There are good reasons to create a modern vegetable garden. Homegrown tastes better and is good for your well-being. It brings a sense of calm by planting and picking your own fresh produce and it is also the healthiest option because you can grow things organically. And whether you want salad leaves with more crunch, flavorful tomatoes, or fresh chili peppers to add spice to your cooking, growing your own is easier than you might think.
If space is tight, the trick is to grow small amounts of different crops that offer big rewards. Avoid anything that requires a lot of maintenance and instead opt for easy products such as cut and cut salad leaves, chilies, dwarf varieties of green beans, leafy greens and compact tomatoes. No matter how big your space is, you can put pots in it that will keep you going for months. Read on for our roundup of the 10 best vegetables to get started.
Starting a vegetable garden with the gardening method without digging
There is a lot of appreciation for the no-dig gardening method when it comes to the modern kitchen garden. Not only is it easier to start – there’s a lot less back-breaking work to do – it’s better for the soil, too. This involves cardboard, compost, and raised beds, which means you won’t have to weed your vegetable patch all summer. Poppy Okotcha’s expert advice for gardening without digging is a good place to start.
1 perpetual spinach
If you have a small grow room and life is busy, this is the culture for you. Try “Popeye” or “Medania” and eat the leaves raw for a dose of vitamins and minerals. Expect to harvest seven to eight weeks after sowing. Choose smaller leaves for the bowl and remember to keep harvesting and your plants will keep giving. The perfect cut and harvest again, she will be prolific throughout the summer and fall and the following year, giving you a constant supply all year round.
2 baby green beans
A simple crop to grow that doesn’t take up a lot of space, you’ll get kidney beans all summer until October. Try a cut variety and come back as ‘Speedy’ and the plant will continue to rebuild itself. Available in dark purple and yellow varieties as well as green, bush green beans love containers and grow to a tiny 40-60cm height. They also don’t need a bamboo wigwam as they are self-contained. Best of all, they’re cordless, so there’s less prep for you in the kitchen.
Choose a reliable variety such as ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’, a medium-sized Italian tomato that grows well here in a sheltered south-facing location that also looks great. Sow indoors in March, then transfer to larger pots on a well-lit windowsill, gradually acclimating them to outdoor conditions before planting in early summer. If space is limited, choose a compact variety of cherry tomatoes such as Tumbling Tom Red “or” Balconi Red “which will cascade out of a planter.
4 spring onions
The ultimate grow for small spaces, a few seedlings are all you need as the landraces tend to pack more punch so you tend to use less. Easy to grow and low maintenance, they won’t mind if you forget to water them. They grow quickly, so as soon as they are the size of a pencil you can start harvesting them for salads, usually in about eight weeks. Remember to continue sowing them regularly for a constant supply. Choose ‘White Lisbon’ or ‘Apache’ with a red stem.
Quick and easy to grow even in the smallest spaces, pak choi will thrive in a container if you don’t have room for a full vegetable patch. Either plant seeds or buy young plants from a nursery. It can be grown as a cut and a new crop, or left to develop into a mature plant. Young, tender leaves work well in salads – watch out for varieties with yellow and red leaves. They also work well in stir-fries and steamed. The leaves should be cheerful and the stems plump and firm to the touch.
In shades of jade green and dark purple, kohlrabi is a stunning addition to the garden. Quick, easy to grow, and versatile, she should top the list as her sweet nutty taste is delicious and she is the star of the summer salad bowl. She prefers a sunny location and grows quickly, making her ideal for sowing every three to four weeks to keep a steady supply from late spring through fall. You can start harvesting the bulbs as soon as they reach the size of a golf ball.
If you are short on space, garlic is ideal for growing in containers. So simple to grow, all you need to do is grow the cloves in a pot of soil. Once planted, it requires very little attention. For best results, buy garlic sets. To prepare garlic for storage, hang the bulbs, along with their foliage, in bundles. After a few weeks, cut off the stems and roots and rub the outer layer around the bulb. Store it in a dry, well-ventilated place and you’ll have a nice supply of fresh garlic for months to come.
The spicy Japanese leafy green mizuna has jagged green or purple leaves that intensify in color as harvest approaches. The mild-tasting leaves have a little mustard taste. It’s a “cut and go” salad, and a good choice if you want to grow fresh leaves in the winter. âThis is one of my favorite salads for spring, fall and winter,â says Sarah Raven. “I grow it most of the year.” Sow in the spring and then again from August to October and you will get two to three months of leaves.
Give it some sun to bask in and fennel is rampant. The feathery foliage and dramatic yellow flowers make a lovely addition to the garden, and the stems and bulbs taste great too. âI love it,â said Monty Don, âboth to eat but mostly to watch. I grow it for its foliage and with good soil it makes a beautiful plant. It is easy to grow seed directly in the ground outdoors from June to August. Consume within 24 hours of harvest once the bulbs have reached the size of a tennis ball.
Grow a few chili peppers in a sunny planter and each plant will produce a dozen fruits. Hungarian hot wax is one of the most prolific peppers, producing three to four months a year. Sow the seeds indoors in March and repot when they are about 10cm tall and the first flowers appear. They need full sun and a sheltered location, so only move them outside when it is warm enough. âStuff with cream cheese, thyme and pine nuts, then toast and serve with a glass of wine,â says Sarah Raven.
How should I set up my vegetable garden?
Plan carefully, with your favorites in mind. Next, consider how much time you want to spend on your plants. You may want to rule out any high maintenance choices. Make a list of the vegetables you would like to grow, then consider the size of your garden. If space is tight, remember that most vegetables grow well in containers. Once you’ve decided what you want to grow, it’s time to figure out how to fit it into your space. Now for the technical part: there are three groups of types of vegetables: legumes (like beans and peas), crucifers (kohlrabi, mizuna, cabbage) and roots (chard, spinach, garlic), and the rule is that no member of any group should follow another in the same group on the same ground. But you don’t have to worry about that if you go for jars.
Which vegetables go well in a garden?
Look at the accompanying planting charts which show which vegetables are happy to be planted next to each other. Groupings are based on complementary characteristics such as growth patterns and nutrient requirements. Tomatoes, for example, like to be planted with peppers, spinach, and onions, while beans prefer to be near peas and chard.
What are the best vegetables to plant right now?
Just because the weather is getting colder doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own. Opt for leafy greens, as some can still be sown in time for the winter crop. Choose varieties of leafy vegetables like Swiss chard, perpetual spinach, oriental greens like mizuna, and salad leaves like lamb’s lettuce. Sow under cover to speed up the process and give them a head start, then transplant. Remember to keep picking the leaves to keep them coming.
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