Grow your own veg this year

If you fancy having a go at growing some edibles this year, Pippa Greenwood has some timely advice.

Pippa Greenwood
Pippa Greenwood
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All of a sudden it feels as if the growing season may really be here…or nearly! And there’s no better way to get started than with some delicious edibles. You can start growing many fruits, vegetables or even herbs in March and make some serious plants for what you want to include in the fruit and veg this year.

Traditional values

It is good to see some classic veg-plot straight rows in the garden, even in a small plot and where better to start than with onion sets (mini onions) and garlic? Both can be planted or started off this month. A sunny spot is essential and a well-drained soil is best, but if like me, you have a heavy clay soil, then simply plant the individual cloves of garlic or onion sets along the top of a ridge of soil.  I create a ridge that is about 10-15cm tall and 18-20cm wide at the base and it means that even if your soil is still a bit too wet now, you can safely get planting.

Grow your own potatoes

Home grown potatoes are a crop I can’t be without and you can still buy seed potatoes now and get them chitting (sprouting) in a cool but frost-free spot with plenty of natural light.  The light is essential because what you are after are potatoes with short, sturdy sprouts (not masses of long, tangled, fragile shoots). I like to plant out a few early potatoes towards the end of March, even if it means covering the rows with cloches or fleece to protect them from frost and cold. You can even start growing a couple of tubers in big compost-filled tubs kept a bit snug in the greenhouse or coldframe.

Starting with seeds

Seed sowing start dates can be tricky as there is no doubt that although the dates on the seed packets are a useful guide; suitable local conditions are what really matter.  So, providing the soil is not too wet and/or too cold then it is worth sowing seeds including kale, kohl rabi, peas, beetroot, leeks, some lettuce, broadbeans, summer cabbage, spinach, radish, mange tout.

If in doubt, I’d always suggest pre-warming the soil using a double layer of fleece topped off with some black polythene – do this and it’ll also ensure that the worst of the rain is kept off the soil too, so hopefully providing that extra degree of warmth and less wet conditions that the seeds need.  Keep it well anchored using special fleece pegs or bricks for a few days, remove to sow your seeds and then, once the seeds have been sown, re-cover with just the fleece if conditions are still a bit too chilly. Sowing small quantities of seed at, say, two-week intervals will mean that even if conditions suddenly worsen, you should still have some early-sowing successes.

The easy way

Don’t forget that buying some pre-grown plants will also help you to catch up on lost time and save time and losses too. All the hard work of sowing and nurturing has been done for you. You can buy just about every type of vegetable as a plant, but there some I would suggest avoiding as they are either really bad value for money or can suffer transplanting shock and rarely perform as well as when raised from seed sown direct – my blacklist includes carrots, parsnips, rocket and coriander.

Basket of veg from Pippa Greenwood
Grow your own veg with the help of Pippa.

I’ve developed a system; available exclusively via my Pippa Greenwood website where you choose the veg you’d like to grow from the selection of my favourites. The plants are delivered to you accompanied by weekly advice and tips via regular emails from me. The plants are UK grown especially for my customers and the emails you receive will be written by me each week and will be specific to the crops you’ve chosen, making your veg growing easy and more productive.  I originally designed the system for novice gardeners, but the lovely thing is that customers come back year after year because it’s good value and they enjoy the emails. Take a look and see what you think. This year the plants will be sent out in mid-May ready to plant out in your garden.

Pippa Greenwood

About Pippa Greenwood

Pippa’s gardening passions include grow your own and the things gardeners hate most – pests and diseases! She gives many gardening talks and worked for the RHS for years, spent 13 years as a presenter on BBC Gardeners’ World and since 1995 has been a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. She was also the gardening advisor for the murder-mystery series, Rosemary & Thyme. Vist Pippa’s website www.pippagreenwood.com for gorgeous vegetable plants with advice from Pippa, pest controls and more
@PippaGreenwood
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