New Kids on the Plot

 If you’re brand new to growing your own food, it can be hard to know where to start. Life is busy and I recommend growing crops that you can keep picking over a long period, rather than one off harvests and lots of resowing. 

 
Photo Maria Bell

Photo Maria Bell

 

Here are my top 5 easy vegetables if you’re a beginner grower with limited time on your hands. I’ve selected some of the tastiest varieties that will give you great bang for your buck:

1.    Kale – try varieties Nero di Toscana and Red Russian. Keep picking right into winter from a June sowing. Kale is very cold tolerant.

2.    Lettuce– pick individual leaves from around the head of the lettuce as it develops, rather than harvesting it as one head. Try Grandpa Admire’s, Flashy Butter Oak and Emerald Oak from Real Seeds. Or if you do want to harvest a whole head in one try Reines de Glace – a crisp, crunchy Raymond Blanc fave.

3.    Chard– try Pink Passion from Real Seeds for a shock of pink in the patch and keep picking all season.

4.    Winter Squash– Delicata is a sweet, nutty winter squash which is one of my favourites. You can train it ‘up’ to save on space. And it should give you 5 or 6 delicious squash in the Autumn. 

5.    Courgette – For 2 people, 2 plants will mean courgettes coming out of your ears all summer! Try Burpee’s Golden for a sunshine yellow variety.

 
Delicata Winter Squash

Delicata Winter Squash

 

It’s worth investing in a few module/plug trays that will be perfect for sowing your Kale, Lettuce and Chard into. Start sowing indoors from now (March) onwards on a sunny south facing windowsill or greenhouse. You can then plant the whole module/plug out into beds or pots from April. This gives them a head start against slugs, snails and bad weather, rather than sowing direct in the soil where little seedlings will be more vulnerable. 

 
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Sow Courgettes and Winter Squash into 9cm pots in April. Bring on indoors as above and plant out once the danger of frost has passed from mid-end of May.

A good quality organic compost to sow into will ensure a healthy uptake of nutrients, for the plant and you! Make sure you go 'Peat-Free' as the harvesting of peat for compost mixes has led to a huge loss of wetland wildlife habitat. If your local garden centre can't help, check out Melcourt compost online or the Organic Gardening Catalogue and consider clubbing together with your mates to get a bulk delivery.