Growing vegetables

Nothing gives me more pleasure and satisfaction than the taste of home grown organic vegetables, freshly picked from my garden.

Each year I always ensure that I am never without a selection for my kitchen and I have created some small raised beds in my own garden to accommodate my favourites.

Homegrown vegetables have a higher vitamin content, if picked and used immediately and there is a greater choice of varieties for you to grow and sample than are available at supermarkets.

Best of all you can experiment with varieties to find ones that suit your soil and your palate and trying something new each year is all part of the fun, especially for children.

Whether you have a kitchen garden, an allotment or a small plot of ground, you can easily grow a selection of vegetables for your own needs. It is just a case of tailoring your ambitions to suit the space and time you have available.

Growing vegetables in your garden need not be difficult and is something that everyone can succeed with. If you are just starting out then try easy to grow plants such as potatoes, onions, peas, beans and courgettes.

Now is the time to start seed potatoes into growth and your local garden centre will have a large selection of varieties available. There are two main groups to choose from, ‘Earlies’ and ‘Maincrop’.

The early varieties (or new potatoes) are very desirable and are dug and eaten as soon as the crop is ready in early summer. Maincrop varieties tend to be larger in size and are dug up in early autumn for storing for winter use. If space is limited in your garden then you should choose an early variety only.

You should purchase your seed potatoes and set them out in trays to ‘chit’ (sprout shoots). Keep them in a cool, light, frost-free place and after about six weeks there will be several sturdy green shoots emerging.

Potatoes can be grown in practically any soil type, but you should always choose a sunny spot. Early varieties should be planted in late March and maincrop varieties in mid April. Young growing tips emerging from the soil should be earthed up with soil, to protect from frost.

Onions are another easy to grow vegetable which when picked stores well and can be used all year round. ‘Onion sets’, which are available now from garden centres, are quicker to mature, hardier and less prone to disease than growing by seed. You can choose either yellow or red skinned varieties.

Other useful vegetables to consider sowing now are peas, broad beans, early carrots, beetroot and spinach. When considering your choice it is wise to check the information supplied in the seed catalogue or on the back of the seed packet for full cultural instructions to ensure the variety is right for you.

Kim’s tip of the week

If you enjoy rhubarb, why not force an established plant for an early crop. Place an upturned dustbin or a terracotta forcing container stuffed with straw over the crown and this will encourage the early growth of young tender stems, that can be picked when long enough.