Cosy Home gardening: Getting the vegetable garden ready for spring

Fancy growing your own vegetables this year?

There’s nothing quite like it – you can be absolutely sure there’ll be no nasty chemicals added, and you’ve got all the benefits of eating very fresh, very seasonal foods which are packed with nutrients.

The only downside is that you might find yourself with 50 lettuces or 25 courgettes at once on your hands, so make friends with the neighbours!

Here’s the Cosy Home guide to getting started with preparing your vegetable garden.

Raised beds for vegetables

Raised beds look attractive and make tending easier, as you don’t have to bend down as far to work them.

If you’re planning to get serious with your veg, raised beds are a great investment. They’re easier to reach and weed, improve drainage and can be used to hold a different soil type, if the native soil in the garden isn’t suitable.

For one or two small raised beds, you can use a ready made kit. Retailers such as Harrod Horticultural, Wickes or Homebase sell a good range of raised bed kits made from different materials that are easy to put together. Or you could buy the raw materials yourself and build one from scratch.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you leave a good pathway between beds and that there’s plenty of room to work them from all sides.

Raised beds keep plants warmer, but they also have a tendency to dry out in hot weather so ideally make sure you have a source of water nearby, or get ready to fill and carry a lot of buckets!

Raised beds are ideal for growing your own, but aren’t a necessity – you can grow a lot of vegetables very successfully in ordinary flower beds, or troughs or pots, depending on how much space you have.

Planting ideas

When you’re ready to start growing, dig in a good layer of manure into the beds.

Planting a row of herbs at one end of the bed looks attractive, adds colour, fills in any unused space and encourages pollinating insects.

Potatoes

Potatoes are an easy and satisfying crop for a beginner. Ask your supplier to recommend a hardy variety.

Potatoes are easy for beginners, and you’ll have plenty of delicious new potatoes for salads and steaming.

Buy special seed potatoes from a garden centre, and let them chit before planting. (To chit potatoes, spread them out in a cool, dark place until they sprout. When the sprouts are a good few centimetres long, you can plant them.)

Plant second early potatoes in early spring (April), then change to maincrop potatoes.

Peas and beans

Turn trellises of peas and beans into an architectural feature in the bed.

If you’re planning to grow peas or beans, build the trellises now for support.

These plants will grow up almost anything, but if you’re planning from scratch you might like to consider making your own rustic supports with twigs or thing branches, pushed into the ground in a circle then bound together at the top with string, so the finished support is bell-shaped.

In mild weather you can plant the peas and beans now, but get ready to cover them with fleece in case of late ground frosts.

Tomatoes

Baby tomatoes will show little rounded leaves called ‘seed leaves’. Wait for adult leaves to come through before potting them up.

If you’re growing tomatoes from seed, plant them now indoors. Keep the soil moist but not wet, as tomatoes like a lot of water.

As the seed starts to sprout, it will grow with little round ‘seed leaves’, then gradually develop jagged-looking true leaves. At this stage, you can transplant the seedlings into individual pots or growbags.

Other vegetables

If you’re growing less hardy vegetables such as courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers or celery from seed, you can start off trays either in a greenhouse or indoors.

Hardier crops such as parsnips, beetroot, carrots, Swiss chard, summer cauiflower, turnips, spring onions, cabbages and radishes can be sown directly into the ground now. Garlic and maincrop onions can also be planted now.

Where to buy vegetable seeds and plants

Good places to buy vegetable seeds online include¬†Sutton Seeds, Thompson & Morgan or Wilko. Look out for offers on seeds, if you’re planning on buying multiple packets.

Most garden centres sell ready-started trays of vegetable seedlings, if you want an easier job. Some nurseries and garden centres sell plants that are certified organically-grown.

eBay is also a good place to look for both seeds and plants, as there are growers who sell popular seeds and vegetable plug plants when they’re in season. You might even strike it lucky and find a local grower who you can buy and collect from.

(Images courtesy of Pixabay)

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