By Pippa Greenwood
Enjoying a delicious meal which includes some home grown ingredients is a wonderful feeling – it fills you full of just the right sort of pride (and maybe even a little bit of smugness!). That meal might be a dinner party, a family supper or even a quick sandwich grabbed whilst you go about your daily work; it makes no difference, it simply feels good to indulge in a bit of Grow Your Own and then reap the rewards.
If you’re a hardened vegetable grower you may well have been sowing and potting on for a while now, but if you’re a bit behind schedule or if you’ve simply not dared to venture into vegetable production to any extent before, don’t panic – there’s still time to grow just about any crop in your plot this year.
If you want to raise some plants from seed yourself then most could be sown now, but there are a few that are likely to produce a much better yield if given an earlier start. I’d give seeds of crops such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli peppers, melons and aubergines a miss now, but buy in a few plants over the next month or so and you’ll be going great guns in no time at all.
Some vegetables can be directly sown now (i.e. just sow the seed into a well-prepared area of garden soil in a suitable spot) in all but the coolest gardens – beetroot, lettuce, beans, peas, carrots, rocket, spinach to name but a few. Other slightly more tender crops such as sweetcorn, squash and courgettes would fare better if given a bit of extra heat when you are germinating the seeds. That’s where an electrically heated propagator comes into its own, and you will also find it really useful if you are trying to make up for lost time as it will speed up germination of many seeds by several days. The seedlings may then need pricking out and potting on until they are sturdy enough to live in the great outdoors. With these more tender crops, try to ‘harden off’ the young plants before you put them into their final positions: having been raised and grown on inside (either in a greenhouse or on a warm, sunny windowsill) they will be a little ‘soft’ and tender, and easily damaged by cold, wind or rain. Hardening off isn’t difficult, just put the trays or pots of young plants outside on warm days once the weather has stabilised, and bring them back under cover at night. Do this for a week or so and then leave them outside, covering them with some fleece at night. The resulting plants will now have had the chance to acclimatise to ‘real’ conditions and will grow far better, whilst also being much less likely to suffer from weather damage.
If you find seed sowing and the subsequent pricking out and potting on too much when juggling with a job or other commitments, then buying in some small plants is a great plan as it gets you past the high-input bit at the beginning and allows you to just get on with the growing on, maintaining…and eating! You will get a good range from seed merchants or garden centres, but if you like the idea a bit of at-your-elbow-advice from me to ensure great results, don’t forget that you can still order garden-ready plants, accompanied by weekly advice and tips emails specific to the vegetables you’ve chosen to grow. There are more details at www.pippagreenwood.com/grow-your-own and if you use the code 12419-E7SPS at the checkout, you’ll also get £4.00 discount, whichever pack size you choose. Garden-ready plants can be planted out as soon as you get them and, provided you follow the instructions, keep them well-watered during drier weather and apply feed at regular intervals, it won’t be long until you will be harvesting crops such as climbing French and runner beans, tomatoes, sweetcorn, sugar-snap peas, peppers, chillies, onions, melons, butternut squash, beetroot and courgettes.
Most vegetables need a good fertile soil and a sunny or only partly shaded spot if they are to perform well, so choose your growing area with care. If space is short or your garden is limited to a paved back-yard, patio or balcony, there is no need to go without the delights of Grow Your Own – most vegetables will do well in good sized containers (minimum 30cm x 30cm x 30cm) with good-quality compost. If you can manage even bigger pots, then maintenance will be easier as they will need watering slightly less frequently. But, whether you plant and sow vegetables in pots, tubs, greenhouses or open ground, the end result will be gorgeous tasting, super-fresh vegetables to be enjoyed on your own or with company. So go on, get growing!
Visit Pippa’s website www.pippagreenwood.com for ‘Grow Your Own with Pippa Greenwood’ – fantastic UK grown vegetable plants of your choice plus weekly advice and tips emails from Pippa (don’t forget your offer code 12419-E7SPS for a £4 discount), Nemaslug, biological controls, pop-up crop covers, signed books and lots more besides.
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