The Kitchen Garden:
The month of May in the England which still feels like early April with our kitchen and vegetable gardens at least a month behind. The soil is still cold and the mornings cool which has discourage seeds from showing themselves.
I am certain that the UK is not the only country with topsy-turvy weather. As each year commences we are being challenged to adapt, become flexible and learn new ways to encourage a healthy and vibrant vegetable garden.
One observation is that even in late seasons as this year once a little warmth arrives and seeds break the soil they do seem to catch-up. As if making up for lost time.
One of the best ways to be prepared is to be on top of all your winter and spring tasks. Have your soil ready for sowing seed and planting baby plantlets. When it is cold outside during these seasons it is easy to post pone those essential jobs to get your kitchen garden up to speed and ready to grow. If this is what you tend to do the day the sun comes out and you venture out you will be overwhelmed by all the jobs which need tending too and how messy a vegetable garden can become if neglected for even one season.
This scenario can also mean by the time you have reclaimed your vegetable and kitchen garden you may have lost an opportunity to sow or you are sowing later. This in turn can shorten the growing season and the length of time the crops have to mature.
The advantage of becoming a regular and committed gardener through the entire year is that you will be much less likely to miss those key opportunities. You will experience the out-doors all year … think of the fresh air. You will be ready to sow as soon as it is the best time for each crop or the weather is ideal. This way of working also gives you the time and luxury to be organized, planning your rotation of crops and what will be grown where. Instead of a panic at the last minute because there are weeds everywhere to be cleared before you can even think of seeds.
With this approach you will maximise your crops and enjoy your vegetable gardening even more. Your seeds will also have the chance to catch up when the weather has been unfavorable.
Baby turnip & mixed young salad leaf
Growing from seed:
Not all vegetables are easy to grow from seed. Depending upon your time and whether you have a greenhouse will also affect what you grow from seed. Your soil type may also affect how certain seeds germinate and of course the weather plays a key role too.
Your options are:
*To sow direct into the soil outside.
*To sow into seed trays which will be transplanted into pots.
These may be transplanted into the ground or continued to be grown containerised.
*To sow into pots as individual seeds or a small group of seeds, i.e.: 3 seeds maximum. These would potentially be potted up into individual pots if in a small group. Once a healthy and vibrant pot grown plant then to be transplanted outside once big enough or weather at the right temperature.
*To Sow into pots then transplanted into grow bags, planters or the ground in the greenhouse.
Easy crops to grow from seed straight into the ground: General
Radish; quick growing and can be seeded every few weeks for a quick and succession of supply
Beetroot all types
Carrots all types: As long as they are protected from carrot root fly
Parsnip although they can take a while to germinate
Turnip & Swede
Lettuce; generally most types, sown in succession at intervals to give an ever ending supply. They can also be seeded in semi-shade and do not seem to mind what soil type.
Cut & Come Again seed mixes are especially useful. Here one takes a few leaves off each plant as required. Systematically taking from all the lettuce to encourage them to grow new leaf. Most of these mixes combine both green and red varieties with a mix of curly, frilly, serrated leaf.
I personally find the `seed tapes` for lettuce a waste of money, if you have very light soil and a windy site they can be uplifted and dislodged on excessively windy days.
Mizuna, Pak Choi, Komatsuna, Bekana, Mibuna and oriental leaf; These are quick to grow and can be seeded in a semi-shaded site.
Although take care to keep moist in dry weather as they will easily bolt. Great leaf to grow early season and late out of the heat of the summer.
Spinach; All types can be grown in semi shade and like to be kept moist in hot weather.
Otherwise they will bolt. However I do not worry about the bolting and just keep cutting the bolting centre with the leaf.
Swiss chard; All types good throughout the year, although in the depth of winter they will pause on production and growth.
Peas & Beans:
Peas; All types, including petit pois, mangetout, podded peas, there are early and late season. Also tall rowing needing support and lower 45-60cm growing type. There are also `self-supporting` types , however I find these do better give pea poles so they can concentrate energy of plant growth and not self-supporting in all weathers.
Remember to net as large birds will damage peas extensively.
They also yield a greater harvest when watered well on a regular basis.
Beans: Runner beans are incredibly easy and you will be abundant with beans
French dwarf beans otherwise known as bush beans. Here you have a selection from green to yellow to purple black. They love the sun and have a longer cropping season when placed well and picked on a regular basis.
French climbing beans; A rewarding and abundant bean to grow. Again various colours to choose from.
Flageolet bean; various colours including patterned pink/cream white beans.
Dwarf & climbing Borlotto bean which are very pretty.
Broad bean; ideal for winter and spring sowings
Swiss chard & fresh harvested carrots
Other salad additions:
Sunflower seed shoots
Chicory & Radicchio leaf… slower than lettuce leaf to develop yet worth the wait for the crispy leaf.
Of course this list is not exhaustive; however it is a good starting point.
Enjoy your kitchen garden adventures
Laara Copley-Smith is a professional Garden Designer based in the UK with a passion for Kitchen Gardens and growing organically. Laara has been a vegan for over ten years, is a raw foodist and is a keen photographer. Laara offers an extensive range of bespoke design services and creative consultancy and can be contacted here.
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