Top 10 Easy to Grow Vegetables For Your Garden Or Allotment

posted on: 15th Aug 2018 Our Top Tips

There’s nothing more satisfying than eating vegetables you’ve grown yourself, and I’m especially happy with how my own garden has taken shape this year. That’s not to say it hasn’t seen its own success and failures. This year has been a war against the slugs and snails, which seem especially prolific. The slugs have won with my carrots, borlotti beans, parsley and salad leaves, but fortunately they are not partial to any of the allium family or the chicories.

Still, there have been numerous successes that I’d like to pass on as examples of easy to grow vegetables that anyone can grow in their garden or allotment. It gives one a glow of satisfaction to pick, cook and eat produce from ones own patch! So what are you waiting for?

For those planning a new vegetable garden I highly recommend ‘how to create a new Vegetable Garden’ by Charles Dowding, for quick gardening tips I go to The Royal Horticultural Society excellent website.

1. Courgettes

Courgettes are one of the easiest and most prolific vegetables to grow. They like to spread out but you can always plant them in big patio containers if you’re short of space. Keep them well watered and pick the courgettes when they are small, this encourages more to grow. Well worth growing yellow courgettes which are just as easy to grow, but far more difficult to buy. The flowers are edible too and are delicious stuffed with herby ricotta and fried in a light tempura batter.

  • How to Grow Courgettes
  • Try our recipe for Chargrilled Courgette and Puy Lentil Salad

2. Broad beans

Growing your own broad beans gives you the pleasure of picking the young beans which are sweet, tender, and succulent. When the beans are very small you can eat the whole pod too. Sow them in the Autumn and if the mice don’t eat them you will have an early crop in late April, alternatively sow in March for a May harvest. The advantage of an Autumn sowing is you are likely to harvest before the black fly emerge.

  • How to Grow Broad Beans
  • Try our recipe for Turkish Pastries with Broad Beans

3. Mange tout

Mange tout are one of the easiest pea varieties to grow. All peas need to be supported with canes otherwise they just trail along the ground. Mange tout should be picked when the pods are about 7.5cm long, just as the peas are starting to develop. Use them as quickly as possible as they lose their sweetness once picked. Lovely to eat raw in a salad or steam them lightly.

  • How to Grow Mange Tout
  • Try mange tout in our recipe for Spring Vegetable Ceviche

4. Peas

There is nothing like the sweetness of home grown peas, they like a rich soil and regular watering and must be supported with canes. Pick when the pods have filled out, but tastiest when the peas are small and sweet, as they mature the peas turn starchy. Use the pea shoots for salads and dont discard the pea pods as they make excellent vegetable stock.

  • How to Grow Peas
  • Try our recipe for Green Pea, Feta, and Mint Pate

5. French beans

French beans are easy to grow in small gardens, so long as you choose a dwarf variety. Just a few plants will reward you with a copious and reliable crop. French beans also come in a variety of colours – the usual green but also cream, yellow, flecked, and purple French beans. Do note that purple French beans turn green when you cook them.

  • How to Grow French Beans
  • Try French beans in our recipe for Japanese Goma Ae

6. Rocket

Rocket is an easy-to-grow and as its name implies when it gets established it grows fast. Rocket flourishes in a warm, sunny position. I grow both the rounder leaved and wild more toothed varieties. The younger leaves are milder and less peppery.The yellow or white flowers are a pretty addition to salads. A glut of rocket can be turned into a pesto or salsa verde. Leaves can also be lightly cooked like spinach, added to sauces or sautéed in olive oil.

  • How to Grow Rocket
  • Try our recipe for Asparagus and Rocket Pesto

7. Chicories

The Chicory family (Cichorium intybus) is an exciting and greatly varied family of leafy plants with so much variety compared to the forced “Witloof” white ‘chicons’ that we buy in the Supermarkets. In Italy, there are more than 600 different varieties. They grow right across the year and are available as green shoots in the spring and as puntarelle and big-hearted vegetables in the summer. Wild chicory grows widely in Britain. Bright blue flowers signal its presence in meadows and is a foragers delight. All the chicories can be grown in your garden and grow through the winter, with varieties such as Treviso and Radicchio turning a beautiful deep crimson colour as the weather gets colder. Castelfranco is another stunningly beautiful chicory with leaves that look as though they have had crimson paint flicked over them. I use chicory as a slightly bitter salad and as a cooked vegetable.

  • How to Grow Chicory
  • Try our recipe for Fava Bean Puree with Chicory

8. Leeks

Leeks are easy to grow and its one crop that the slugs and snails are not partial too. Sow leeks in the Spring in seeds trays and then plant out when they are about 20 cms high into a deep round holes made with a ‘dibber’ (or wooden broom handle). As leeks grow straight up you can dot them around your summer cropping vegetables. Harvest through the winter.

  • How to Grow Leeks
  • Try our recipe for Braised Leeks with Capers and Herbs

9. Cavolo Nero

Cavolo Nero tolerates cold weather and is relatively free of pests and diseases. You will need to net your cavolo nero against the cabbage white butterfly, which flys in July, lays eggs on the underside of the leaves and within a few days the ravenous caterpillars can decimate your crop. All through the winter pick the leaves, leaving the plant to keep on growing.

  • How to Grow Cavolo Nero
  • Try our recipe for Tuscan Cavolo Nero and Cannellini Bean Soup

10. Chard

Chard, or Swiss Chard, is one of the most visually appealing of the leafy vegetables and looks good in a herbaceous border. I find it easier to grow than spinach. It is grown both for its leaves and the stalk. try growing the spectacular Rainbow chard. Chard is the oldest form of beet and unlike beetroot it does not form a bulbous root but a mass of stalks and leaves which carry on growing as individual leaves are cut. When cooking chard It’s worth separating the leaves of chard from the stalks and cooking the sliced stalks for a few minutes before adding the leaves and, like spinach, they reduce down dramatically so always pick more than you think you need!

  • How to Grow Chard
  • Try chard in our recipe for Japanese Soba Noodles with Mushrooms

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ll write a proper catch-up post shortly as there is lots to talk about, including the plot in general, community gardening, rhubarb wine, the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, and a small market garden in the Forest of Dean.

The break in writing this blog is due, partly because of busy-ness, both at the plot and life generally, but mainly because I’ve been writing something else. A book proposal.

Shortly after my episode of Big Dreams went out I was approached by the Commissioning Editor of a major publishing house asking if I’d ever considered writing a book. I said “yeah, obviously” and meetings were arranged. I put together a proposal – 10,000 words of abstracts, chapter structures and example chapters. It was a cool experience. Unfortunately, despite some good feedback, the higher-ups at the publishers decided not to take my book forward. I was a little disappointed, especially as they approached me and the feedback was so positive until now. It’s not a complete dead-end, the proposal is already written and I’ve had an agent recommended to me. Fingers crossed someone else might pick it up.

In the meantime. For your perusal. Here is a draft of what would’ve been the prologue to my book. A lot of the prologue has been mentioned before in this blog albeit in a slightly different vibe. Hope you think it’s okay.

PROLOGUE

I take another sup of cider and it’s quite possible the tastiest, most refreshing cider I’ve ever had. As a Westcountry boy, this is a big statement.

It’s late September and I’m at the allotment. It’s still incredibly warm. My face is sunburnt and my body aches after hours of weeding, digging and ferrying what seems like a forests worth of woodchip from the allotment car park. Yet as the cliché goes, I think I’ve found my happy place.

I lean back on an old collapsible chair, a leftover from the previous plot tenant, and hope it doesn’t fold in whilst I’m sat on it. I’ve lost weight recently, but not a lot and I doubt the chairs structural capabilities. But it’s okay. Everything feels okay in this present moment. I rest my bottle of cider on the garden table – sourced from the pavement outside someone’s drive with a note saying take me, everything on the allotment is recycled or second-hand – and admire what I’ve achieved so far.

I consider what famous telly gardener Monty Don will make of it when he arrives in two-weeks for his final inspection for this TV show I’ve found myself on. I’m especially worried what he’ll make of the shed, he was certain it would fall down any minute. Yet I’m determined to not just make the shed work, but to turn it into something special – a pub-shed. Bar, dart board, pub stool, Bid D peanuts, everything! The Ross & Crown! Right now though, I decide to enjoy this particular moment and consider all the similar moments I hope to enjoy in the future.

I admire the peas and runner beans climbing their bamboo wigwams, the yellow courgettes, the impressively coloured chard, and the odd looking squashes I’d inherited which I discover later are patty pans. Out of all the crops which are coming along the most successfully, I realise that, apart from the peas and beans, were all started off or donated by friends and plot neighbours. Most of my own attempts at growing had failed miserably. I’ve still a lot to learn.

I admire the view. My plot, plot 90B, commands an awesome view of the Frome Valley, Stoke Park and Purdown. Areas historically used for feeding the city itself. If it wasn’t for a telecommunications tower known colloquially as the ‘Cups and Saucers’ (because of the satellite dishes that used to adorn its sides) the view would be as perfectly bucolic as you could imagine. Apart from the vague hum of the M32 you’d never know you were in the middle of a big city.

An old Irish man joins me for a chat. I’ve never seen him before. We talk about collards for some reason and he promises to drop off some seeds next time he passes my plot. I look the other way for a second and the man has disappeared. I consider to myself that he might have been a ghost – it’s that kind of night. Or it might just be the cider!

I remember what it was like six months ago. When I took it on, this little patch of land – around 82 by 16 foot if you like knowing such things – it was overgrown and overrun with bindweed and couch grass and god knows what else. The shed was roofless and falling down. I was told I had good soil, which was nice.

There are now seven beds – all being used in one way or another. There are wood-chipped paths, a small leaky pond, a functioning shed (the soon to be re-imagined pub-shed – the Ross & Crown, because who doesn’t enjoy a forced pun), there are compost bays, and what I think might be the most terrifying, yet sexiest, scarecrow ever to have existed, although the birds seem nonplussed by her.

But when I took it on the plot on the previous March it was in a right state. Six months ago, a lack of knowledge, experience and confidence meant that I’d often just stare at the plot, shrug, and go home despondent. Now it’s almost a thing of beauty. Almost!

The plot wasn’t the only thing in a right state. I take another sup of cider and consider where my life was the winter before.

Following the loss of my job and a relationship breakdown, I found myself homeless. I had spent six weeks in various shelters and hostels, living out of a large blue rucksack and lugging a sleeping bag around the city whilst trying to figure out what to do, despairing at how life could’ve gone so wrong. The threat of violence and substance abuse was rife in whatever hostel I slept and wherever I ate. As a safety precaution I hung around with this guy called Simon, a recovering heroin addict. He was huge, believed in Norse gods and looked like a Viking. Nobody would mess when he was about.

The day would start at 6am and finished at 2am and the daylight hours were spent commuting from agency to agency hoping for news of a more permanent, safer roof over my head. It was an exceptionally cold January and any down time was spent in the library, looking for work and trying to keep warm. Applying for jobs seemed a pointless endeavour. The kind of work I had experience in, and not to boast, would normally walk into, usually entailed being smartly dressed. Difficult to achieve when you are living out of a bag. The hours from late afternoon to late evening were spent in a queue hoping for a bed at the night shelter. At the time there were only eighteen beds for the whole city. You had to get there early to be guaranteed a bed and be prepared to wait. The whole experience was terrifying and exhausting. It did nothing for my mental health, which has always been a bit ropey at best. But this felt like rock bottom. That’s because it was.

I had been homeless for around five weeks and spending the previous few days sleeping underneath a pool table in the common room of a Salvation Army building when I finally had an interview with the Council’s Private Renting Team. I was not eligible for urgent accommodation as I was not a drug user or an alcoholic and my mental health problems were not considered significant enough. At my first appointment the woman working with the Private Renting Team advised that I could get somewhere tomorrow, or it could be in a years’ time – they couldn’t say when and definitely couldn’t promise anything. However, within ten minutes of my appointment ending I received a phone call and was offered a viewing of a flat close to city centre. I saw the flat the next day and accepted immediately. After a brief interview with the landlord I was told I could move in the following week. The flat, although not social housing, is rented from a social housing provider so no deposit was needed. This was a lucky break.

My new place is located above a funeral directors, so at least it’s quiet. After moving in I received a council tax bill addressed to both myself and the previous tenant – a Mr Dracul, I had a smile and hoped it was just an ironic coincidence. Although the way my luck had been I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself as tea for a hungry bloodsucking creature of the night. It was a studio apartment and surprisingly spacious. The living room and bedroom were one and the same but it had a separate bathroom (with bath) and kitchen. The only downside was that it was unfurnished.

Once I’d settled in, sourced some furniture and made it a bit more homely, I was able to reflect back on the past couple of months and then I broke down completely. I think I was finally going into shock at the sheer magnitude of recent events. The worry of homelessness had distracted me from grieving over the loss of my job and partner. It didn’t take long for that grief to catch up. I was also exhausted – both mentally and physically. I spoke to a GP, and like all the GP’s I’ve seen, she prescribed me some anti-depressants and told me to try and get more exercise. Have I been unlucky or is that just the generic response everyone gets?

Shortly after I’d moved in I realised that something inside me had changed – something fundamental. Although I couldn’t really put my finger on what it actually was. It felt like my factory settings had been reset and I wasn’t going to reload the computer with the same old apps. I knew I no longer wanted to go back to my pre homeless life – which wasn’t terrible, per se. I was lucky in many ways, I am educated, healthy and I can be terrifically motivated when I set my mind to something. But I was deeply unsatisfied with the way my working life had gone and my social life was based almost entirely around the pub. Most of my friends had very young children so I couldn’t really rely on them for kinship anymore. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or even could do to rectify this situation. All I knew is that I wanted something which would keep me busy, keep me fit and healthy, get me out of the flat, learn new skills and help to meet new likeminded people. Not much really.

Prior to now, if you’d have suggested to me that not only would I have an allotment, I would actually love it – and even be writing a book about it, I’d have laughed out loud, and quite possibly in your face. I always thought I was an indoors, urban, city kind of man. The fact I tend to dress like a lumberjack, beard and all, was just a ruse. I liked pubs, comic books, telly, films and video games. As the son of a butcher I wasn’t even particularly fond of vegetables. Yes I enjoyed the occasional walk in the countryside, and even did a bit of running, but I always looked forward to having a pint at the end. The destination was always a pub! Even after running the London Marathon in 2014 the first point of call was the pub. My general thinking used to be – working outdoors and getting dirty? Well, that was for other people wasn’t it?!

I applied to the Council to take on an allotment plot on a whim. The thought first occurred to me around eighteen months earlier whilst I was doing a bit of temping. Half the people in my team had plots, and full disclosure here, they were all quite cool and all pretty good-looking. My opinion on what a stereotypical allotmenteer was had changed. I used to think old, bearded, male and fusty. I’m doing my best not to describe Jeremy Corbyn here. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it’s just not how I saw myself. I mentioned it to my ex, and I promised myself that I’d look into it but never really got round to it. The idea was shelved indefinitely.

The allotment idea reappeared as I was thinking about ways to keep myself busy on an evening and weekends. I was bored, lonely and had been through a major life trauma. I was looking into doing a bit of volunteering, something to keep me busy and take my mind off recent events. I had also been doing a bit of labouring and discovered that a bit of manual work could actually be quite enjoyable. I was vaguely aware of an organisation called Incredible Edible Bristol and thought I’d get in touch with them.

Incredible Edible are a group of community gardening volunteer’s commandeer unused/unloved patches of land and grow produce that anyone could then pick and eat. They seemed to tick a lot of the following boxes:

  • It would keep me busy;
  • Keep me fit and healthy;
  • Get me out of the flat;
  • Learn new skills; and
  • Help me to meet new, likeminded, people.

I had been speaking with their formidable leader, Sara Venn, on social media about attending one of their work parties and promised myself I’d attend the next time a weekend work party took place.

I was in the pub thinking about Incredible Edible when the light bulb in my head went off. Get an allotment as well you mad fool! So I applied there and then thinking that it might be a few months, even years, before I heard anything back. You hear stories of people being on waiting lists for a plot for years. And in an alternative place like Bristol, with its fair sized population of hippies and hipsters (again with the generalisation) I thought it would be forever before I got an offer. Plus, if I didn’t enjoy the Incredible Edible experience then I wouldn’t take on a plot and I wouldn’t have lost anything.

The first site I applied for was situated along the River Frome and close to my flat. But shortly after my application was made the allotment flooded after a particularly heavy downpour caused the river to burst its banks, spilling brown, shitty smelling water over the well-tended plots. Needless to say I decided to apply to another site. I thought somewhere slightly away from the river would probably be best. My next choice was the allotments at Thingwall Park, which seemed to have a shorter waiting list than all the other sites in the area.

Within a couple of days I was surprised to get a phone call from Irene, the site rep at Thingwall Park Allotments, offering to show me around and look at the plots that were available. So much for the lengthy waiting list! I was surprised at how excited I felt about this. It was weird. I’d definitely changed.

Thingwall Park Allotments, with nearly three hundred plots is the largest allotment site in Bristol, and only a twenty-five minute walk from my flat. I was offered a choice of three plots. My first choice was a plot that had been dug over recently and I could get stuck straight it (I was so naive back then). But an admin error revealed that it had already been offered to someone else. I was allowed to choose a new one. My second choice, Plot 90B, needed a bit of work, but not too much work I thought. I reckoned I could start planting pretty quickly. I later discover how much of an idiot I was to think this. There were also the bones of a shed that I could use for storage. Yes, it didn’t have much of a roof left and one side seemed to be missing, but I didn’t have a car and figured that having onsite storage was a must. Irene said she’d inform the council of my intentions to take over the plot, and gave me her spare key until my official one arrived.

I had an allotment.

Up until then I’d never had a garden. I’d never done any gardening. No one I knew did much gardening. I was also skint. I’d managed to get a bit of work but any spare money that I’d earned had been spent furnishing my flat. I had nothing to actually garden with is what I’m saying. So I turned to the internet for freebies. I put an advert online asking if anyone was having a clear out of their shed or garage, and also put out a tweet. Soon I’d sourced secateurs, a spade, hoe, trowel, shears, a shed load of books, and even a pair of wellies. My boss at the time leant me his fork.

So I had my plot, I had some rudimentary equipment, I even had some seeds. I also had a bit of hope. The only things I didn’t have was knowledge, experience and the merest inkling of where to begin.

It’s a late September and I’m at the allotment. I’m sat on a rickety old chair admiring my plot and I’m feeling content. I finish my cider, realise that it’ll soon be dark and I make my way home. It’s a busy day tomorrow and it’s less than a week until Monty Don’s final visit. There is still a lot to do and this pub-shed won’t build itself. I get home, a bit tipsy, and sleep like a baby.

Garden Advice by Month

This series of monthly guides will help you know what to do now on your plot and what should have been done and is to do.

Monthly Gardening, Fruit & Vegetable Growing Advice

Warmest Area of UK – 2 weeks ahead
Warmer area – 1 week ahead
Central Area on which guides based
Cooler Area – 1 week behind
Coldest Area – 2 weeks behind (or more)

I’m often asked ‘what should I be doing now on the plot and in the garden’ which is not as easy to answer as you might think.

The two things that control what you should be doing now in the garden are the weather and your location.

The map to the right gives some idea of how things vary across the UK. I base my advice on the Cheshire / North Staffs area which is fairly central.

South of us can be a week ahead and the warmest south-east of the country two weeks ahead.

On the other hand the areas to the north can be a week or even two behind.

Even then it’s not so simple, you could be in a frost pocket or a particularly sheltered warm spot so adjust for your individual micro-climate.

Wherever you live, the weather is the dominant factor. Some years spring comes early and others you wonder if winter will ever end.

Never mind what I say or what the seed packet says, if it’s freezing cold then don’t start sowing!

Vegetable Sowing & Harvest Chart

Download & Print a chart showing the possible sowing months and when to harvest your vegetables.

Vegetable Sowing &
Harvesting Chart

This series covers what to do on your vegetable plot, month by month. We’re also fortunate to have a monthly guide as to what to do in a polytunnel from an expert author which is listed below.

Don’t forget to download the vegetable sowing and harvesting chart. Print it out and stick it on the potting shed wall!

Monthly Vegetable & Fruit Growing Guides

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for January

January is generally a very cold month with hard frosts freezing the ground although there are no guarantees with British weather. Looking through my diaries, snow isn’t that likely for a prolonged period but you never know. Sowing & Planting in…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for February

February, being the last of the winter months , often has a sting and ends up being the coldest month. So, more than any other month, this one you need to play according to local conditions. It’s best to hold off than try to sow in waterlogged, near frozen…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for March

March is the month when things really start to move in the growing season. In fact the start of the year used to be Lady Day, The Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March until 1752 in Britain when we adopted the Gregorian calendar and started our year on…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for April

By April spring should be well and truly underway, the soil warming up nicely and everything growing away. Don’t be complacent though, it’s been known for a cold snap with snow to strike even in the sunny south of England. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for May

“A warm January; a cold May .” Welsh Proverb “ Ne’er cast a clout till May be out “ English Proverb Generally May is one of the busiest months on the vegetable plot. The soil is warm and the plants growing well. But watch out for a sneaky late frost…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for June

Flaming June should bring us a hot sunshine filled month with the risk of frost passed and those in more northerly parts should be able to catch up with those in the south. We’re also moving towards the longest day, June 21st being the summer solstice…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for July

July is usually one of the hottest and driest months so a lot of time may be spent watering. You can reduce water loss and so save yourself some time. Mulching with a layer of organic matter will help preserve moisture but may encourage slugs so you will…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for August

August with a little luck brings us the best of the summer weather but being the traditional holiday month it can be hard to keep on top of the vegetable plot with a fortnight away even if a neighbour can be persuaded to water as required Sowing &…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for September

September is the end of summer although we’re often lucky to have an Indian summer with blue skies and sunshine, nothing is certain with the weather. The bulk of the harvest comes home now and as crops come out the plot begins to empty Sowing &…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for October

October is really the last of the hectic months on the vegetable plot. There’s little to sow and plant but still a fair amount to harvest and store away to eat through winter. This is the month when the first frosts usually arrive so killing off all but…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for November

November is the month when the hard frosts and heavy rain usually arrive so it’s important to grab whatever time you can on the plot in case you don’t get another chance. Sowing & Planting in November on the Vegetable Plot Now is the time…

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for December

Predicting winter weather is as hard as predicting summer weather in Britain, which makes it difficult to advise on jobs. We’re pretty sure of seeing some hard frosts but those dreaming of a white Christmas are actually more likely to see a white Easter….

Polytunnel Growing Guides

  • Growing in a Polytunnel in January
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in February
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in March
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in April
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in May
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in June
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in July
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in August
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in September
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in October
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in November
  • Growing in a Polytunnel in December

Trap Ground Allotment Association

Original content by Stuart Skyte. If you have sugestions for extra content, please send them to the webmaster.

As well as good gardening skills, effective allotmenting requires good time management. There is always so much to do and so little time in which to do it. This section sets out a month-by-month plan of action on the allotment so that you will will always know what to do when.

January

  • Order your seeds, onion sets and seed potatoes if not yet done
  • Start off garlic and shallots in pots in a cold frame
  • Give a potash dressing to strawberries, gooseberries and currants (white and red)
  • Sow sweet peas in a heated greenhouse
  • If you have a heated greenhouse, you can also sow French beans in pots
  • Start chitting your seed potatoes in pots in a cold frame

February

  • Start sowing cabbage, lettuce, peas and cauliflower in a heated greenhouse
  • Plant new rhubarb crowns just below the surface
  • You can start sowing parsnip seed, but it may be too cold to germinate
  • Plant broad beans in pots for an early crop
  • Check your stored potatoes from last year; rub off any sprouts appearing
  • Tie in new blackberry shoots as they appear and before they get too long
  • Start successional sowing of summer spinach
  • Start successional sowing of radishes
  • You can start sowing your onion sets now if the ground is not too hard or wet
  • Sow your first peas in pots in the cold frame or under fleece direct into the ground
  • Cover your strawberry patch with fleece or a cloche to warm up the ground
  • Prune blackcurrant bushes

March

  • It should be safe to plant parsnip seeds
  • Start successional sowing of chard, beetroot and spinach
  • Plant strawberries and raspberries
  • If you’ve sown early lettuce, they probably need thinning now
  • Lift all remaining leeks from last year to give you time to dig over the land for new planting
  • Plant sunflower seeds in pots in your cold frame
  • Cover rhubarb crowns to “force” them
  • Cut back autumn raspberries to the ground
  • Plant out onion sets
  • Sow cauliflower, summer cabbage and sprouts for summer transplanting
  • If warm enough, sow leeks in a seed bed or in pots
  • Dig, dig, dig to get your plot ready for spring planting

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YOUR FRUIT AND VEG CALENDAR

Generate your own personalised fruit and vegetable growing calendar as follows:


OPTION 1: If not already done, personalise the calendar to the weather conditions in your area by clicking here.
OPTION 2: Personalise your calendar further by entering your name or nickname below. This will then appear at the top of your calendar.

  1. Select the fruit and vegetables you will be growing from the list below.
  2. Click the “CONFIRM SELECTION” button at the bottom of the page.

We will also automatically generate a crop rotation plan, at the end of the calendar, based on the vegetables you have selected. Click here for more details of our four year crop rotation plan.

If you find that your settings are lost when you go back in at a later date, for some suggestions.

VEGETABLE

Asparagus: Yes: No:
Beetroot: Yes: No:
Broad Beans: Yes: No:
Broccoli – Sprouting: Yes: No:
Brussels Sprouts: Yes: No:
Cabbage – Spring: Yes: No:
Cabbage – Summer Yes: No:
Calabrese Yes: No:
Carrot: Yes: No:
Cauliflower summer: Yes: No:
Cauliflower autumn: Yes: No:
Celery: Yes: No:
Courgette: Yes: No:
Cucumber Ridge: Yes: No:
French Beans: Yes: No:
Garlic: Yes: No:
Jerusalem Artichoke: Yes: No:
Kale: Yes: No:
Kohlrabi: Yes: No:
Leeks: Yes: No:
Lettuce: Yes: No:
Mustard Seed: Yes: No:
Onion Seed: Yes: No:
Onion Sets: Yes: No:
Spring Onions: Yes: No:
Parsnip: Yes: No:
Peas & Mangetout: Yes: No:
Potatoes: Yes: No:
Radish: Yes: No:
Rhubarb: Yes: No:
Runner Beans: Yes: No:
Salsify: Yes: No:
Shallot: Yes: No:
Spinach: Yes: No:
Squash / Pumpkin: Yes: No:
Swede: Yes: No:
Sweetcorn: Yes: No:
Sweet Pepper: Yes: No:
Sweet Potato: Yes: No:
Swiss Chard: Yes: No:
Tomato: Yes: No:
Turnip: Yes: No:

FRUIT

for our advice on adding fruits to this calendar. The advice page will open in a new window so that your selections on this page will not be lost.

Apple: Yes: No:
Blackberry: Yes: No:
Blackcurrant: Yes: No:
Gooseberry: Yes: No:
Peach: Yes: No:
Pear: Yes: No:
Plum: Yes: No:
Raspberry: Yes: No:
Red / White Currant: Yes: No:
Strawberry: Yes: No:

Looking for allotment ideas to help you master the art of growing your own? Allotments usually have long waiting lists, but once you get a plot, it will be more than worth it – not to mention the bumper harvest of fruit, veg and flowers you’ll benefit from.

As far as waiting lists go, in 2013, the National Allotment Society found an average of 52 people were waiting for every 100 plots. And results from the 2018 State of the Market Report (Allotments) by The Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) proved that there’s still a high demand for allotments, with the average waiting time between six to 18 months.

But growing your own food isn’t the only benefit. Allotments play a key role in helping people to gain skills and joy in gardening, live healthier lifestyles, develop friendships and strengthen communities. Here are some top tips for allotment newbies…

1. It’s all in the planning

With all the excitement that comes with getting your new plot, sometimes the planning stage can be cut short. ‘Before digging, it’s vital to draw up a plan on paper, bearing in mind the type of soil you have, the way the sun hits your plot, the wind direction and access pathways,’ explains the experts at The Greenhouse People.

You need to equip yourself with good quality gardening tools (fork, spade, wheelbarrow, gloves and storage) and don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the task ahead. A wild allotment plot is a sign your ground is fertile, but it’s best to wait for a rain shower to dampen the soil before you start digging.

Tip: Try to speak to more experienced gardeners at the allotment who will know instantly what does and doesn’t work, saving you time and effort. You’ll also gain a green-fingered friend who can help you through your first year.

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2. The power of perennials

These crafty plants are perfect for allotment beginners. Literally meaning ‘through the years’, perennial fruits and herbs – such as tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, basil and blueberries – typically live more than two years, returning each spring from their rootstock.

‘Perennials’ hearty growth can deplete the nutrients in the soil so keep up its quality with compost or well-rotted manure before planting,’ The Greenhouse People suggest. ‘Don’t be tempted to remove the dead foliage during winter – this will attract small insects and give back nutrients to the soil without you lifting a finger.’

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3. Companion planting

Companion planting is key to making the most out of your space and the quality of your produce. Certain complementary plants forge mutually beneficial relationships helping to repel pests, improve pollination and provide nutrients.

For example: Lettuces, radishes and other quick-growing plants sown between hills of melons or squash will mature and be harvested long before the vines need more room. Additionally, leafy greens such as spinach grow well in the shadow of corn.

Tip: Remember, growing members of the same family close together increases competition for soil nutrients. Disperse onions, chives, leeks and garlic across your plot, instead of keeping them close together.

Photo by Ira Heuvelman-DobrolyubovaGetty Images

4. A greenhouse

Sometimes the unpredictable British weather can mean the plant projects we’ve nurtured so tirelessly turn out to be less successful than hoped.

‘However, adding a greenhouse means you can ignore and evade almost all seasonal changes and weather conditions throughout the year,’ say The Greenhouse People. ‘Extreme temperatures, excessive rain or droughts will not cause any serious problems to greenhouse gardening efforts, giving your much-needed flexibility when it comes to any forms of complementary gardening.’

Tip: Think about adding an electric or gas heater. Along with overhead lighting, it can extend the growing period for warm season plants for even longer.

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5. Herb heroes

Planting herbs throughout your plot can help to repel insects with their strongly scented leaves. For example, sage repels cabbage moths and French Marigolds are great to grow with tomatoes because their strong scents repel aphids.

The benefits extend beyond protection, as the addition of herbs can enhance the flavours of other plants too. For example, growing basil alongside tomatoes and lettuce enhances the flavour of both.

Tip: If you grow the herb wormwood you can make a tea that, when poured on plants, repels slugs.

Top 12 herbs and how to use them

Basil

Why: Works well with tomatoes or fish, or use to make a traditional pesto sauce.

Which: For Italian-style cooking, look out for sweet Genovese or Napoletano. For variety, try Greek, lettuce leaf or aniseedy Thai.

BUY SEEDS

Parsley

Why: Excellent in sauces, soups, stuffings, dressings and salads, and as a garnish.

Which: Both curly and flat-leaf varieties are resilient and will keep going well into autumn, and even winter if protected with a cloche.

BUY SEEDS

Lemon thyme

Why: The aromatic foliage is versatile for cooking and attractive to wildlife.

Which: Lemon and golden varieties look lovely in pots. Plant creeping thymes between gaps in paving for subtle scent.

BUY PLANT

Chervil

Why: Its subtle aniseed flavour is greatfor soups, sauces, egg dishes and more.

Which: Curled chervil is a popular variety with pretty foliage and grows quickly from seed. Sow regularly for a constant supply.

BUY SEEDS

Tarragon

Why: A staple in French cooking and a classic way to add oomph to potato salad.

Which: Look out for French tarragon. The leaves are best used fresh but they can be stored or dried in an air-tight container.

BUY SEEDS

Coriander

Why: Delicious added to rice, couscousand curries. Add the flowers to salads.

Which: Coriander is quick to go to seed (called bolting) so try a bolt-resistant variety such as Santos and pick leaves young.

BUY SEEDS

Oregano

Why: Strong and pungent, this is a classic herb for Italian, Greek and Mexican cooking and is often used dried rather than fresh.

Which: Look out for dwarf variety Kent Beauty, Common or Compact Greek.

BUY PLANT

Rosemary

Why: A classic accompaniment to lamb, pork and chicken dishes.

Which: Most varieties are suitable for culinary use. Once established outside, rosemary will keep growing for years.

BUY PLANT

Bay

Why: Use in soups, stews and potato dishes. Dried is fine as the leaves retain their flavour.

Which: Common bay has dark, aromatic leaves but also look out for hardier Angustifolia and Aurea varieties.

BUY PLANT

Mint

Why: Use for everything from tea to mojitococktails and mint sauce for lamb.

Which: Common varieties include apple mint, English lamb mint and spearmint (also known as garden mint).

BUY PLANT

Sage

Why: The leaves work well with chicken and are good in classic sage-and-onion stuffing.

Which: Look out for common sage or try the broad-leaved variety. Buy as a ready grown plant or grow from seed or cuttings.

BUY PLANT

Dill

Why: Commonly used for potatoes and fish or add to soups, sauces and salads.

How: Grow from seed, simply by scattering in the desired location after the last frost and cover lightly with soil.

BUY SEEDS

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Olivia Heath Digital Editor, House Beautiful UK Olivia Heath is the Digital Editor at House Beautiful UK, uncovering tomorrow’s biggest home trends, delivering stylish room decor inspiration and rounding up the hottest properties on the market.

What To Plant In January – Jobs At The Allotment

January is traditionally a quiet month down at the allotment, but then that is usually down to the fact the weather is cold and wet. However, for those who are either willing to brave the elements or lucky enough to get decent weather there is still plenty of work to do.

Vegetables

Whilst the ground is frozen you are best to not put anything directly into it, but you can start plants off in your greenhouse, on your windowsill or in your polytunnel.

For the flower gardener now is the time to start your sweet peas, in a gentle heat, as well as pansies, geranium, begonia and lobelia. These can all be started off indoors so they are ready for the planting season and an early splash of colour.

In the greenhouse you can start off your celery and celeriac in a heated propagator as well as start off your herbs on your windowsill. Onion seeds need sowing now as this gives them the chance to grow as big as possible, important if you are showing them.

If you are growing rhubarb then now is a good time to get it in the ground. You can force it under a cloche but be aware this exhausts the plant and it will need a rest next year.

Your first early potatoes can also start chitting now. Put them on a bright windowsill and let them get started for planting in 3 to 6 weeks.

If the ground isn’t frozen then you can sow a hardy broad bean variety directly into the soil. You may have overwintered some broad beans and these will give you a more continuous crop throughout the fruiting season.

You can also sow seeds such as aubergene (eggplant), cabbage, carrot, cauliflower and more. All of these can get a head start and then be planted out when the weather is suitable.

If you still have Brussels sprouts in the ground they may start to look a bit leggy and become vulnerable to being blown over by the wind. If this is the case then either stake them or earth them up. Remember to start picking the bigger sprouts from the bottom of the stalk first.

Fruit

Not much is happening in the fruit garden at this time of year but it is the best time to prune your fruit plants such as apples, pears, medlars and quinces. Autumn raspberries can also be cut back at this time of year as can gooseberries and currants.

Check your apple trees for any signs of canker and if there are any then prune it out and destroy the damaged wood.

All fruit and nut trees will benefit from a top dressing sulphate of potash at this time of year.

General Maintenance

There is a lot of other work you can be doing down at your plot too. Seed beds can be prepared for planting; dig in manure or compost, weed and then cover with fleece or polythene so it warms the soil before planting. If you have a very heavy soil then don’t cover the soil, leave it exposed to the elements as this will kill off pests and help improve the structure of your soil. For heavy soils you should also work in organic matter now as that is going to help improve drainage.

Most of us are going to have wet soil at this time of year and standing on it compacts the soil so work your soil from a plank of wood. This makes it easier to dig, ensures the soil is a better quality when you plant and stops you loosing a shoe or boot in the mud!

Anyone who has stored fruit or vegetables over winter needs to check them. You may need to put something to control mice in place as they are going to start appearing soon and be hungry. Any rotten or damaged produce needs to be removed from the store and used otherwise it will cause the rest of your produce to rot and go bad.

Remove fallen leaves and other plant debris from your vegetable plot as these are going to provide a perfect hiding place for pests such as slugs and snails.

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