Tips for Vegetable & Salad Crops Growing

  • Always check the seed packet to make sure that you sow at the correct depth and position in the garden.
  • Keep a close watch on your seeds, never allow compost to dry out. If in a dark location, at first sign of germination remove the tray or pot to full light, but warm and not in full sun.
  • Once seedlings are large enough to handle (normally when first set of true leaves have developed from the first two seed leaves), they can be gently transplanted to other containers or cell trays for growing on.
  • Never use garden soil when sowing seeds in pots or trays indoors as it will probably contain weed seeds and could also contain pests & diseases. Always use a good quality seed compost.
  • When sowing most seeds in trays or pots, sow thinly and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. This aids germination and reduces “damping off” (this is when clumps of seedlings that have been sown too thick collapse and die).
  • After thinning out, water plants well to wash dislodged soil back around the roots of the remaining plants.
  • Do not allow plants to dry out and do not over water. The soil should be kept moist but not wet.

Companion Planting

Planting certain types of plants together can help to reduce certain pests and thus alleviate the need for chemicals.  For example:-

Planting marigold or tagete plants around your tomatoes can help to prevent white fly in the greenhouse.

Planting cabbage together with the strong flavoured and scented herb Thyme will help to repel the dreaded cabbage white butterflies.

Planting lettuce with the sweet flavoured herb Chervil will help to protect your crop from aphids and slugs.

Planting carrots and spring onions together will help to deter aphids, carrot & onion fly. When sowing carrots, try sowing every three weeks which will ensure a continuous supply of young roots. Always ensure that carrots are well watered during dry spells to avoid splitting.

Parsnips

Plant seeds in a deeply dug soil where very few stones remain and do not plant in cold and wet soil.

As Parsnips are slow growing, planting a faster growing crop such as radish between the rows will utilise the maximum space available.

Kale

Kale sown outdoors up until June means that you can harvest mature plants from December to April. If you sow until September then you will also get a good crop of baby leaf.  Picking a few leaves from each plant as required will extend the harvest. Cutting the crown of the plant in December will encourage fresh side shoots.

Brussel Sprouts

When harvesting sprouts, start from the bottom of the plant as these will be the earliest sprouts produced and gradually work up the plant as required.  The “cabbage” top of the plant can also be eaten.

Cauliflower

To protect the head of the cauliflower from direct sunlight, snap some of the outer leaves and turn them over the head.

Broccoli

Autumn broccoli crops in the autumn.  The plants produce large heads for cutting, after which side shoots will appear which you can also harvest. Sprouting broccoli can be sown later than the autumn varieties and will produce a harvest of multiple “Spears” the following spring.  These will have smaller heads and tender stems.

Cabbage

Look for compact varieties if space is limited and there will be different varieties available for planting and harvesting throughout each season.

Brassicas (broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, kale, etc.) do not grow well in acidic soil (Inexpensive soil testing kits are available which will check the acidity of the soil), therefore liming both the seedbed and planting area will help the crop to flourish.

Squashes

Placing straw under pumpkins and winter squashes will protect the fruits from rotting if the ground is wet.  Feeding with a liquid feed occasionally will also benefit the crop. Harvest when the skins have hardened and the fruits matured.

Summer squash should be harvested when the fruits are still young and tender.  These can also be grown up a trellis which will save space and improve air circulation around the fruits.

Courgettes

Harvesting regularly will encourage a longer cropping season.

Peas & Beans

Plant in fertile soil which must be kept moist (dig in lots of organic material before planting which will also help to retain moisture in the soil)

Harvesting beans regularly will encourage further cropping.

Sweet Corn

Sow sweet corn in blocks to help with wind pollination (insects do not pollinate these plants) but ensure that you isolate the different varieties to avoid cross pollination.  Harvest when the silks on the cobs turn brown.

Carrots

When sowing carrots, try sowing every three weeks which will ensure a continuous supply of young roots. Always ensure that carrots are well watered during dry spells to avoid splitting.