When growing your own veg at home, one of the most important things to try and get right is to have the veg ready to eat when you want to eat it. This can be a bit trickier when you’re only growing for one. But with a bit of forward planning, working out which veggies you want to grow, and with some successional sowing throughout spring and summer it can be achieved, giving you lots to pick every week and avoid “gluts”, when you have too much, and “famines” when you have little or nothing.
Of course, if you do overdo things and find you’ve produced far more than you can eat in one go, the vast majority of vegetables can easily be frozen as soon as they’re picked and kept in the freezer for a few months.
If you have limited space, it may not be worth growing those things that take a long time to grow before they’re ready to pick, take up a lot of room and are pretty cheap and readily available to buy cheaply. These include potatoes and onions, although, having the first picking of your own home-grown new spuds is a delight not to be missed.
We have a fabulous range of vegetable seeds available to buy. They’re all quality varieties and have been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.
Tricks of the trade
One of the first tricks to learn when growing your own is not to overdo it. There’s no point growing 20 runner bean plants – a crop that is renown for producing huge crops in a good summer – and then wondering what you’re going to do with the roughly 40kg (90lb) of beans produced! Check our Cropping times & amounts table below for information on each vegetable.
The second big trick with vegetable crops you can sow over a long period, is to successional sow. That means sowing a small amount little and often – maybe every two to three weeks. This way you’ll get a constant succession of crops to eat. Suitable crops for this includes beetroot, carrots, spinach and turnips.
You can sow these in cell trays or modules, ideally starting them off in a warm, sunny position, rather than in the ground. Then grow these on until they’re big enough to plant out. They’ll grow faster than plants started from seeds in the ground, and when another crop has finished, you’ll have young plants ready to replace them. This saves time and makes sure you’re constantly cropping.
Thirdly, for those plants that are slow growing and take several weeks before they’re ready is to either successional sow a few seeds every few weeks, or grow early, mid-season and late season varieties – or do both! This includes cabbages – where you can grow spring, summer and autumn, and winter varieties – the other brassicas, leeks, potatoes – first early, second early and maincrop – and broad beans – autumn-sowing and spring-sowing varieties. Using different varieties will extend the harvesting season.
And finally, there are a few crops that once you harvest the main crop, the plants will go on cropping producing smaller follow-on crops. These include calabrese, which produces smaller sideshoots once the main head has been cut and purple-sprouting broccoli that goes on cropping producing smaller shoots for several weeks. So, don’t be too hasty digging up the plants once you’ve picked the first crop.
Cropping times & amounts
Knowing roughly how much you get per crop or per plant, and roughly how long between sowing and picking, will help you decide on how much you should grow and when to sow it. This handy time to cropping and yield table will help you work this out.
|CROP||TIME TO CROPPING (WEEKS)||YIELD PER PLANT|
|Beans (bush)||8-14||125g (0.25lb)|
|Beans (climbing)||12-14||2kg (4.5lb)|
|Beans (broad)||10-14 (spring sown)|
25 (autumn sown)
|Brussels sprouts||28-36||900g (2lb)|
|Courgette||10-12||Up to 30 fruit|
|Pea||11-16 (spring sown)|
30-35 (autumn sown)
|Swiss chard||12||300g (0.7lb)|