May you reap what you sow


SAFE. We are now into May and I al­ways con­sider that by May we should be safe of any lin­ger­ing threat of frost. This means we can get up to what ever we want to in the gar­den with a care­free heart. May is also a good time to fo­cus back on the kitchen gar­den and sow­ing new crops.

The as­pi­ra­tion of grow­ing your own food is one of the ma­jor driv­ing forces of many gar­den­ers and would-be gar­den­ers I meet. The sense of achieve­ment and grat­i­fi­ca­tion it gives top all oth­ers. But the as­pi­ra­tion and the ex­e­cu­tion can be very dif­fer­ent things.

Grow­ing veg­eta­bles is time con­sum­ing, par­tic­u­larly if you re­peat crop ar­eas. Also it is not par­tic­u­larly a money saver, just look at the price of veg­eta­bles in the shops. And if you are not grow­ing or­gan­i­cally you might as well buy from the shops. That said what­ever your grow­ing method and what­ever you grow it is good for your well­be­ing and your veg will be hit­ting your din­ing ta­ble as fresh as you can get. From fork, gar­den that is, to din­ner fork.

My ad­vice to all gar­den­ers new and ex­pe­ri­enced is to start any project, in­clud­ing veg grow­ing, at a size that is man­agable to you. The whole point of gar­den­ing is for it to be an en­joy­able pas­time, a messy un­pro­duc­tive veg­etable weed patch can in­fu­ri­ate and frus­trate all sum­mer.

The most sat­is­fy­ing method of grow­ing veg is un­doubtably by grow­ing from seed. May is a great month for do­ing this as ev­ery­thing is ea­ger to burst into life at this time of year. You can sow di­rectly into well pre­pared soil or into pots and seed trays to trans­plant into the soil as seedlings. When sow­ing read the in­struc­tions on the packet care­fully as there are slightly dif­fer­ent meth­ods of sow­ing for in­di­vid­ual crops.

Root veg­eta­bles, car­rots, beetroot, parsnips and turnips are best sown di­rectly into the soil and left undis­turbed. Other crops like let­tuce, cab­bage and broc­coli can be trans­planted from seed trays into the soil. Peas and beans can be soil sown or into in­di­vid­ual pots then trans­planted later. When sow­ing di­rectly into the soil be pre­pare to thin out the ger­mi­nated seedlings to ap­pro­pri­ate spac­ings. Fail­ure to do this will re­sult in poor har­vests and also in­crease the like­li­hood of dis­ease.

Grow­ing from seed is the cheap­est way to pro­duce veg but can also be a false econ­omy. Seed pack­ets can con­tain far more seeds than you need. You can keep th­ese for the fol­low­ing year but the ger­mi­na­tion rate is usu­ally quite poor the sec­ond year. An alternative is to buy plug plants. Plug plants are seedling plants that are sup­plied in small mul­ti­pack con­tain­ers ready for trans­plant­ing out, in much the same way you might buy your sum­mer bed­ding plants. Th­ese are very widely avail­able from gar­den cen­tres th­ese days and are sup­plied in a great va­ri­ety of crop types.

Grow­ing this way takes away all the worry of self sow­ing and cuts out any waste as you are buy­ing the num­ber of plants that you need. This is a more ex­pen­sive way to buy at the point of sale but for a small veg area in the long term this may work out to be com­par­a­tive if not cheaper to self sow­ing. Other ben­e­fits are that you are al­ready three weeks ahead with your crop com­pared to sow­ing the day you buy your plug plants. They are also eas­ier to man­age once planted out as they are ob­vi­ous from the weed seedlings. On the sub­ject of weeds it is vi­tal to keep th­ese away from young crops in par­tic­u­lar, lit­tle and of­ten is the key and this may mean get­ting down on your hands and knees to hand weed.

Most veg­eta­bles can be sucess­fully grow­ing in pots and con­tain­ers as long as you wa­ter and feed reg­u­larly. Herbs are par­tic­u­larly good grown this way both in lim­ited gar­den spa­ces and larger gar­dens as they can be grown close to the kitchen door for con­ve­nient har­vest­ing.

Spi­raea ‘Arguta’

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