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Vegetable Growing

The selection of fresh vegetables now available in shops and supermarkets is greater than ever before. But there’s a huge amount of satisfaction to be had from growing part of the food we eat. A well-managed garden or allotment is an asset to any family and vegetable growing can rapidly develop into an absorbing hobby.

The quantities of vegetables to grow will naturally depend on circumstances. It can be as simple as growing a pot of parsley on your back doorstep or you can make it as big and fancy as you like. If there’s only a small area available preference should be given to items where freshness is especially valuable such as lettuce, herbs, spinach, parsley, peas and beans. If there’s more ground add brassicas, onions, carrots, beetroot, rhubarb and early potatoes to the mix. It will also add interest to try out some new or unfamiliar kinds each year.

Helpful Hints

  1. Vegetables can be grown on most soils (light, medium or heavy) provided they are well drained. Choose an open though not exposed site, where plants can receive maximum sunlight.
  2. Crops are grown on the flat, in drills (ridges) or on raised beds (also known as deep beds). Choose the system that suits you best. Or maybe a combination of all three.
  3. Site perennial vegetables, such as asparagus, rhubarb, seakale, horse radish and other crops which remain in one place for a number of years to one side so that they do not interfere with the cultivation of annual crops.
  4. Grow the early maturing crops together so that when they are harvested the ground may be planted with late crops. For example, early potatoes, scallions, lettuce, spinach and radish could be followed by savoy cabbage, winter cauliflower or late celery.
  5. Vegetables are normally either sown directly where they are to mature (known as direct drilling) or else the seed is sown into a nursery bed or modules (multicelled tray) and later on the young plants (transplants) are planted out into their final quarters. Carrots, parsnips, scallions, beetroot, swedes, spinach, radish, peas and beans are usually direct drilled, while most brassicas, lettuce, celery and courgettes are transplanted. Leeks, onions and sweetcorn are examples of crops that can either be drilled or planted.
  6. A common mistake is to sow seed too thickly. As the seeds germinate and the young plants come through they should not crowd each other. Thinning out plants to their final distance should be done when they are still quite small. The depth to which seed should be sown will vary depending on the size of the seed. See Table 2 in the Appendix for details.
  7. Seeds are expensive to buy and if not all used up should be carefully stored for sowing the following season. Keep seed in a cool dry place. Packets should be put in a sealed container and kept in a cool room or refrigerator.
  8. Transplanted crops are usually sown under protection (plastic tunnel, glasshouse or garden frame) into a container of some sort. These containers could be a seed tray, small pot or a multi-celled tray called a module. Some of the brassicas and leeks can also be direct drilled into a seed bed outdoors and later on transplanted out as bare root plants. 
  9. A garden frame (or cold frame) is a marvellous addition to any vegetable garden. It’s a simple box like structure with a plastic or glass top that allows you to warm the soil in early spring. If you don’t possess a glasshouse you can use frames to propagate transplants or to grow early season crops.
  10. As there are few effective insecticides available it’s essential to physically protect your crops from pest attack using fleece, nets or barriers.
  11. Keeping annual records outlining the crops grown, planting distances, varieties, dates of sowing, transplanting or harvesting etc. will add to the owner’s store of information year on year.
  12. Vegetable growing can get confusing due to the large number of different types of vegetable that are available and the many different ways of growing them. If you are a beginner you’re better off to start small and grow something easy like cabbage, onion sets or beetroot. Look after them well and you’ll get a harvest.