should be sown in April and transplanted in June. Hoe between plants to keep the soil free from weeds whilst the plants are growing; some protection may be needed from birds when the plants are young. Harvest at the times described above. Cut the spears when the heads are a mass of tight buds, and before they start to open. Broccoli can be frozen.
‘Peer Gynt’ — compact and there-fore suitable for the smaller garden; ‘Early Half Tall’ for early crops and ‘Irish Elegance’ for freezing.
Sow in mid March to April and transplant in May, allowing 2ft each way between plants. Ensure that the plants are firmed well in. Hoe between rows while there is space, and remove yellowing leaves in autumn. Harvest from October to February; start picking from the bottom of the stem. Small, tight sprouts are suitable for freezing. When the sprouts have finished the leafy tops can be cut off and cooked as ‘greens’.
There are many varieties of cabbage, for use virtually all the year round.
Varieties — spring
For spring use good varieties are: ‘Wheelers’ Imperial’ — small, pointed hearts; ‘Offenham — Flower of Spring’; ‘Durham Elf — medium to large heads.
Sow seed in late July to early August. Transplant September to October, allowing 6 to 9in between plants and 18in between rows. Harvest in early spring for ‘spring greens’. Remaining plants can be left at 18in spaces to form mature cabbages ready in April to June.
Varieties — summer
For summer use good varieties are: ‘Greyhound’ — an old favourite and ‘Hispi’; both are pointed. ‘Primo’ and ‘Golden Acre’ are round varieties good for salad, and ‘Ruby Ball’ is a red cabbage suitable for pickling. Sow in March and transplant in early June, 18in spaces each way between plants. Harvest from June to August, simply cutting as required.
Varieties — winter
For autumn and winter use good varieties are: ‘Winnigstadt’ — compact, pointed hearts; ‘Savoy King’ — beautiful to look at as well as good to eat! ‘Christmas Drumhead’; ‘January King’. Sow in May and transplant during July at 18in spaces each way. Harvest from November to March, as required.
Not a particularly easy crop to grow; carrots prefer rich, deep sandy soil. It is, however, worth persevering, as nothing you buy in the shops can quite compare with the taste of young, freshly picked carrots — particularly raw in salads.
Best for flavour are the short or round-rooted varieties including ‘Early Nantes’ and ‘Amsterdam Forcing’.
Good longer varieties are ‘Chantenay Red Cored’, ‘Autumn King’ and ‘James Scarlet Intermediate’.
Seeds are very small, and pelleted seed is easier to handle. Sow in April outdoors; sow seeds 1/2in deep allowing 9in between rows. Thin to 4in apart.
Carrot fly can be a problem. As a precaution, dust the soil with bromophos before sowing. Flies are attracted by the smell of crushed leaves, so thin seedlings in the evening, after watering. Pelleted seed has a further advantage here, as seedlings require less thinning. Hoe between the rows regularly.
Harvest small carrots as they are required for use. In October lift all those remaining in the ground, remove the soil from their roots and cut off the tops to 1/2in long. Store these between layers of sand or peat in a box in a cool, dry, frost-free place, for use during winter.
Not a commonly known vegetable, but one that is easy to grow and good to eat. Plants have tall, leafy growth rather like a sunflower and can be useful as a screen. The small, root vegetable is the part that is eaten, and looks rather like a small, knobbly potato. Try serving mashed with butter; tastier than potatoes and fewer calories!
Plant tubers, available from garden shops or through a seed catalogue. Best variety is ‘Fuseau’, with long, smooth tubers.
Plant in March or April outdoors, 4in deep, 12in apart, in rows 2ft apart. Firm the soil around theand water.
While the plants are small, hoe between them and keep the soil moist. When plants are taller you may need to tie lengths of string to posts at either end of the row for support and protection from wind. In October the leaves turn yellow and the plants should be cut off to leave short stubs.
Harvest after the stems have been cut down by loosening with a spade and lifting the whole plant out of the ground. Leave plants in the ground until you need them, even in frost, but not later than the following February.
A really worthwhile vegetable to grow, being easy and available for many months of the year. Lettuce not only has high food value but it can be used as the basis of a simple side salad with almost any dish.
Cabbage shape: ‘Buttercrunch’; ‘Avondefiance’; ‘Great Lakes’. Cos: ‘Little Gem’; ‘Giant Green Cos’; ‘Lobjoit’s Green’. Curled, crisp leaves: ‘Webb’s Wonderful’.
Non-hearting variety: ‘Salad Bowl’ — produces no heart, but a mass of curled leaves that can be cut as required. Good for a crisp salad. Winter varieties for early spring use: ‘Winter Crop’; ‘Winter Density’ (cos).
Sow seed outdoors, just 1/2in deep in rows 12in apart. Sow half a row at a time, commencing in March and continuing at fortnightly intervals until July. Thin to a final distance of 9-12in apart. Pelleted seed is easier to handle. For over-wintering lettuces sow seed in late August-early September. Care for the plants by putting down slug pellets and protecting young plants from birds. Greenfly should be sprayed with a suitable proprietary preparation. Grey mould can also be a problem; this is a fungus that attacks the plant at soil level, causing it to wilt. Sprays are also available to combat this. Harvest lettuces from June to September, as soon as they have a firm heart. Pull up the entire plant and dispose of the roots and lower leaves. Over-wintering lettuces can be harvested in early spring.
Marrows are useful vegetables to grow, since one makes a meal for the whole family. Increasingly popular nowadays — and rightly so — are courgettes, which are babycut when they are just about 4in long, and cooked whole or sliced and fried in butter.
For marrows: ‘Green Bush’. For courgettes: ‘Zucchini’.
Marrows need a sunny but sheltered position, as they are not hardy plants. They also need rich soil, and it is preferable to dig out a hole approximately 12in by 12in, and fill this with a mixture of compost and soil before sowing or planting.
Sow seeds outdoors in late May. Sow three seeds in a group 1in deep to each prepared bed, allowing 2ft between beds. When the seeds have germinated, select the stronger of the three seedlings and leave this to grow on; pull out the weaker two.
Put down slug pellets when the plants are young, and when the fruits begin to grow feed with a general purpose liquid fertiliser every two weeks. It is essential to keep plants well watered in dry weather. Harvest in August to October; cut fruits as soon as they are usable to encourage further cropping. Some large, mature marrows can be cut in October and stored in a dry, airy place.
Spring onions for salad
Spring onions are especially suitable for salad, and these are quite easy and quick to grow.
Sow seed in March, and then at monthly intervals to give a continuous supply of spring onions for summer salads. Pelleted seed can be easier and safer to use, as it reduces the risk of onion fly. Sow seeds 1/2in deep in rows 9in apart. Hoe between rows and water in dry weather.
Harvest the onions from June to September by simply pulling up those with small bulbs ready to eat.
Onions for cooking
These can be difficult to grow from seed; a simpler solution is to buy onion sets, which are immature bulbs grown especially for planting out.
‘Stuttgarter Giant’; ‘Rijnsburger’.
Plant sets in April 6in apart in a shallow drill, allowing 12in between rows. Partially cover with soil so that the necks are still showing; firm the soil around them.
Hoe carefully and water in dry weather. When the onions grow large and swollen, stop watering and let them ripen in the sun. In about the middle of August the leaves of the plants will start to bend; two weeks later they will be ready for lifting. Do this with a fork on a dry day and spread the onions out in the sun to dry. They can be stored in a dry, airy place in trays or net bags.
Peas can be a somewhat difficult crop to grow, and can take up quite a lot of space. There are early, maincrop and early maincrop varieties, cropping at varying times throughout the summer. The early varieties are probably best for the smaller vegetable plot, as they grow to only about 18in high and are sweet tasting.
(Early) ‘Kelvedon Wonder’; ‘Little Marvel’.
Sow seeds outdoors in March. Take out flat drills approximately 6in wide and 2-3in deep. Sow seeds in three rows in the base of the drill, 3in apart in all directions; allow 18in between drills. Cover with soil and firm. As soon as the seedlings are 2in high, hoe between the rows to aerate the soil and keep down weeds; protect seedlings from birds. The plants may need support in the form of twiggy ‘pea sticks’. Water thoroughly in dry weather.
Harvest in June and July, picking from the bottom of the plant. Pick the pods regularly.
The sweet pepper or capsicum is worth growing if you have a suitably warm, sunny sheltered position in the garden, as it is a very tender plant. Peppers may not succeed outdoors in northern or colder parts of the country.
Sow seeds indoors in April; plant out in the garden when the plants are about 4in high. Alternatively, buy plants for planting out in early June, 18in apart each way, or in pots.
Keep plants well watered in dry weather. When theappear, spray plants with water. When the fruits begin to form, feed the plants with general liquid fertiliser once a week.
Harvest from August to September; pickwhen they reach a good size.
Like peas, potatoes can be grown for early or mid-season harvesting. Most worthwhile for the small vegetable plot are the early varieties, for these are ready when new potatoes are still expensive in the shops. What is more, their flavour is superb, and they can simply be washed before cooking and boiled and eaten in their tender skins, with butter.
Early varieties include ‘Foremost’; ‘Duke of York’; ‘Arran Pilot’ and ‘Epicure’ — particularly good for flavour.
Plant seed potato tubers. Small tubers about the size of an egg are best; order these early and when you receive them (probably in February) stand them in a seed tray in a light, frost-free place with the end where most ‘eyes’ can be seen pointing upwards. The eyes will start to shoot; take care not to break off the shoots. In late March-early April dig out a trench approximately 5in deep, and one spade’s width. Space tubers 12in apart, and allow 24in between rows. Cover with soil. When growth is about 6in high, ‘earth up’ by drawing soil up to the row, first along one side and then the other to form a ridge. Hand weed and hoe until the foliage of each row meets.
Harvest from June to July when the flowers have withered; the potatoes can be lifted with a fork.
One of the easiest vegetables to grow, cropping quickly and plentifully through the summer to add piquance to salads.
‘Cherry Belle’ — round. ‘French Breakfast’ — cylindrical.
Radish will grow in most types of soil. Sow seeds in drills V2in deep, with 6in between rows. Sow thinly, allowing about 1in between seeds. Sow in succession from March to May at fortnightly intervals.
Seeds germinate in five to eight days and radishes will be ready to harvest in four to six weeks from the time of sowing.
Not a difficult crop, butare tender and need a sunny, sheltered position. If your vegetable plot is too exposed, grow in pots or growing bags on the patio.
Standard varieties grow with four layers or ‘trusses’ of fruit. Popular ones include ‘Ailsa Craig’; ‘Moneymaker’; ‘Eurocross’; ‘Outdoor Girl’; ‘Marmande’ (large, fleshy fruit). Bush varieties are even easier, as they grow to only approximately 2ft high and need no support. Varieties: ‘The Amateur’; ‘Sleaford Abundance’.
Sow seeds indoors in late March or early April to plant out in early June, or buy plants. These should be about 8in tall and look sturdy, with dark green leaves. When planting in the garden, allow 18in between plants. Standard varieties need a strong 5ft cane placed close to the plant for support; tie the plant to it at 12in intervals as it grows. As the plant grows, side shoots will appear in the join of the stem and leafstalks; these should be pinched out. When four trusses have formed, pinch out the top of the plant two leaves above the fourth truss to prevent it from growing any taller.
Bush varieties need no support, and side shoots do not need to be pinched out. However, you should lay polythene on the ground around the plants, as some fruit grows at ground level.
Allshould be watered consistently. Do not allow plants to dry out, as this results in the fruits splitting later. When the fruits start to form, feed every seven to ten days with a liquid tomato fertiliser.
Harvest fruits by picking when they are ripe. At the end of the season, fruits just beginning to ripen can be picked and stored in a cool, dark place wrapped in tissue paper. Those that are still green are usually relegated to the pot for making green tomato chutney.
Growing vegetables in a restricted space
If you have a very small garden, or one that is almost entirely paved over, it is still possible to grow a few vegetables. One of the biggest recent developments in this area has been the now ubiquitous growing bag. There can be few simpler ways of, peppers or courgettes than buying a bag and two or three plants in early summer, simply opening the bag, transplanting the young plants and giving water and liquid fertiliser as required. Plastic grids are now available to assist still further; these fit around the bag and provide support for taller plants such as tomatoes and .
Vegetables can also be grown in large flower pots or even decorative containers; this is true of French and runner beans, as well as those mentioned above. Herbs are a particularly attractive crop for a large container; they are easy to grow either from seed or young plants, and most will last for some years, although some are annuals.
Mint can be invasive, and should be grown alone, but basil, chives, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme will all grow together in a warm, sunny position (parsley prefers a damper, shady spot).
One or two pots ofplaced on the patio near to the kitchen will prove convenient when you want to pick herbs for adding to casseroles, sauces, salads, soups or stuffing. They will also exude a pleasant aroma on warm, summer evenings.