Keep Calm and Grow your own

Image above: A daily average harvest from Rose & Steve’s allotment last year

Rose Lewis gives some pointers on how to start a vegetable patch

As Covid-19 accelerates, many of us are fearing that our food supply might be disrupted. Visiting the supermarkets you would think it already has! There has been a massive increase in people buying seeds in the last few weeks as many of you decide that now might be a good idea to start a vegetable patch.

But where to start ?

My friends ask me because I have growing fruit and veg on my allotment for a few years now and despite my rather lack of enthusiasm when my husband suggested it, I love it. Growing your own fruit and vegetables has undergone a transformation – it is no longer just the preserve of the older generation. It’s for anyone who is interested in eating locally produced food that hasn’t been shipped (or worse flown) from miles away and is free of pesticides. And even better, it saves you money and you can control its supply (well almost – weather is quite important). We do get a lot of fruit and vegetables from our plot (see photo above) and we often share our excess. I have only just finished my last fruit that I froze last year and I eat it every day on my breakfast.

Questions that I am being asked are mainly around two things – what can I grow and how long will it take? So here are some tips to start you growing along with 6 recommended vegetables to start with. They include super-fast growing veg that you could harvest within three weeks and super easy vegetables that literally anyone can grow.

Key things to know before you start

Its really easy, if I can do it anyone can. You don’t need an allotment, a small sunny patch in your garden, your balcony or even a windowsill will do. You can even grow some indoors especially herbs, sprouting seeds and small leafy greens (rocket).

You don’t need much to start – a few old plastic pots will do if you are growing on a balcony or keeping them in pots; the seeds and some compost to start them off. Some veggies do work better if you start them off in pots but some you can just put straight into the ground with the compost giving them a good start in life. (The latter two are not quite as easy as it used to be – I hear Sainsbury has sold out of their seeds and the garden centres are now shut. But you are able to order online from places like Marshalls. It make take a little longer so order without haste! Morrisons in Brentford also has compost earlier this week. Here are my pots that I have grown a few herbs that can just stay in the pots but the veggies I will transfer when they have grown for a few weeks.

It helps to have a sunny spot too and you will need to keep the seeds moist as they germinate (begin to grow). Water them regularly doesn’t mean everyday although it the sun keeps shining, you might have to. The key is to keep them moist – touch your hand to the soil (remembering to wash them thoroughly afterwards) is the best way to check this.

Four super-fast growing vegetables

Here are four super-fast growing vegetables that you can plant anywhere and harvest within 30 days.

Radish – those lovely pink fiery little vegetables can be grown within 20 days. Yes that fast! The seeds are tiny so sow thinly in a pot or in your garden and keep moist. You will see the seedlings within about 7 days – good for your motivation. Grow successively – ie a small amount of seeds every 4-5 days to keep you from having too many and keep on sowing right through the season.

Rocket or any lettuce actually – super easy and fast growing and you can add to so many things. You can be eating rocket within 20 days especially if you pick when the leaves are small. Cut the leaves when they are ready and the plant will keep on growing. You can grow them in pots on your windowsill or straight into the ground but use the compost to create a good basis for the seedlings

Spinach is fast and also keeps growing and like lettuce – you won’t need to keep sowing seeds. You just pick what you want and come back when it has grown back. You should be able to harvest this super healthy veg within 30 days. I picked spinach today from stuff that I planted last year  – it even survived our winter.

Another of my favourite is Pak Choi.  Yes you can grow it very well in an English garden and in pots. It grows quickly and abundantly so sow a very small amount in succession. We have been left with a glut of it and although delicious – finding things to do with it every night is hard. Again you can grow this straight in to the ground or in pots.

Three more that are easy to grow

Three other vegetables that are super easy and so lovely. These take a little longer to mature and are best in a small patch in your garden. You can start them off in pots, which work especially well for vegetables that need warmer weather to survive outside.

Peas and Broad beans are very easy and if you plant them now – you can be harvesting the best peas you will have ever tasted by mid-June. You need a bit more space for these as they grow tall and need some support – so a garden is definitely best. You can start them off in pots in your house and then transfer them when they are about 5 cm tall. Or you can grow them straight into the ground

My last vegetable will be courgettes. These are good seeds to start off in pots before you transfer them to the garden in late April/early May. They need space so more difficult in pots but a good one for the garden – easiest vegetable ever to grow. If there are just two of you in the house, or your kids hate them – just plant two seeds as they produce a lot of courgettes.

Rose Lewis