Start your own veg garden : The easiest vegetables to grow

 
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When I decided to try growing our own veg last year I had no idea what I was doing. Despite coming from a family who loves to garden, I had never grown anything. But, I was determined to learn and get stuck in so I lapped up every Youtube video and blog post I could find. I’m still verrrrry far from being an expert but I’ve had fun, learnt from failures and celebrated the successes - it is deeply satisfying being able to feed our family with organic vegetables I’ve nurtured from seed.

If you’re considering growing your own veg my advice is to just give it a go! It doesn’t matter how much or little space you have, you can start growing your own produce even if you only have a windowsill available.

When choosing which veg to grow, the main thing is to think about what you actually like to eat. There’s no point growing courgettes if you’re never going to use them up. The other thing to consider is how much time you have to devote to your crop. Some vegetables need a lot more attention than others - weeding, harvesting and watering are just some of the tasks that will be required.

With that in mind here’s a few vegetables that I have found fairly easy to grow and that make a great starting point.

Tomatoes

Strictly speaking they’re a fruit but let’s not be pernickety. Tomatoes are easy to grow but they do require care and attention. The great thing about them is that they can easily be grown in containers and hanging baskets so even if you are limited with space, you should still be able to grow some juicy toms.

The difficult bit is choosing which variety to grow - there are many to choose from. Think about what you will most want to eat… do you love sweet cherry tomatoes in your salads, or larger and more intense ones for making pasta sauce?

One thing is for sure, whichever variety you choose, you will never want to buy another tomato from a supermarket ever again as they will never taste as good as homegrown!

HOW TO GROW

When: Sow Indoor varieties, February to March and outdoor varieties, March to April. I sow all my tomatoes indoors in module trays and then plant out once the weather warms up.

How: I sow into module trays on a sunny windowsill and transplant the seedlings into individual 6cm pots about 4 weeks later so they have extra compost and space for roots to grow. At this stage they move out to the greenhouse or cold frame. Once the last frosts have passed (around April/May depending on where in the country you are) they can planted in their final positions in the garden or containers.

What: For containers I suggest bush varieties as they need little in the way of support. If you have more space you can plant climbing varieties, you will need to build some sort of frame to support them. For hanging baskets look for tumbling varieties which provide an abundance of small tomatoes.

Whichever type you choose, they need sunlight to develop fruits so choose a sunny spot. They also need regular watering and a feed every couple of weeks once their flowers appear - you can find organic feeds in most garden centres or make your own comfrey feed.

You’ll also need to prune them to help the plant put its energy into growing fruits not new stems. Pinch out any side shoots and continue to do so throughout the season.

Issues: Aphid attacks can cause problems so keep an eye out for greenflies and other predators. Planting nasturtiums and garlic near your tomatoes can help keep them at bay. Tomatoes are also prone to blight in wet or damp weather so it’s important to monitor them carefully and remove any leaves or stems that are brown and shrivelled. Harvest any fruits immediately and cut the stems back if needed. Sadly, if it spreads quickly there is nothing to be done but throw your plants away.

Radish

Radish are super easy and fast to grow - they’ll be ready to be harvested in as little time as three weeks. It also makes them an ideal crop to grow in between succession planting of longer growing crops.

HOW TO GROW

When: Sow February to September depending on if spring or winter varieties.

How: Sow thinly, directly into soil and thin out if you have clumps of seedlings growing together. Spring radishes can be harvested at any time depending on your taste - the longer they are left in the ground, the spicier they become. If left too long, radishes become soft. Winter radishes should be harvested in November and stored in cool dampness until needed.

Issues: Spring radishes sown after May will be more prone to cabbage root fly. Winter radishes should not be sown before July as they will bolt.

Chard

Also know as Swiss or Rainbow Chard, it’s quick growing and tasty. Use small leaves in salads or let the leaves grow larger and use like spinach in stir-fry, juices and smoothies or pesto. The stems can be boiled or braised.

HOW TO GROW

When: Sow indoors in March or outdoors in April to July.

How: I sow into module trays indoors in early March and let the seedlings develop on a windowsill. Plant out in late April. Chard is hardy and with a little protection, you can harvest all year round. The outer leaves should be picked frequently to encourage new growth, just slice them off close to the base with a sharp knife and new leaves will grow to replace them. A sunny spot is best and keep them well watered.

Issues: Slugs, snails and caterpillars may be partial to nibbling your chard so keep the area around them as weed-free as possible. You can net plants if it becomes a problem.

Salad Leaves

Organic salad leaves are quite expensive to buy in the supermarket but they are super easy to grow even if you only have a windowsill to spare. There are lots of different varieties from peppery rocket to buttery corn lettuce. I recommend getting starting with ‘cut and come again’ varieties as they are quick to grow and don’t require heaps of space unlike a conventional lettuce.

HOW TO GROW

When: Salad can be grown all year round on a windowsill provided it doesn’t get too hot. In unheated growing conditions, sow from late spring through to autumn. Oriental salad such as Pan Choi or Mizuna are best sown from summer onwards so that they don’t ‘bolt’ and produce flowers.

How: You can grow salad leaves in containers, raised beds or the ground. I even grew some in old plastic containers you purchase mushrooms in. Seeds don’t need to be deep so sprinkle the surface of compost in your container or sow into shallow drills int he ground and then cover with a thin layer of compost.

I recommend sowing every 2 weeks in succession throughout summer so that you have a continuous supply.

When leaves are of an appetising size, use scissors to snip off a few from each plant around 1 inch from the base. Harvesting little and often from each plant is best. Make sure to keep well watered.

Issues: Slugs love salad! If growing outside you might want to protect plants with a cloche or mesh tunnel to stop them from feasting on your crop.

Further resources

A few of my favourite resources to help you get started with growing your own food:

RHS website.

Book: How to Grow *

Book: Step by Step Veg Patch *

Instagram hashtags: #growyourownfood #allotmentlife #growyourown

*Please note some links are affiliate which means I may receive payment if you purchase using my link. I only ever recommend products I personally use and love.