Being the month of May, we each of us have an opportunity to begin sowing new crops in time for a summer harvest, more specifically salad and vegetable crops that, weather allowing, we’ll be able to enjoy with a barbeque come July. Aside from the satisfaction of raising your own dinner, home growing holds the added of appeal of financial gain – though sometimes less reliable, growing it yourself will always be cheaper, not to mention far more sustainable, when compared to retail shopping.
As such, we’ve highlighted the growing conditions and the best techniques for cultivating ten of these food stuffs, all of which can be sown outside once all risk of frost has passed. However, if you want to start earlier next year, softer rooted seeds can be sown indoors in order to protect them from winter weather conditions and the result of this is that the seedling is already germinated, with a preliminary root base, before its inevitable transfer to the outer garden. Species which are suited to this treatment include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, aubergine, leeks, onions, parsley, peppers and tomatoes.
There are certain vegetables, however, whose hardiness level makes them better suited to outdoor planting as it will save the task of upheaving them once established, for example, carrots, beetroot, turnips, and parsnips.
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Beetroot is an excellent starter crop for two reasons; first of all it has a quick turnaround time of about two and a half months and it is also one of the most eclectic among produce for its preparation. It prefers alkaline based, sandy soil in full sunlight.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Indoor)
The purple broccoli is of a lower hardiness level than the beet and as such is better established indoors. It prefers well drained, moisture-retentive soil with strong sunlight and an alkaline soil content.
The carrot is a particularly durable vegetable, however, it should not be planted in soil that has been fertilised in the last year, instead use manure in your preparation of the bed 1-2 weeks before sowing. For this purpose you may wish to raise this vegetable indoors although it will perform just as well outside. This is due to its relative resistance to mild frost and also its indiscrimination when it comes to soil content; not minding loam or sand, acid or alkaline.
Mange-tout peas (Indoor)
Mange-tout is a decidedly indoor species for several reasons, first of which is the damage that surface frost poses against the stems. It is also a highly valued target of some species of bird and insects. They prefer moderately-rich soil in a sunny, open position and once the seed has broken the surface you should provide stakes to support growth.
Rocket is one of the simplest salad crops to grow and will add a wonderful peppery flavour to any leaf bowl. They should be sown every 2-3 weeks in fertile soil to ensure a constant supply throughout summer. They prefer rich soil and full sunlight and should be either moved to cool greenhouse or covered with fleece throughout the winter months.
Runner beans (Inside)
Similar to the requirements of Mange-tout, runner beans will require cane support once their stems have reached above the surface of the soil and they should be planted in moderately-fertile soil with a neutral ph. level.
Due to its relation to the rocket leaf, spinach should be treated with similar growing conditions, but it would be best to intersperse them with other vegetables, as summer spinach prefers partial shade.
Spring Onions (Outside)
Spring Onions can be sown straight into the ground as long you ensure you’ve weeded the site thoroughly, but make sure the soil is well drained and frequented by strong sunlight.
For best results with squash you should plant small clusters of two or three in deep soil around the end of May. Cover the sites with plastic or a glass jar and leave for as long as possible after germination, this will ensure a healthy and consistent supply of moisture to the seedling. They also prefer full sunlight and a fairly sheltered position.
When growing Sweetcorn I would recommend one of the ‘supersweet’ varieties as they tend to retain moisture better than their traditional counterparts. They perform best during lengthy heat spells and should be planted in a fertile, sheltered position.
Whether outside or inside, the better method is to sow the seeds in rows either horizontally or vertically, so you can tell crops from weeds, and depending on the space you’ve allocated, group plants according to soil condition and the synchronicity of their germination.
By Josh Ellison