Grow vegetables at home with these tips from author and gardening enthusiast Alys Fowler.
This list of foods will easily adapt to pretty much any space, while making your garden look great at the same time.
The best vegetables that will flourish even in a small suburban garden
Why: Sweet, home-grown carrots are a far cry from the large monsters that are found in supermarkets.
Tips: They need light, deep, stone-free, fertile soil, so I grow baby carrots or the shorter stumpy types in containers on the patio while I slowly build up the fertility in the ground. It’s best to wait until the soil has warmed in spring, and try to get the carrot to flower ratio right- I sow twice as many carrots to flowers.
Varieties: Amirilo and Chantenay taste and look great.
Why: There’s a world of difference between shop-bought and fresh garden beetroot, where the sugars that make it so delicious are still in place.
Tips: Beetroot seeds need lots of moisture to get them going, so germination can be slow in dry weather. It’s happiest sown directly into soil, about 2cm deep. Start sowing in early spring and keep sowing until the end of January for a continuous supply.
Varieties: Boltardy is a reliable cropper and stores well.
Why: Beans will last for weeks, just don’t pick them all at once, leave them on the plant until they rattle.
Tips: Before you plant, dig a trench and fill it with semi-rotted foodstuff and strips of newspaper to prevent the plants drying out. The more beans you pick, the more you get. Beware, beans over 20cm long can be stringy though.
Varieties: Painted Lady is pretty with red and white flowers, and Scarlett Empress is very productive.
Why: It’s such a simple crop to grow, requiring little more than good drainage and sun.
Tips: Best time to plant is actually between April and June for lots of cool temperature growing before spring, when it matures and ripens ready for picking in December. Carefully split the bulb and choose the plumpest cloves and plant these 10cm deep. By December, the leaves will turn yellow and wilt, a sign the garlic is ready to be harvested.
Varieties: Cristo, Arno and Thermidrome work well when planted in autumn.
Best salad ingredients to enjoy fresh produce from home
Why: I grow ‘cut and come again’ salad leaves, which are grown close together (2,5cm apart), and can be harvested leaf by leaf, or as a whole plant. A block of these can give you weeks, even months, of supply. When you’re not picking them, the colours and textures of different leaves look amazing.
Tips: Cut the leaves when they are 10-15cm high. You can grow any lettuce this way, but the best are loose leaf types which germinate at low temperatures.
Varieties: Lollo Rosso make great edgers to a flower bed.
Why: If I could grow only one plant, it would be chillies; they’re happy everywhere.
Tips: Sow in early March in seed trays and pick out at the leaf stage, transporting to small pots. They need to live indoors for a few months, before moving outside when the evenings are warm. The huge central chilli tends to sap all the growth, so snap it off and eat it green. You’ll get a lot more fruit as a result.
Varieties: Large red chillies are a must in any garden; their shrubs are evergreen too.
Why: Sweetcorn adds height and can be dotted through a bed. It’s fickle about the weather, but it’s generally worth a gamble to get sweet cobs.
Tips: Sow from late October to mid November to have corn growing with the seasonal temperature. Sow indoors to harden off, or outside in situ from mid-November, placing jam jars over the seeds to trap heat.
Varieties: Star 7708 flourishes in hot climate, making it an easy grow.
Decorative food for pots:
These plants like each other’s company and make a pretty display with edible appeal…
- Golden feverfew and red lettuce
- French marigold and dwarf tomatoes
- Red chard and purple violets
- New Zealand spinach and golden oregano
- Basil and strawberries