Grow vegetables successfully in your back garden
Homegrown vegetables taste fantastic compared to store bought produce nine times out of ten. The reason is because they are usually a whole lot fresher so have not lost much of their vitamin content.
Plus homegrown vegetables are a lot better for the environment because instead of coming from the other side of the world, they have just come from your garden.
Here is a list of some popular vegetables but before you start growing, please speak to someone at your local garden centre to find out what grows best for the climate you are in.
Choose a site in full sun. Dig to a depth of 12 inches & remove all rocks & stones. Add plenty of organic matter or compost to the area you will be planting the carrots.
Sow seeds directly into the ground 2 weeks before the last frosts are expected.
Thin seedlings out before they end up growing together. Only pinch out the leaves, as pulling the whole carrot will attract the 'dreaded' carrot fly. Compost all waste.
Water plants in dry spells & when plants are young but do not over water them. Cut back on watering as plants start to mature.
Ensure you keep tops of carrots covered with soil or they will turn green with sunlight.
Harvest carrots following instructions on back of seed packets, usually when they are bright orange & about 6 inches long (don't be fooled by huge green stems on the top, this happened with my 1st crop & I had carrots less than 1 inch long)
These are one of the easiest to grow but without care, they will still fail & die.
Plant in full sun, or in a lightly shaded place during summer months. Dig soil before planting, breaking up clumps & working in plenty of organic matter.
Sow a crop every 2 weeks to ensure you have a continuous crop.
Plant seeds direct to soil about 10-12 inches apart.
Feed every now and then with fertiliser if growth seems slow.
Make sure the soil is kept moist (very important in dry spells) but not waterlogged. Avoid watering in the evening because if the leaves stay moist overnight, it is more prone to disease.
For 'leaf' lettuces, harvest as soon as they are big enough. For 'head' lettuces, harvest when they are fully formed.
You have 2 options to grow these, either in the ground or in large pots. I only have experience of growing in large pots so can only comment on this method.
Get the largest size plant pot you can find (builders buckets are ideal) & put a few drainage holes in the bottom.
Put an inch of soil or compost in the bottom of the pot & put one previously chitted seed potato (do a google search for 'chitting potatoes') in centre of the bucket/pot. Cover potato with more soil & water well.
Put bucket in a place where it will get plenty of sunlight (you can angle the bucket/pot slightly towards the sun while the plant is still young & inside the bucket).
Water well every couple of days (ensure it doesn't get waterlogged). Raise bucket/pot on house bricks to ensure it can drain freely.
As your potato plants start to grow, you need to 'earth up' the plants. Basically cover the plants completely in soil/compost leaving just the tips of the shoots showing.
When the soil is about an inch below the rim of the bucket, don't add anymore soil.
Add a good quality organic feed, following manufacturer's instructions (I followed my neighbour's advice & added urine as its full of nitrogen)
Harvest new potatoes after 120 days or until plants start to flower. (Bury down with a teaspoon to tubers before cutting stem of plant incase they are not quite ready & need longer).
Wait a month longer for bigger potatoes, the longer they are in, the bigger they will grow (don't leave them too long, as they will start to rot).
Tomatoes are probably the most common plants grown in a garden greenhouse. They are so easy to grow & have many uses, which is probably the reason for the popularity
Tomatoes need plenty of both sunlight & warmth. The best place for them in the UK climate is definitely a greenhouse. You can of course buy the cheaper tomato PVC 'grow-houses' which are similar in construction & design to a tent.
You can buy grow-bags especially for tomato plants or alternatively you can use your own soil with plenty of homemade compost added to increase the quality.
Start off tomato seeds in the airing cupboard. You need to check these daily because as soon as they start to shoot, they will grow long & weak. Once they have 'burst' through the top of the soil, place plants on an indoor window ledge.
When the plants are about 6 inches tall you can start getting them used to colder conditions by placing them in the greenhouse during the day & bring them indoors at night. Do this for about 5 or 6 days.
After they are used to the colder temperatures you can leave them in the greenhouse all the time.
A few days after you put the plants outdoors, you can transport them into the grow-bags or wherever you are putting them. Ensure you put a cane in for each plant to help support it as it grows.
You won't go wrong by adding some commercial fertiliser (organic of course) every now & then - following instructions on bottle/packaging.
When the plant gets 4 or 5 flower sets on, start nipping out the new flower sets. Also remember to nip out any side shoots.
The tomato plants need the soil to be kept moist, especially in warm spells. Make sure you water regularly or it will result in poor or split fruits.
When fruits are not too firm but not too soft & the colour is glossy & evenly spread around the fruit, they are ready to pick.
Any green tomatoes left at the end of the season can be picked & left in a drawer with a ripe banana. The gas released from the banana ripens the fruit.
For more detailed instructions on how to grow these or any other vegetables, please visit your local garden centre or library for good quality gardening books specially for growing fruit & vegetables. With a little time & a lot of patience, you to can grow vegetables successfully in your back garden