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Get started with…growing your own vegetables

Is there anything more satisfyingly wholesome than tucking into fruits and vegetables grown in your own backyard? And if you fancy a larder packed with homegrown produce, we have good news: it’s not too late to get started with growing your own food.

Seeds such as cabbages, peas and corn can all be planted out now the weather is reliably warmer and dryer (well, fingers crossed...) Even better, all you need to start your own veg plot from scratch is a few square feet of space and an hour or two a week!

So what are you waiting for? Read on for all of the information you need to get started with growing your own vegetables.

Where should you grow your vegetables?

Like flowers, veggies all have their individual preference when it comes to position. Tomatoes, corn, squashes and peppers love to bathe in full-on sunshine, whilst beetroot, cabbages, carrots and broccoli prefer a shadier spot – but still need at least half a day of sun to thrive.

Most grow-your-own vegetables are annuals so they tend to grow quite rapidly. To help them out with the growing process they need plenty of light and food, so avoid planting under overhanging trees or next to shade-throwing sheds.

Vegetables grow best in light, nutrient-packed soil so a little pre-planting preparation may be required. Start by clearing the soil of all weeds and rocks and giving it a good dig over. If your soil is clay-like (it will feel quite damp and heavy) then dig in a bag or two of compost and a bag of grit to improve the quality. Don’t be stingy; it’s better to add too much than too little.

Plant for high production

If time is scare and space is short, then choosing high-production plants will give you the best return on your gardening time. Choose the right plants and they’ll keep on growing right through the summer season.

Salad leaves: Cut-and-come-again salad leaves such as Mizuna, rocket and cocarde lettuce will produce for 2-3 months if picked regularly.

Herbs: Flat-leaf parsley, dill, oregano and basil can all be planted now and will produce a fresh supply of leaves throughout the season.

Veggies: Heavy-cropping courgettes such as the yellow Soleil are a great choice for small gardens, as are La Diva cucumbers and Sungold cherry tomatoes. French and runner beans often provide a long, steady crop; in fact they can be tough to keep up with so tell friends and family to prepare for a fridge full of beans this summer!

Sowing and growing

Plant a few of your chosen veg every few weeks throughout May/June and you’ll have a delicious variety of home-grown foods flowing into the kitchen this summer and autumn.

But what can you plant out in May? You can consult our easy guide:

Sow outdoors

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbages (summer, autumn, winter, and red)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • French beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Runner beans
  • Salad leaves
  • Spring onions
  • Sprouting broccoli
  • Swede
  • Swiss chard/Spinach beet
  • Turnips

Sow outdoors under cover

  • Beetroot
  • Cucumbers
  • French beans
  • Runner beans
  • Sweetcorn

Sow seeds thinly and try not to pour them straight from the packet or you’re likely to end up with lumps and bald patches. The ideal spacing is about 2 inches apart. Once they start to sprout, protect young seedlings with a light net or cloches - a clean upturned plastic drinks bottle will do.

Water your growing veggies frequently and preferably in the morning; watering at night encourages slugs and snails.

Speaking of which, slugs and snails are voracious eaters and will quite happily gobble up your entire crop given half a chance. Keep leaf-munching pests at bay with wood ash, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells or a thick ring of coarse grit. Avoid the urge to sprinkle salt around your seedlings; it dissolves into the soil, causing more harm than good.

Encouraging natural predators such as birds and hedgehogs into your garden also helps. You can do this by creating an area of wildflowers in you; take a look at our article 'Why You Should Be Planting Wildflowers in Your Garden This Spring' to see how.

Good luck with your gardening efforts and let us know how you get on!

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