Within the past decade, allotment gardening has seen a renaissance. Spiralling food prices and increasing environmental awareness, has increase the momentum in the ‘Grow your own’ revolution. Younger generations are now appreciating this highly rewarding past time. Waiting lists for new allotment plots are now growing ever longer.
You may be one of those new generation of allotmenteers, bitten by the grow your own bug. Whether you are growing vegetables in raised beds or in pots, the following guide is a specially selected list of easy to grow vegetables for first time gardener.
Veg growing for beginners
You have a new plot or patch in your garden for the growing of vegetables. The eyes of your neighbours, family and friends are now firmly pinned on your project. You tentatively wait to see the fruit of your labour. Your reputation hangs on success. You don’t want all of your hard work to be in vain. You want to prove to them and yourself that you can make it as a gardener. You are going to need a lot of advice along the way if you are going to succeed.
The following, is a list of the easiest vegetables to grow in the UK garden. It features crops to sow from seed and a little advice to get the best out of your veg patch. You are sure to get a good crop, save money and fill your stomachs with great tasting fresh greens.
Can be sown directly into the ground for most of the year. Will produce a crop within a month or so an looks great in the ground and on the table. Slugs and pigeons may prove to be a problem.
Lettuce – for standard head growth
If you wish to grow lettuces for a single harvest with a nice round head shape, then you must space each lettuce plant according to the instructions for that variety. This is usually done by broadcasting the seed and then ‘thinning out’ the seedlings to the required spacing. You can also start off the lettuce in trays or pots and then plant out with required spacing.
Lettuce – Cut and come again
Loose-leaf lettuce varieties make for great ‘cut and come again’. For this method, sow the seed in rows, 4-6 inches wide.
Once the germinated seeds start to put out secondary leaves, thin out a little. Perhaps (depending on the variety), thin out to a couple of inches apart. Harvest once the lettuce starts to bush by cutting the upper leaves as you would trim a hedge.
Gardener’s Advice: Don’t sow too many rows at once. A previously cut row will take about 2 weeks to replenish. Start a row every couple of weeks for a continuous supply of lettuce.
Pronounced ‘Keen-noir’, a very easy and rewarding and nutritious vegetable to grow. Will produce masses of tiny seeds that can be harvested with little effort. Grows easily in the UK, just like it’s close cousin – fat-hen. You may also each the leaves as you would spinach. To harvest the seed: wait until the plants have started to dry out and the leaves die. On a dry day, cut each seeded stem and take into a warm dry environment. Tie into loose bunches and hang up in paper bags. The seeds should easily fall away.
One of the easiest vegetables to grow. Runner beans will quickly ramble up sticks, trellises, hedges and even over a garage or shed! They need very little care and attention. You will need to daily pick the beans for a continuous supply! Don’t allow each runner bean pod to grow too large. They will become tough and stringy. Instead, harvest them while they are still thin and flexible.
You can either sow each bean into pots and grow in a greenhouse during April or directly in the ground during the latter end of May. Ensure that you provide adequate climbing support and protect the young plants from slug attacks. Once each runner bean plant reaches the top of the support, trim the growing tip. This will cause the plant to bush out a little and will result in a greater harvest. Runner beans love moist (but not soaking) soil. Don’t allow them to dry out.
Some varieties are self-supporting and bushy (recommended). Grow in the same manner as Runner Beans. Make sure that you harvest daily for a continuous supply for beans.
Peas & Mangetout
Very easy to grow. Sow directly into the soil from March onward. Will quickly entwine around netting, sticks, chicken wire, etc. You must protect them from pigeons and other birds. Tie old CDs or bits of silver foil to string and hang it around the pea plants to scare off most warm-blooded pests.
Sow directly into the grow, thin out and eat! Very easy vegetable to try. One of the quickest and child-friendly crops.
Sow during the latter end of April either in 1 per pot/plug or directly into the ground. Plant them in block formation to aid wind pollination. They grow quickly and look great.
Once the tassel-like growth (or ‘silk’) at the top of each cob has dried off, then it should be time to harvest. This is usually about 20 days after the silk first appears. You may try a single cob first by pressing your thumbnail into the corn. If the juice is milky, then it is ready for eating.
Sow into finely raked soil and thin out. Pick the leaves and leave the plant in the ground to produce a continuous crop. This may continue into the New Year, so don’t pull up your plants too soon. You may dispose of them once they start to bolt (produce tall, thin flower stems).
Sow directly into the soil. Thin out. Spring Onions tend to be problem free although slugs may cause some damage during wet weather.
Sow directly into the ground in late spring. Needs very little attention. Looks good in a border or even rockery! As with runner beans, harvest small pods on a regular basis to ensure a continuous crop. Don’t leave each pod to grow too large. Large Asparagus Pea pods are tough to eat. Pick them while they are still medium sized and tender. Great tasting if steamed!
Very easy to grow vegetable. Sow in rows and thin out to a couple of inches apart. Should take 12-16 weeks from sowing to harvest. As with most salad vegetables, carrots should be sown in succession from April until July to allow for a continuous crop. In contrast to popular opinion, the leaves of a carrot are not actually toxic. However, they are quite often bitter. The main pest that affects carrot is the carrot root fly. Try planting your carrots in large pots or planters and raise them up. The carrot root fly can only gain an altitude of a couple of feet.
An effortless root vegetable to grow. Sow as you would carrots. While you are waiting for the harvest, you can eat the leaves in salads and stir-fries. An extremely nutritious, easy to grow vegetable.
Growing vegetables – Calendar
|Asparagus Pea||(3) March-April||(5) May-June|
|Broad Bean||(11) Nov-April||(5) May-June|
|French Bean||(4) April-July||(7) July-Oct|
|Beetroot||(3) March-July||(5) May-Sept|
|Carrot||(3) March-July||(5) May-Oct|
|Rocket||(3) March-Aug||(5) May-Oct|
|Lettuce||(4) April-July||(7) July-Sept|
|Radish||(2) Feb-Aug||(4) April-Oct|
|Runner Bean||(5) May-July||(7) July-Oct|
|Salad Leaves||(3) March-Oct||(4) April-Nov|
|Spinach||(3) March-Sept||(5) May-Oct|
|Spring Onion||(3) March-July||(6) June-Oct|
|Swiss Chard||(3) March-June||(6) June-Oct|
A gardener’s advice
It barely needs saying that you will need to check your crop on a daily basis. Make sure that your seedlings are watered and no weeds are competing with them. I like to sow my vegetable seed in rows and cover them with lines of compost. This makes it both easier to direct the watering efforts and identify which seedlings are weeds and which are the actual plants.
There are plenty of other easy vegetables from seed to try. If you are an absolute beginner to vegetable gardening, I would avoid most of the Brassica family (Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli). Try those varieties next year once you have become a seasoned vegetable grower.
For more advice, why not watch the following video: