GROW YOUR OWN Your complete guide to over 60 tasty crops
GROW YOUR OWN PRACTICAL KNOW-HOW
GROWING MADE EASY
MORE FROM YOUR PLOT
l Sowing and planting tips l Pruning l Troubleshooting
l Best varieties l Crop care l Month-by-month guides
l Crops in pots l Raised beds l Plan for year-round harvests
Getting started Anyone can grow their own, no matter how limited the space. It’s a wonderful way to put fresh veg on the table, knowing it’s nutritious and delicious, and the only distance travelled is from the plot to the table. Everyone can have a go, and children especially love being involved. Don’t worry if you’ve got limited time or resources, as there’s still plenty you can grow. You can swap seeds with neighbours, family and friends, or exchange produce when you’ve got too much. Best of all, you can get your hands in the soil and grow veg that tastes irresistible.
GETTING STARTED 7
In this section you will fnd 8 Using space wisely 10 Raised beds 12 Crops for pots 14 Pretty & productive 16 18
Creative ways with fruit Planning & preparation
Pretty & productive | GETTING STARTED 14
Pretty & productive Think it’s impossible to have a garden that looks good but still provides plenty of tasty things to eat? Well, think again. Many crops will sit beautifully in your fower borders ATTRACTIVE EDIBLES with eye-catching leaves, fowers or fruits and architectural forms can easily hold their own among other plants in the garden. So why not make your borders more productive by plugging any gaps between perennials and shrubs with vegetables, herbs and fruit? Just choose from the many varieties with good looks as well as good favour.
What to grow where At the back of a bed, try feathery bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’). The foliage of this tall but airy perennial is delicious chopped into salads, and the clump looks great from spring to autumn, when topped by large, fattened heads of yellow fowers. You can also grow tall sweetcorn plants at the back of borders, in a similar way to annual grasses, while purple- or yellow-podded beans are attractive grown up an obelisk. There are lots of vegetables with the kind of looks that make them perfect among ornamentals. The colourful stems of chard will turn heads, especially the seed mix ‘Bright Lights’. Other options include Florence fennel, which is grown for its swollen white bulb that sits beneath
a mound of delicate fern-like foliage, or try one of the attractive hardy kale varieties, such as ‘Black Tuscany’ (also known as cavolo nero). This plant forms an upright rosette of dark green, puckered leaves that adds drama to any border, particularly over the winter months. Leafy salads are one of the best edibles to squeeze into small gaps, especially cut-and-come-again varieties. Grow single plants of attractive lettuces, such as crinkly, deep red ‘Lollo Rossa’ or speckledleaved ‘Freckles’, and fll larger gaps by sowing rows of mixed salad leaves, rocket, mustard or coriander. And don’t forget, by flling any gaps with crops, you’ll also help to stop weeds germinating there instead. Many perennial herbs look great in borders. If you have a gap at the edge of a path, try planting the ground-covering rosemary Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis (Prostratus Group) ‘Capri’, whose trailing stems are clothed in dark green, edible needles and masses of blue fowers in summer. Its evergreen foliage continues to add verdant colour right through the depths of winter. Chives, thyme or alpine strawberries could also be grown in a similar location, or as edging plants.
SWISS CHARD ‘BRIGHT LIGHTS’
Great additions to borders Cabbage ‘Red Ruby Ball’ – with dark purple-red leaves and excellent favour. Calabrese ‘Romanesco’ – forms unusual, pointy, lime-green curds. Chard ‘Bright Lights’ – a jazzy mix of colourful stems and glossy leaves. French bean ‘Purple Teepee’ – with showy dark pods. Or try yellow-podded varieties or speckled borlotti beans. Kale – the many attractive varieties include ‘Black Tuscany’ and ‘Redbor’.
GETTING STARTED | Pretty & productive
How to create a decorative potager A potager should be both attractive and productive, mixing veg with fruit, herbs and fowers (often edible). Itâ€™s a great chance to be creative, making attractive patterns with your chosen crops. So what should you grow? Firstly, plants that you like to eat, but also those with good looks, such as red lettuces, runner beans with white or red fowers, and chillies and tomatoes with jewel-like fruits. Edible fowers include violas and nasturtiums, while French marigolds can be added to deter aphids. Grow climbing crops, such as French beans, on hazel or cane wigwams to provide height, and add trailing plants along the edges.
Harvesting & storing | TIPS & ADVICE 120
Harvesting & storing You’ve grown your favourites, but now what? Find out when to harvest, how to store your crops for maximum shelf-life and how to preserve the fruits of your labour VEGETABLES, FRUIT and herbs are best picked when just ripe, and most are best eaten as soon as possible once harvested. Flavour can be impaired and nutrients lost the longer they take to reach your plate. To avoid gluts, plan carefully so you don’t grow more than you need, but if you do end up with an over-abundance, you might be able to store the crop, freeze it or preserve it for later use. For advice on harvesting and storing specifc crops, see our growing guides.
When to pick After spending weeks or even months nurturing your crops, it’s disappointing if you harvest them at the wrong time. Pick when they’re ripe, or small and tender,
not when they’re under-ripe or over-ripe, or have been left on the plant so long that they’ve become woody, stringy or so swollen with water that they’ve lost virtually all their favour. With many crops it’s possible to tell when they’re ready for harvesting by looking at them or giving them a squeeze. With others it’s more tricky. You can tell whether broad beans are ready for picking by squeezing the pods to feel the beans inside. Likewise, it’s not rocket science to work out when red, juicy tomatoes are perfectly ripe. But how do you know whether a crop that grows underground is ready for digging up? Well, there are a few little tricks that can help. Early potatoes should
THAT’S A WRAP Newspaper will help stored apples keep for longer
be lifted when they’re fowering, while beetroot should be harvested when they’re about 5cm in diameter. Other crops hide behind foliage. The large leaves of courgettes often conceal the young fruits, so check plants regularly to see if any are ready for picking. Test sweetcorn cobs when the tassels turn brown – simply prick a few kernels with your fngernail and if milky sap fows out, then it’s ready to eat. Some plants produce a single harvest, while others are more prolifc – the more you pick, the more they produce. Salad leaves and other leafy crops do the latter – leaves picked from around the outside are replaced by more that develop in the centre of the plant.
How and where to store your crops Some fruit and vegetables can be stashed away after harvesting to provide you with food over winter
Storing bulbs and cabbages
Storing root veg
Most veg are best kept in a place that’s frost free and not too warm. A shed or garage is ideal. Cabbages and onions can be stored in net bags suspended above the ground to allow air to reach them and prevent damp.
Maincrop potatoes can be stored in paper sacks, and carrots and beets in wooden trays. Add a layer of dry compost or damp sand to the trays, then lay the roots on top, ensuring they’re not touching. Cover with another layer of compost or sand.
Apples and pears should last several months if placed on slatted trays. Make sure they don’t touch their neighbours. Check them regularly to ensure they’re healthy and discard any with signs of disease, as this can quickly spread.
TASTE OF SUMMER Make delicious chutney to use up any gluts
How to freeze herbs Some herbs can be frozen, so you can enjoy their favour all year round. Harvest them while young and at their best to get the most from them.
FRESH PICKINGS Harvest bunches of young leaves
ADD WATER Half-fll an
FILL UP Pack the chopped
POP OUT Store your herb
ice-cube tray with water
herbs into the water
cubes in freezer bags
TIPS & ADVICE | Harvesting & storing
Freezing, pickling and preserving If you fnd you have a glut of sweetcorn, peas or runner beans, they can all be frozen. Surplus tomatoes can be made into sauces, then decanted into bags and put in the freezer. Other crops can be pickled or turned into preserves. Beans, aubergines and plums are perfect for chutneys, while beetroot, sweet peppers and any green tomatoes left at the end of the outdoor growing season are delicious pickled. And what better way to use up summer berries than in a scrumptious jam?
Pest control guide | TIPS & ADVICE 126
Pest control guide
These sap-sucking insects include blackfy (above), greenfy, woolly aphids (below) and others
Pigeons, bullfnches, blackbirds and others can be a nuisance in the fruit and vegetable garden
Telltale damage Leaves and shoots distort as aphids feed. Sticky residue can become covered with black mould, which prevents light reaching the leaves.
Red spider mite
These butterfies lay eggs on leaves that hatch into ravenous caterpillars
This tiny sap-feeder is hard to spot, but the signs of its presence are clear
Buds are stripped, fruit and leaves are eaten.
Large holes nibbled out of leaves and crops.
Leaves become speckled, turn crispy and drop. Plants are covered in fne webbing.
Berry-bearing crops, fruit trees and bushes, cabbages and other crops.
Plants belonging to the cabbage family. They also attack nasturtiums.
Cover susceptible low-growing crops, such as strawberries and cabbages, with netting. Grow fruit bushes in a netted cage. Use scarecrows or shiny CDs to scare birds away.
Pick off and kill the caterpillars, which are green with yellow stripes. Alternatively, spray with a suitable insecticide. Keep butterfies off crops with fne-mesh netting.
Rub them off by hand. Remove shoot tips if infested. Use a spray or soapy water. Encourage predators, such as ladybirds and hoverfies.
Most greenhouse crops.
Raise humidity by pouring water on greenhouse foors. Use a biological control in the form of a predatory mite. Apply a suitable spray to both the top and underside of leaves and all shoots.
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