As well as getting a harvest from homegrown vegetables, there’s also the satisfaction of watching as bare ground becomes productive, the delicious anticipation as crops grow and not to forget those all-important bragging rights. Whatever vegetables you choose, make sure you grow what you like to eat and check over your crops often - you’ll spot dry compost or slugs before too much damage is done.
- Toby Buckland's five favourite vegetables for a beginner gardener
- How to build a raised vegetable bed
- How to grow vegetables in pots
- Podcast: Raymond Blanc on growing for flavour
Like other salads, chard is a good crop to sow at the base of other larger vegetables that are coming to the end of their working life. In early spring, sow at the feet of brassicas, in summer use it as a follow-on crop from early potatoes and in late summer/early autumn grow as winter replacements for runner beans and sweetcorn.
Growing new potatoes
When harvesting new potatoes, those that are too small to eat but still attached to the shoots can be replanted for a second crop. Bury deeply, 20cm should do it, with the green, leafy tops poking out of the soil. If you keep it well-watered more spuds will form by late summer.
Leafy kale, including curly and popular Black Tuscan types, don't have to be ‘one-year’ wonders. If regularly picked and the roots are kept watered during dry spells, they’ll last for up to three years. They’ll also grow tall, creating space at their feet for sowing salads.
You may need to protect them from pigeons, though – here's how to make a scarecrow.
Build your bamboo cane runner bean supports with gently sloping sides and a wide base (as opposed to tall and narrow). That way the maturing pods hang inside the wigwam where shade from the leaves means they stay string-free. Wide-based wigwams are more sturdy and wind-resistant.
After sowing carrots, I sprinkle spent potting compost or composted leaves over the seed. Being water retentive, the compost locks moisture around the kernels increasing the number that sprout, the darkness of the compost absorbs sunshine and warms the establishing roots. The compost also makes the rows stand out against the soil and so less likely to be accidentally trampled.