home and Garden
To Growing Your Own Vegetables
What you decide to plant will be somewhat dictated by the space you have. If you do not have garden beds you can grow vegetables in window boxes, pots or grow bags. These need to be big enough not to cramp a plant’s roots nor dry them out at the first sign of any sun. The greater the soil depth the better, although a minimum of 15cm is enough for salads. Vegetables will grow best in a sheltered and sunny spot.
Soil is fundamental to the health of what you grow. To make sure you have the fertility required to grow lots of produce, add compost. This can be made in home compost heaps or bought from garden centres. Better use “organic” composts made without manmade, resource-hungry fertilizers.
To give young plants the best odds of survival against their main nemesis, the slug, we recommend sow most vegetables in small pots, somewhere where’s lots of light indoors or in a greenhouse. Starting plants off indoors means you can control conditions when they are at their most vulnerable.
To give a plant a good start, sow the seed into fine compost – this is usually called seed compost and is available at garden centers. All of the vegetables here can be started in 10cm pots. Once a plant has four or five leaves it can be planted outside in a chosen optimum position at its required spacing.
In return for all the harvest, soil needs to be nurtured by applying composted organic matter to aid structure and maintain fertility. Here our three recommendations to grow now selected them for their bounty and beauty. They can give a great return even on a small scale.
Lettuce is a brilliant vegetable to begin with if you have never grown anything before. It can be grown in a window box if space is limited and you can harvest outer leaves as you need them without pulling up the whole plant. Having a living salad larder on your window sill or raised bed can be very handy during the summer months.
Start the seeds off indoors then thin out the seedlings when you plant them outside. The amount of space you give them will dictate the size of their leaves. For whole heads of lettuce, plant each seedling approximately a lettuce width apart
Tomatoes are our favorite vegetable to grow. Because of our temperate climate they require nurture and protection through their first few months. In order to get a ripe crop before autumn they need to be well established plants by May/June. Seed sown in late winter can be raised indoors, in good light. Alternatively, buy potted plants in May to be replanted outside in a sunny, sheltered position after the last spring frosts. Tomatoes require a lot of vertical space – as they grow taller, plants become unable to bear their own weight so need to be supported. In greenhouses, they can be grown up strings tied to the roof supports. Outdoors, they can be tied to canes or grown with supports against a sunny wall.
To channel a plant’s energy into producing fruit, it will need to be pruned regularly. To greatly increase your yield of fruit, remove all tomato “side shoots”. These are the shoots that continually grow at a 45º angle between the main stem and plant branches. Twisting them out will greatly increase your yield. By the time a plant has two fruiting trusses (branches with fruit on), I prune off all lower leafy branches up to the second truss. This will allow good air flow and light to reach the pruned plant, which in turn will help prevent disease.
If you have a bit more space (each plant needs to be about 60-70cm apart) or a large pot, zucchini are extremely satisfying to grow. Initially sown indoors in pots, they emerge almost overnight, eventually producing large Gaugin-like leaves after they have been planted outside. Finally they send out beautiful tubular yellow flowers, the female of which will produce fruit. Zucchini like full sun, well composted fertile ground and regular watering in dry weather.
The flowers are also a delicacy, torn into salads, stuffed with goat’s cheese or fried in tempura batter.