Tips for growing your own food: Spring 2016

If you don’t want to grow from seed, at this time of year you can go to any garden centre and buy little plants to grow on at home.  This is great for instant gardening but you don’t have such a choice of varieties to grow as you would if you grow from seed. 

March

Planning

Decide what you’d like to grow this year and buy some seeds.  Experiment with something different each year! Veg seeds you can start off in pots on your window ledge, and plant outside when it’s warmer:

  • Lettuces, all types
  • Rocket
  • Mizuna
  • Spinach and chard
  • Seed potatoes and onion setts need to be planted now.

It’s always tempting to plant seeds early in the year, but you often have a better chance of succeeding if you wait till it’s warmer in April, and everything will catch up.  So don’t worry if you don’t get round to doing anything this month.

Get your veg patch ready – remove perennial weeds and if possible cover the surface with manure or your own compost, and then fork it in to break up the soil surface.  If you want an early crop you can warm up the soil by putting cloches over some sections.

Slugs - Decide what you are going to do about slugs – doing nothing isn’t an option.  They’ll love eating your seedlings just as they pop up and you need to be ready!  There are lots of alternatives to the little blue pellets you can buy in garden centres, but they aren’t all very effective.

April

This is the busiest vegetable planting month of the year, so get ready!

Sow outside (in pots or open ground)

  • Carrots
  • Peas, including mangeout
  • Beans (runner and French ) at the end of the month
  • All salad
  • Leeks
  • Kale
  • Sprouts, cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli for next winter

Everything except carrots and parsnips can be sown in small pots and planted out when they are large enough, if you prefer to do this. Carrots and parsnips really have to be planted where they are going to grow.

Sow inside, ready to plant out good sized plants in mid-May

  • Courgettes
  • French and runner beans (for an earlier crop)

Container growing

You can grow almost all veg in tubs on your patio if you have no garden. Some, like carrots, are in fact  even better grown this way as there are no stones in the compost so they grow straight. You can buy seeds of many veg which have been specially bred for growing in tubs.  It’s worth looking out for these.

Vegetables and herbs are beautiful to look at and make great ornamental  plants before you eat them.

Growing herbs

Annual herbs - You can also plant all these directly in the ground outside in April. Perennial herbs make great garden plants in their own right.  Buy small plants at this time of year:

  • Sage – green and purple varieties
  • Rosemary
  • Fennel – green and bronze varieties
  • Thyme – many different varieties
  • Mint – apple mint best for cooking, but lots of other varieties to try
  • Summer savory
  • Lemon balm

Plant them in a sunny spot, then use them in cooking.  Mint is better grown in a pot, as its growing habits mean it will try to take over your garden.

Annual herbs can be bought as seeds or often as small plants in garden centres.  Go for chervil, dill, basil, French tarragon, parsley – but wait till the weather is warmer

Top Tip

You can cheat by buying growing herbs from the supermarket and split up the plants individually and plant them out. This is a great money-saving way of growing a lot of basil and parsley quickly.