I always get looks of amazement that I manage to grow my own veg, people just cannot understand how I find the time to sow, tend and harvest while bringing up three children, running my own business, enrolled at the OU and taking care of a home. However while you are siting there wondering when and indeed, where to start you could have already spent half an hour sowing a load of seeds. You don’t even need an allotment, many plants can be grown in pots, dotted around your flower garden, in hanging baskets, or in pots in the house as houseplants that will feed you!
I have gathered together a least of easy to sow vegetables. These will give you a solid starting point and once you find out how easy it is, how rewarding it is, you will be desperate to experiment with other varieties of fruit and vegetables.
Crunchy salad leaves are probably about the quickest and easiest plants to grow. In a pot, a border, a window sill, throw the seeds in, cover with a layer of compost and water well. Most varieties allow you to cut leaves from about 3 weeks to use fresh in a sandwich and will continue growing for you to cut over and over again. To ensure you get a long harvest, sow weekly throughout the year.
Spring onions and Radishes
The strong smell of spring onions and peppery taste of radish tickles your tongue in a nice summery salad. Spring onions are great sown between your carrots to confuse the carrot fly and beetroot will pretty much grow anyway. Again you can sow these throughout the summer to have a continuous crop.
You don’t need a large plot to grow potatoes, most places sell potato bags. Put seed potatoes in around February/March. A few weeks later shoots will appear above the soil, this is where you do what is known as ‘bank up’ which simply means cover these shoots. Make sure you water well otherwise the skins will be rather dry once harvest time arrives which takes anywhere between 10-20 weeks depending on variety. Just keep a look out for the leaves dying off which is the time you know you can hunt out your home grown potatoes ready for the pot.
When I first started gardening I was told peas were something most people got their kids to sow because they were so easy, could I get them to grow? Not a chance. Anyway I soon realised I was allowing them to get too dry, peas like the cooler weather and need a lot of water. Sow 3 per stick, my Grandad used to say 1 will die off, 1 for the birds and 1 for him to grow on as a pea plant. My middle daughter loves eating them straight out the pod.
Mint is probably the easiest herb to grow, it thrives on abuse. However fresh mint with new potatoes is simply indescribable. Just be warned once your Mint gets going there is no stopping it and it will pop up everywhere so better to plant in a large pot to contain it. Mint freezes very well and if you are feeling adventurous why not try a Mint Jelly for the winter lamb dinners?
I have to admit I am not a big fan of broad beans, however my husband and dad love them so I always put in about 10 plants. You will get quite a lot of broad beans from just one plant but they freeze really well so you can have them on your roasts all through the Autumn and Winter.
Runner beans are pretty much grown the same way as Broad Beans. My children love sowing them in jars with kitchen towel lightly moistened and then transplanting them out after a few weeks. Just make sure they get plenty of light otherwise they are in danger of getting leggy. As with peas they need a lot of water. When they start to produce regularly pick to encourage new growth. Again runner beans freeze very well but you can always make a good chutney to use up a glut.
Ontions and Garlic
Both onions and garlic are really easy to maintain. Pop the bulbs in to well drained soil in the spring and autumn and sit and wait. When the leaves start to die and fall over they are ready to harvest. Tie your onions up to dry, I have been known to eat hung onions after 6-9 months!
As long as you keep them well watered tomato plants are extremely rewarding. Once they get going it is almost like you can see them growing. Tomatoes are also very versatile, I make sauces, ketchups, chutney’s (even the last of the green tomatoes make a decent chutney). And nothing better than a fresh tomato straight off the plant.
Beetroot has to be my favourite root vegetable. Sow a line of seeds, once they start to grow thin them out. As they grow bigger you can thin out the smaller beetroots to cook for salads and let the bigger ones grow on. Beetroots can be frozen for winter roasts ad picked for the following summer salads.