Elementary Pointers on Growing 9 of the Most Popular Veggies
This is a curious vegetable—a cross between a swede and a turnip—and is a member of the brassica family. Sow from April onwards in drills 40cm/15in apart, and thin the plants to 20cm/8in in the rows. Harvest the roots when they are not more than 10cm/4in across as they become woody after this. Varieties: Early Purple Vienna, Early White Vienna.
Leeks should really be grown in trenches with plenty of garden compost at the bottom, although they can be grown on the flat. Sow the seed in shallow drills in mid March, and set them out 15cm/6in apart in the trenches during June. This should be done by making a hole with a dibber, filling it with water and dropping the plant gently in.
Earth the plants up as they grow to blanch the stems. They are very hardy and can be left in the ground right into spring. If frosts are expected, they will be difficult to dig up. So lift them on a warmer day and lay them flat on the earth, and they will come to no harm. Varieties: Clandon White, Marble Pillar.
Lettuce seed should be sown in a seedbed up till mid April, and the young plants set out 20cm/8in apart in the rows where they are to mature. After mid-April, transplanted lettuces will run to seed, so sow them in the rows and thin them out to the same distance. Keep them well watered. Varieties: Webb’s Wonderful, Winter Density, Suzan, Tom Thumb, Buttercrunch.
4) Marrow/ Courgette
These are in fact the same vegetable, the courgettes coming from plants which tend to produce smaller fruits. Sow the seeds in individual peat pots in April, setting the seeds on their edges about 1cm/½in below the soil level. Set them in a cold frame to harden off in May, and plant them out with plenty of manure or compost at the end of May or early in June.
Allow 90 120cm/3-4ft between plants for the courgettes, and 150-180cm/5-6ft between the trailing varieties. Cut the fruits as soon as they reach a reasonable size to encourage more to form. Varieties: Butternut, Sutton’s Superlative, Zucchini (courgettc).
5) Mustard and Cress
Sowings should be made every two to three almost throughout the year in small seedbeds. Cress is traditionally sown four days earlier than mustard, so that both will mature together. This should take two to three weeks. Variety: Moss Curled.
Onions need a long growing season, and where this is not possible, it will be best to raise the crop from small onions called sets. If they are to tee grown from seed, they should be sown in a heated greenhouse in January. Set into boxes in March, and put into the open ground in April, 20cm/8in apart in rows 30cm/12in apart.
If sets are used, they should be planted also in April at the same distances. Stop watering in August to encourage the bulbs to ripen, and assist this process still further by bending over the leaves just above the bulbs.
The crop will be ready for harvesting in September. Leave them on the soil for a few days dry, and they can then be tied into ropes and stored in a cool dry place for autumn and winter use. Check stored onions regularly and throw out any which go bad as they may otherwise infect all the others. Varieties: Stuttgarter Giant, Ailsa Craig, Reliance.
Parsnips need very well dug soil as their roots can go down enormous lengths. They will never do well in stony ground, but if required, push a couple of 5cm/1in pipes into the soil to a depth of 30cm/12in. Then fill these with finely sifted soil. Sow a few seeds in each, and thin to one strong plant after germination.
The roots will be ready to lift from early November, and will be greatly improved in flavor by a touch of frost. Canker is the worst parsnip complaint, and the best thing to do is to look out for varieties which have been specially bred to resist this. Varieties: Hollow Crown, Avonresister.
By planting early, mid season and late varieties, it is possible to have fresh peas from May until late September. In sheltered areas, round seeded peas can be sown in November, otherwise successional sowings can be started in late January and continue until early June.
Make a drill about 5cm/2in deep and 30cm/12in wide, and sow the peas in alternate rows of four and three across it, staggering the rows. Set pea sticks in the ground if you can get hold of them, otherwise fix a net for the tendrils to cling to so that the pods will be held off the ground.
The peas should be picked before the pods have become hard, as otherwise, they will lose their sweetness and become starchy. Cut the pods rather than pull them from the plants as the root system will not be very strong, and you may otherwise pull the whole plant out. Varieties: Early Onward, Kelvedon Monarch, Kel-vedon Wonder.
This is a staple part of everyone’s diet, but can be hard work to cultivate. Buy government certified seed potatoes, and set them in egg boxes or similar containers as soon as you get them with the sprouting ends upwards, in order to get good strong shoots before planting.
In sheltered parts, plant the early potatoes in March and the main crop in April; elsewhere, plant the main crop in early April and the more tender earlies at the end of the month. Dig a trench to a depth of 20cm/8in, put 8cm/3in of compost in the bottom, then 8cm/3in of peat. Then press in the tuber with the sprouting end upmost, and cover them with soil.
Stack the surplus soil on either side of the trench and use it to keep earthing up the plants as they grow. Early potatoes should be 30cm/12m apart in the trenches, with 45cm/18in apart in the trenches with 60cm/24in between rows.
Lift the plants when the foliage begins to die down, and store those which are not for immediate eating in a cool dry place. Potatoes suffer from a variety of diseases which can be controlled (see this article*), and very rarely from two which are the Colorado beetle and wart disease.
The beetle is black and orange striped, while wart disease appears as cauliflower shaped swellings on the tubers. Varieties: early; Arran Pilot, Home Guard, Foremost; maincrop: Pentland Crown, King Edward.