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Five favourites - vegetables for a beginner gardener

Published: Thursday, 14 April, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Toby Buckland shares his five favourite vegetables for a beginner gardener

Toby Buckland portrait
Toby Buckland (Photographer - Ed Ovenden)

The Good Life should be an easy life, that’s why my top five veggies are as abundant as they are easy going. Happy in pots or the soil, they’ll help garden veterans or rookies swap food miles for food feet, and provide vitality-packed pickings from outside the back door.

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Chard

A handful of rainbow chard
Rainbow chard

Chard is my desert island vegetable, providing vibrant tasty leaves throughout the year. In spring, when small, you can use chard in salads or leave it to grow and cook it like spinach. In winter, it will provide welcome greens while the tasty colourful stalks will add crunch to stir fries and stews. Rainbow chard with vibrant yellow, red and pink stalks is my go-to variety as it looks as good as it tastes. Sow the knobbly seed anytime between spring and early autumn. Find out more about how to grow Swiss chard.


Early potatoes

Harvested potatoes
Harvested 'earlies'

Tipping homegrown spuds out of a pot or forking the tubers from the soil is like unearthing buried treasure – it still gives me a thrill and I’ve done it a thousand times. ‘Earlies’ as they’re known, are the most rewarding of all spuds as they’re trouble-free and ready in as little as 10 weeks after planting. There are dozens to choose from but ‘Winston’ is big enough to bake while ‘Rocket’ is super-quick to mature. Plant as seed potatoes in tubs or into the ground.


Nantes carrots

Picking carrots
Harvesting nantes carrots

You don’t know how sweet a carrot can taste until you’ve eaten a 'Nantes' variety straight from the soil, even carrot-phobic kids will crunch them like candy. Developed in France in the 1850s, 'Nantes' varieties such as ‘Nantes 2’ and ‘Nigel’ are quick to crop (two months), don’t need peeling and are all sweet flesh with little or no core. They’re also short, so are good for deep containers and will hold in the soil without becoming fibrous from early summer through to autumn. Find out more about how to grow carrots.


Curly kale

Kale 'Redbor'
Kale 'Redbor'

A superfood that’s remarkably easy to grow, curly kale has frizzy, vitamin packed foliage that’s so dense even cabbage white butterflies can’t get in. I love it mixed in with mash and fried as potato/colcannon cakes. The princely purple variety ‘Redbor’ is so handsome I’d happily grow it just for how it looks. Sow every six weeks from spring to mid-August and you’ll have pickings year-round. Find out more about how to grow kale.


Runner beans

Holding runner bean harvest
Harvested runner beans

Picked when small, runner beans have a pineapple/fruity twist to their flavour and such a high water-content they steam-cook in seconds. Taking little space, traditional types like red flowered ‘Scarlet Emperor’ climb up cane supports to find their own sunshine while knee-high whilst ‘Hestia’ is perfect in large pots. Sow from mid-May where you want them to grow and 12-15 weeks later, you’ll have a handsome crop. Best of all, the more beans you pick the more beans the plants produce.

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