It is officially spring, and so far so good – trees are blossoming, daffodils are out and warmer temperatures are upon us. We would even go so far as saying, some have had their first glass of Pimms in the beer garden. But what makes this time of year all the more important is National Gardening Week; pioneered by The Royal Horticultural Society five years ago. National Gardening Week has quickly become the country’s largest celebration of gardening.
Gardening is considered one of the nation’s most popular pastimes and since 2015, research collected by RHS has shown that if all of the UK’s 22 million domestic gardens were combined, they would equal the size of Somerset! Consumers in the UK are big on gardening and it has very much become a family affair, spending around £5billion a year on products and plants for their gardens. Not to mention, the amount of compost sold to consumers each year, when piled up, would almost fill the Olympic Stadium.
It’s pretty easy to get carried away when spring arrives and to trawl through the latest magazines as to what plants, seeds and flowers are trending. But have you ever considered planting a vegetable garden?
Here is your Spring guide to growing vegetables at home!
The key to a successful vegetable plot is to think about the space you have as with a limitation of space, it will be difficult. Also bear in mind that some vegetables are slow to mature and therefore you will need a lot of space to maintain.
When taking care of your garden, the cliché phrase ‘make the most of space’ is one to put into practice. Unless you own an allotment or large vegetable plot, you need to decide what varieties of vegetables you would like to grow. Ideally, you should be selecting your favourite vegetables to grow first and therefore those where freshness is vital. Some vegetables such as spring onions and baby carrots are deliciously fresh with their tops on and therefore need eating straight after harvesting.
What’s your soil type?
Your soil has a huge influence on the type of vegetables you can grow. If you have cold, clay soil which takes a long time to ‘heat up’, then crops are tricky to grow. If you find your garden has this exact soil type, it may be worth investing in raised beds which can help the soil warm up quicker. However, if you’re lucky to have a lighter and softer soil, you will be able to grow early crops. But be aware that if you wish to grow late-maturing crops, you will need shallow trenches that are easy enough to fill with water for ease of irrigation.
What to grow?
Once you have figured out which soil type you have, cost and time will come into the equation. Leeks for example are relatively expensive to purchase, but onions are relatively cheap, so when choosing how much you are willing to spend, you must consider what you can afford. Tomatoes, are extremely popular and one of the most common vegetables to grow. Yet what most people don’t consider is the amount of staking, training tomatoes need. They are also late crops and will only grow the last few weeks of summer. Tomatoes are part of the late-summer Mediterranean clan of crops and peppers, aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes need a hell of a lot of space.
As a rough guide, you should be leaving around 20cm around a row of salad leaves, 35cm around carrots and 45cm around a row of beans. Courgettes need a lot more space to grow; between 75cm and one metre per plant. Not to mention, your beans also need space to climb, so ensure you have factored this into your space allocation. Veggies don’t like growing in the shade and you will need around five hours of sunlight each day for your vegetables to successfully grow.
With careful planning, you can intercrop – grow another crop in the space between the rows and also catch crop which is a fast-growing crop that is grown simultaneously with, or between, successive plantings of a main crop and is therefore harvested before the main crop. If your space is at a premium, opt for dwarf selections and bush forms. A lot of companies will sell what’s called ‘patio’ vegetables which are suitable for the smallest of gardens.
Also don’t feel that all you buy needs to be grown outside and in the ground. Some plants such as basil, which is grown in the sunny Mediterranean may grow better indoors in a pot. If you are planting tender seedlings, you should also consider keeping them indoors, as until summer, the conditions outside will be too harsh.
Enjoy your crème de la crop…
So once you have successfully planted all your vegetables, it’s now time to sit back and wait for your vegetables to be ready to harvest. And just think, in a matter of weeks and months, summer will be in full swing and you can enjoy your crop with a delicious BBQ.