Home Grown Gardens

Calendar Specific Fruit and VegDictionary Useful Sites

Specific fruit and veg are listed here alphabetically. How to grow and look after them are described, but as the adage goes "always read the label" or at least the packet's instructions. Plants are like humans, infinitely variable. Click on Dictionary above for an explantion of terms you may need help with.

Rough crop rotation grouping is given to each fruit or veg type: 1=Root, 2= Brassicas, 3=Legumes, 4=Other. Fruit and some veg do not rotate, but stay in one place for many years and are known as Permanent, so plan these areas well. If you have space, split Other into Other, Onion (5), Potato(6). The rotation moves clockwise so the bed that had Legumes this year, will have Brassicas next; the bed that had roots will have Other (or potato). If you only have space for three rotating beds, group as 1.Root, 2. Brassicas, 3.Other. (see more detail under crop rotation in the dictionary).



Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Pome tree fruit
Description: Apple trees look beautiful in spring, and produce fruit in autumn, and need very little care unless you want to make an effort to receive a good crop. Always feed and mulch the tree in spring, and water in dry weather if you can. With an established tree you want to remove dead and diseased branches at any time (but best when leaves are on the healthy part of the tree, as everything looks dead in winter). Keep the healthy main branches a manageable length and height, and try to ensure plenty of light and air to the leaves and fruit. The tree will normally fruit anyway, but you want to make sure it gives (a few) good quality fruit rather than (loads of) poor quality.
Cultivation: Fruit tends to grow on second year shoots, so you want to keep encouraging this growth. Assuming you’ve got rid of the dead, diseased branches; wait until winter when the tree is dormant and prune some of the healthy main shoots (called leaders) off the main branches back to about 6 buds. They’ll grow new wood that will fruit the following year. Keep doing this each year and the tree will fruit heavily. Then when the fruit is set, remove all but one per cluster. Ouch, yes, all but one. This means that solitary fruit gets the sun, the nutrients, doesn’t get rubbed by its neighbour, and will give you a perfect apple. Repeated round the tree(s) you’ll have plenty to harvest. If you are renovating an old tree, assume it’s going to take 5 years, and just do a bit of heavy pruning each year. Too much at once will send the tree into shock and it will produce loads of sappy shoots, or die! For pruning new trees, consult a book, as you need to carefully prune now to get a good shape for years to come. You should try to have two varieties of apple so they pollinate each other, but many gardens have a neighbouring garden which has an obliging apple or crab apple tree.
Use: Fresh from a tree is perfect. Then you can store later in a cool garage or shed, wrapping each one individually in its own piece of newspaper, in a tray, where air can circulate.

Crop rotation group: Permanent/4
Family: Asteraceae
Description: Globe artichokes look so beautiful, but I’ve never grown one! So, I can’t be much help yet, but I do know it’s the globe that must be picked to be eaten, rather than allowing it to go on and flower.
Jerusalem artichokes are tubers, so cultivate, and use, like a potato, but you can leave some tubers in the ground to repeat next year. For this reason I’ve categorised them as Permanent. The plant grows very tall, and so they are often considered to be good as a wind break. No pun intended, but they can also get spectacularly flattened by wind. In late summer you can break the huge stems mid way and leave the tubers to develop, and then cut the stem back further when the leaves have died off. Ready for harvesting from October. Remove any flowers that form.
Cultivation: For Jerusalem artichokes, plant the tubers about 15cm deep, 45cm apart in trenches 90cm apart in February/March. As the plant emerges, rake up the soil to make a ridge of soil, known as earthing up. You will need to stake each plant, or use some system to support the plants. I.e. Put a strong post/cane at each end of the row and loop some string around them with the stems inside the loop. Do this low on the cane to start with, and then again higher up the cane as the plants grow, and they grow very tall, like sunflowers (to which they are related). Harvest by just digging up the knobbly underground tubers.
Use: Peel and use as you would a potato, i.e. Fry, roast, mash, in soup.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Asparagaceae
Description: A simple plant to grow, you just need space and patience. Traditionally they like a rich, weed free soil, but they hate water logging, so free draining soil is more important. If your soil is heavy you could create a raised bed just for asparagus, or put some fine grit in the trench when you plant. Preparation is everything for these plants as they’ll stay put for a lifetime! When weeding be careful you do not harm the asparagus’ roots, so weed carefully by hand. The male plants do not set seed so try to grow only those.
Cultivation: The trench needs to be prepared in autumn, ready for a March/April planting of the crowns. Generously dig in some manure, as these plants will stay here for 10-20 years. For planting in spring re-dig out a trench about 30cm wide by 20 cm deep (50cm-1m apart so you can walk between them) and then create a ridge of soil down the middle by backfilling or using nice friable soil, to a depth of about 5-10cm. If you have heavy soil, put in some grit around the roots as well. Settle the crown on top of the ridge about 30cm apart (so the roots of each plant do not touch) and then lightly cover the roots with sifted soil for about 5cm so that it reaches up to the crown (from which the tips will develop). Keep covering the roots over the next few months as the spears develop and by autumn the trench should be full. Keep well watered as the roots should never dry out. Try to put in new plants when the frosts have gone, but if you get caught out, cover with fleece, as the new planting has not got much soil to protect the roots. Always mulch around the crowns and the spears will come through; this keeps the roots cool and moist, and should keep down weeds. You shouldn’t really harvest anything in the first two years, just leave them be (OK, one spear then) and let the feathery foliage grow, only cutting it down in autumn when it has turned yellow. To harvest spears, cut the stalk just under the ground, from mid April to end June and then stop and let the foliage grow. This gives the plants strength to produce spears next year. Slugs will get the young spears before you know they are there, so set traps, and sprinkle grit around, old egg shells, anything that you find works.
Use: Lightly steamed then add butter or hollandaise sauce or sea salt; in risotto with your fresh peas; on the barbecue just scorched.

Crop rotation group: Anywhere
Description: This very aromatic herb can be grown inside on a nice sunny windowsill, or outside if protected. Seed is easy to germinate but seems to die on me for no reason.
Cultivation: Sow seed in well drained soil (ie. loads of grit, and never overwater) from March, and all summer. I don’t think you can have too much basil, so try it in pots as well as the plot, and then pots can be taken inside to continue picking over winter if you have space. It will be the first plant to die at the mention of frost.
Use: Fresh with tomato and salad, cooked on pizza and in loads pulverised to make pesto sauce.

Crop rotation group: 3
Family: Legumes/Papilionaceae
Description: There are so many types and variety of bean. But they all like one thing, a really well manured/compost rich, free-draining trench from which to grow. As far ahead of planting as possible, dig a trench about a spade’s depth, and width and line it with newspaper or cardboard; fill it with manure or compost, and back fill with soil. Or if it’s early autumn, start filling it with your kitchen scraps. Then just backfill with soil when full.
Broad beans can be sown from February through to May and harvested in about 14 weeks.
French beans can be sown from April to May and harvested in about 8-12 weeks
Runner beans tend to be sown May and June and harvested in about 12-14 weeks.
But these are just guidelines, so read the packet! You can grow so many different types of beans, from green to yellow to black, long and thin, short and fat, tall, dwarf. So try a few and see, even if you don’t eat them, or even like them, they are beautiful plants, and make your patch look the part. Apart from dwarf varieties, beans need staking. You can have the neat orderly row of canes you see in allotments, or wigwams, or wires. Check the packet to see what the final height of the plant will be as an indication of what height canes/support you’ll need.
Cultivation: Sowing seed is easy, just put them about 2cm deep, 20cm apart, in rows about 45-60cm apart. Keep the soil moist, and once the plants are through, mulch around them. They will get eaten by pests so put protection around each plant if possible. Pick the beans when small as they are nicer to eat and the plant will produce more.
Problems: Slugs and snails eat the small plant, so protect with some physical protection like an upturned plant pot (base removed). Aphids can attack beans so grow some flowers around to attract friendly fire like hoverflies, and ladybirds. Rub off nasties such as green fly and blackfly with your fingers (gloves are OK!). Lack of water is more likely to adversely affect your crop than a pest. Useful flowers to grow are Limnanthes, Nasturtiums, Calendula.
Use: Seeds can be left to dry and then stored for use later. Beans are usually lightly boiled before eating, whole or cut up. Younger beans are less stringy to eat. All beans are full of protein.

Beet – see Chard

Crop rotation group: 1
Family: Roots/Chenopodiaceae
Description: The leaf is edible, but mainly we eat the deeply red coloured root.
Cultivation: Sow seed outside in April-June, in its permanent and final position. Like most root veg, just plant, forget, harvest. The closer you plant together, the smaller the final root. Sow about 2cm deep, 20 cm apart in rows 30cm apart, and although the seedlings may take time to germinate and come through, once they do they grow quickly. Thin the plants once they are about 2-5cm tall, you can’t replant the seedlings. You can harvest alternate plants when the beetroot is a bit bigger than a golf ball, and then leave the others to get as big as you like. If they get dry they good woody, so mulch well in the summer.
Use: Freshly boiled beetroot which is then sliced is surprisingly nice. Use cold in salad, with mayonnaise. Makes an amazing coloured smoothie.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Cane soft fruit
Description: Black and sweet autumn fruit and very wildlife friendly as all sorts hibernate underneath if you leave it be. You can leave the bush to grow in an abandoned part of the garden, or train it over a fence, or up a trellis. The prickles are nasty so you don’t want it in an area you pass all the time.
Cultivation: In September cut back to soil level if you want to keep the plant manageable and then from November to March tie in any new growths. In April prune off straggley or frost damaged bits. Then feed/mulch in March and April.
Use: Freshly picked and eaten.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Bush soft fruit
Description: A blackcurrant bush has a red/pink spring blossom, and then the fruit. It’s not evergreen but has a compact shape.
Cultivation: Careful with your pruning as blackcurrants only flower and fruit on canes more than one year old. So each year, only remove ¼ of the leaders (main shoots) to create new wood, and leave ¾ of old wood to bear fruit. This means that nothing on the plant is more than 4 years old. Feed and mulch in March/April.
Use: Raw if you are brave, or stewed or in a pie, with lots of sugar and other summer fruits.

Crop rotation group : Permanent
Family: Bush soft fruit
Description: A very trendy fruit, an easy to grow rather than buy fruit shipped from USA and further afield.
Cultivation: Blueberries must have a moist, acid soil. In the wild they grow in acid heathland. So, they are best grown in large pots, filled with ericaceous compost, and you’ll need at least two to pollinate each other. After that they are easy and only need mulching in spring, light pruning of fruited wood in autumn. They’ll reward you with pretty pink spring blossom, summer fruit and red autumn leaf colour. You can plant them in your garden if rhodedendrons and azaleas grow well. Birds love blueberries.
Use: Raw as they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

Broad bean – see bean

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: A healthy veg, with a bad reputation. The minute the plant appears it is vulnerable to cabbage white butterfly and aphids, so cover with a fine mesh straight away.
Cultivation: Can be quite a bit of work, so start with a few. The final plant is huge considering the size of the broccoli head you get in the middle, but all the unwanted bits can go on the compost heap. Start off by sowing in pots or modules in February -April, then move to a holding bed in May/June if you have one, and then plant out in firm soil June/July, but the packet’s instructions will be specific to the variety you are growing. Make sure you put the plant quite deep and firm up the soil around, if they rock they will not produce a good head. Slugs need to be kept off, and the cabbage white butterfly who lays her eggs that hatch into caterpillars and eat the whole plant. Aphids can be rubbed off until hopefully the friendly fire arrives!
Use: Lightly steamed florets with a bit of butter.

Brussels sprout
Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: Familiar little vegetable that symbolises Christmas for many. The tall stalks of Brussels sprouts are seen poking through the snow in plots, as although they have a long growing season, they also crop for ages.
Cultivation: Sow in spring to harvest in autumn or winter. They must have a firm soil, so build up the soil around the stem and stake if necessary. They like a nitrogen feed in late summer from grass mowings or chicken manure. Harvest the sprouts starting at the bottom of the stalk and working up; after a frost they taste better. You’ll need to protect from caterpillars, or at least pick them off regularly.
Use: Imagine it’s a little cabbage, so don’t boil it to death!

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: There are lots of different varieties of cabbage, and you can plant to harvest all year round. But, if space is limited, you can decide which part of the year you want to harvest cabbage. Usually this is winter/spring when other crops are not around, and that’s why it’s known as a winter veg. Look at your packet to see when it says to sow, but if you want summer cabbage, sow indoors from January.
Cultivation: Same as broccoli, but the varieties mean you can sow/plant out all year. Start off by sowing in pots or modules in February -April, then move to a holding bed in May/June if you have one, and then plant out in firm soil June/July, but the packet’s instructions will be specific to the variety you are growing. Make sure you put the plant quite deep and firm up the soil around, if they rock they will not produce a good head. Slugs need to be kept off, and the cabbage white butterfly who lays her eggs that hatch into caterpillars and eat the whole plant. Aphids can be rubbed off until hopefully the friendly fire arrives!
Use: Shredded raw, or cooked in a stir-fry, or boiled! Shredded cabbage needs very little cooking and is full of vitamins.

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: Like broccoli, but less bitter, and easier to grow. The size of the plant compared to the head you get to eat is huge, so they take up space.
Cultivation: Sow seeds in individual cells and plant the seedling into a holding bed/the final patch when about 5cm tall. Cover the plant with mesh/fleece from the minute it goes outside. If not, caterpillars will appear. If you use a fine mesh, kept well off the plant, you should be OK. You can sow outside, or in modules From March to July, and harvest from June through to September.
Use: Lightly steamed, or in a stir fry, or tossed with pasta.

Crop rotation group: 1
Family: Root/Apiaceae
Description: I have never grown a satisfactory looking carrot, despite using different varieties and soil, but I shall persevere. However, I can eat and juice what I grow, just not enter it at any show! Others I know put seed in the soil and three months later perfect rows of perfect carrots appear.
Cultivation: Sow the seed direct into the soil from April, or in biodegradable pots that you start off indoors (from February)  and then plant out (pot and plant!). This means the plant does not get touched, ever, until you harvest. The carrot root fly may infect the root, (fly lays eggs, larvae hatch and eat root) and ways to stop this are to cover the crop with fleece; grow rows of spring onions either side (4 rows of onion to one of carrot);  sow a strong smelling annual flower nearby like Flax (Linum rubrum), or French marigolds (Tagetes patula) nearby;  mulch up with grass cuttings close to the carrot plant; put a layer of soot between the plants; put a plastic barrier around the area planted. The fly lays eggs before June, so try not to disturb carrots before then, as the smell attracts the fly. If you have the correct conditions you can sow and harvest carrots all year, If being the operative word!
Use: Grated raw, or sautéed in butter, or boiled. The root has lots of sugar so can be very sweet if pureed. Carrots are known for high levels of carotene which our body converts to vitamin A.

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: This is a member of the cabbage or brassica family, so it likes a rich firm soil, and to be well watered. There are varieties that can be grown to be harvested summer, autumn and winter, so sow seeds about five months before you expect to crop.
Cultivation: Like all brassicas, caulis will get decimated by caterpillars, so keep then covered with netting if possible. As the heads develop you can keep them a creamy white by pulling some of the green outer leaves over the top. You need to harvest before they start to flower, which is when you’ll see the perfect solid head start to split into florets. The closer together you plant, the smaller the head will be, but like all brassicas, the plant can really get huge with the outer leaves covering a circle of 50cm sometimes.
Use: Traditionally with cheese; or you can make a pickle; with potato in a curry.

Crop rotation group: 1
Family: Root/Chenopodiaceae
Description: Also known as leaf beet. It can be harvested all year as needed, and can come with fantastically brightly coloured stalks. You can cook and eat the stalk and leaf.
Cultivation: Sow direct into soil about 30cm apart, 40cm between rows. They do like a rich well manured soil, so keep away from your carrots. If flowers appear, remove them. Then harvest leaves as you need them, from the outside leaving the new inside leaves to grow, and so you can crop for ages.
Use: Use leaf like you would spinach, and stalks like you would asparagus (I never have!).

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Stone tree fruit
Description: Beautiful blossom and fruit, but very susceptible to frost and the vagaries of the weather. Also, birds love the fruit and usually get there first. Old trees tend to be huge, but modern ones are grown on shorter rootstock which makes cultivation easier.
Cultivation: Prune as you would plums, i.e. Not in winter, it’s best to do after fruiting, and to keep it to a minimum. Only prune to remove dead and diseased wood, and to keep the shape. Feed and mulch in March/April.
Use: Eat straight from the tree, as by morning they’ll be gone.

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Description: Huge leaves and lovely yellow flowers and green fruit all summer long. You need more than one plant to pollinate the other.
Cultivation: Plant seeds in pots and then when the plant is quite big, plant out in Late May/June, when you are sure there will be no frost. They like a rich moist soil, so put an upturned water bottle nearby, and mulch with grass mowings. Two plants are enough, and then just pick the fruit when it’s about 15cm long. The more you pick the fruit, the more it flowers, and so the more fruit you get. They can be grown in a big pot or open soil.
Use: I slice them, fry and make into an omelette; or slice and sauté in butter, but they can be shredded in salad I believe.

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Cucumber/Cucurbitaceae
Description: You think of this as a greenhouse plant, but there are varieties to grow outside, just give them a bit of protection and sun and they’ll crop for months. Treat like a tomato, so have an upturned bottle near each plant to help with watering. A courgette is small, and then it grows into a marrow if left (like when you go on holiday).
Cultivation: Grow the seed in pots inside, and then plant out in the protected bed from late May onwards. You need more than two plants to pollinate each other, and then keep picking the fruit to make more flowers. Make sure they (and the tomatoes) are the first things you water.
Use: Raw, with tomatoes and warm boiled potatoes, and mayonnaise.

French Bean – see bean

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Onion/Alliaceae
Description: Aromatic plant whose bulb is used in cooking.
Cultivation: Like all onions they like an open, free draining, weed free soil. Plant a clove about 5cm deep from October-January with the tip up. They must have a frost to grow properly. Lift them when the stalks go yellow and leave to dry in the sun, or somewhere dry. You can store by plaiting them, or just putting them in a dry box with plenty of air circulating. If they are not dried out they will start growing again! Birds have a habit of pulling up the cloves when you’ve planted which is very annoying.
Use: Finely chopped and crushed in any dish.

Green manure
Crop rotation group: Varies
Description: Green manures are plants that are grown to nourish and protect the soil, rather than for the plant itself. Once grown they are dug back into the soil, or put on the compost heap. Think of them as a natural blanket/nutrient cover for your soil. In addition to stopping nutrients washing away, and weeds getting a foothold, some fix nitrogen and others have deep roots which break up the soil and bring up nutrients which will be fed back in to the surface when you cut the crop down. Some fall into various crop rotation groups, so try to make sure you don’t mess up this cycle. For instance, mustard grows really quickly, so can cover an area for a short or long time, but it is susceptible to club root, so treat it as a brassica. This means you should use it after your main brassica crop, so if there’s a problem the green manure will show it up. Field beans, Alfalfa, Clover, Fenugreek, Lupins, Tares and Trefoil should be treated as legumes and fix nitrogen in the soil and can be left over winter. Phalecia, Buckwheat, Rye can fit in anywhere in the crop rotation cycle. Some green manures (particularly Rye and Tares) can inhibit the germination of your seed, (good to stop weeds, but not your crop!) so dig in well before planting, or don’t use them in areas where you plant seeds..
Cultivation: Just broadcast sow the seed, as per packet instructions. Dig the plant in to the soil before flowering, or put on compost heap.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Bush soft fruit
Description: Round light green berries that can sweet or tart.
Cultivation: You can leave a gooseberry bush and it will still fruit, but it’s best to prune once the fruit is set by cutting the shoot back to the fruit. The thorns will get you, so be patient and wear strong gloves. Then in winter prune the new growth back again by half on the leaders (main shoots) and the side shoots to about 10cm. Feed and mulch in March/April. Look out for small green sawfly caterpillars and pick them off continuously, they can strip the leaves in days, but the plant will still survive.
Use: Pick early for tartness, later for sweet.

Crop rotation group: Varies
Herbs can be eaten and attract beneficial insects. Since they grow anywhere, they are useful in and about your fruit and veg patch.
Basil – see above under basil
Dill – Grow as an annual, in pots and then plant out.
Lavender – One of the smells of summer for me, grows anywhere. Evergreen with purple summer flowers, but can get straggley and woody, so keep trimming it to keep it small and compact.
Mint – Lovely smelling herb that grows in any soil. It can take over so it’s best to put the plant in a pot and bury that in the soil. The plant can be dug up and chopped into bits and replanted quite happily.
Parsley – see below under parsley
Rosemary – Evergreen aromatic herb that seems to grow happily anywhere. Has purple flowers in early summer. Can get straggley and woody, so keep trimming it to keep it small and compact.
Sage – Mainly evergreen, very aromatic leaves in yellow through to green. Purple summer flowers, but the plant can get straggley and woody, so keep trimming it to keep it small and compact.
Thyme – Lots of types, mainly evergreen, some are small, others tall; all with small pinky/purple flowers that last all summer. Grows in all soil types. Just cut back the spent flower stalks in spring.

Leaf beet - see Chard

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Onion/Alliaceae
Description: A sweeter tasting onion, that’s easy to grow, and can be harvested all year.
Cultivation: Just pop a seed in a module, and then when the plant is about 15-20cm tall (and as thick as a pencil), drop it into a hole made in your plot, that’s about 10-15 cm deep, and about 10cm apart. The closer they are the thinner the final plant. Then water, and keep well watered. You don’t fill the soil back into the hole, that happens naturally with the watering. Harvest when you need them, or you think they look fat enough.
Use: In soup or sautéed in butter with a dash of white wine.

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Asteraceae
Description: Loads of varieties, and colours. You can grow them between other plants, in their own bed, in pots, on windowsills, just about anywhere, and all year.
Cultivation: If the slugs don’t get them lettuces will grow anywhere, all summer long. You can plant them outside, but I start them off in pots/modules, and then plant out when quite big, with a pot protector. This may house snails later on, so keep checking. Keep well watered when the ground is dry or they bolt.
Use: Every meal!

Mangetout – see Pea

Marrow – see courgette

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Onion/Alliaceae
Description: Easy to grow, and store.
Cultivation: Can be grown from seed, or sets (small onions that divide to produce loads). Shallots sets can be grown outside from February. Seed, especially salad onion seed can go in the ground from March. Onion sets can be planted out from March onwards. When the stalk looks yellow, lift them and leave to dry somewhere, and store in a cool, well ventilated box. If the stalk and leaves do not dry out, the bulb can start to go mouldy, or grow again. When you first plant sets, leave the tip poking out of the ground, but cover with netting as birds will pull them out.
Use: Raw or cooked.

Crop rotation group: 1
Family: Root/Apiaceae
Description: Low growing, nutritious plant/herb. Always grow a couple of plants somewhere in the plot or a pot.
Cultivation: Can be a pain to germinate, so start off undercover in March and April, or try in-situ May and June. Once it is growing and happy it will just keep going.
Use: Can be harvested all year round, just snip a bit off as a garnish, has a high iron content.

Crop rotation group: 1
Family: Root/Apiaceae
Description: It almost seems cruel to eat a parsnip after it’s been in your plot for so long, and become a familiar friend. In fact many people don’t grow them considering them to be ground hogs.
Cultivation: Plant seed direct into soil in February/March/April or use biodegradable pots that you start off indoors (from February) and then plant out (pot and plant). It can take ages to germinate, so often radish seed is sown nearby to mark out the row and remind you. Once they have germinated, thin the seedlings out, and the distance apart depends on the variety, so check your packet. Then just leave to grow and harvest from November onwards. Apparently they taste better after a frost. If nothing germinates, try again, or a later variety in April/May. Putting seed into cold wet ground will cause it to rot, and not germinate.
Use: Best cut up into slices and roasted in oil or butter.

Crop rotation group: 3
Family: Legume/Papilionaceae
Description: Sweet picked fresh, but you need quite a lot of pods for one bowl of peas. Mangetout is similar and easier to grow.
Cultivation: Peas do not like to be disturbed once grown, so there are lots of systems. Plant direct in the soil, or in special root trainer pots, or in a long trench, like a drainpipe filled with soil. Once they have germinated and look strong and healthy, just water them and then tip the drainpipe contents (soil and plants) into the trench outside. Plant by netting or chicken wire so they can climb up, and keep a look out for slugs. Put beer traps nearby, and grapefruit skins. Once the pea plant is big the slugs don’t bother. Sow a row every few weeks, all summer, and always mulch and keep well watered. Pick continuously and the plant will keep flowering.
Use: Fresh raw, or slightly streamed. You are unlikely to grow enough to freeze.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Pome tree Fruit
Description: Beautiful in spring, they happily produce pears year after year.
Cultivation: Treat as you would an apple tree, but they like shelter, so can be happily grown by a fence or wall.
Use: Fresh from the tree.

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Potato/Solanaceae
Description:  Part of the Solanaceae family, like the tomato, so grow them together if growing outside. Don’t plant potatoes in an are one year, and follow with tomatoes (or vice versa). They are really easy to grow, but do take up a lot of land.
Cultivation: There are three main categories of potato; earlies, second earlies and maincrop and this describes when you plant them. Chitting is always done to earlies and second earlies, but not often to main crop unless you have space. Chitting gets the plant off to a good start before going in the ground, but be careful as the potato plant does not like frost once it emerges from the soil. So, check the weather and put newspaper or fleece down if frost is predicted when your potato plants are through. You’ll get instructions on depth and planting spaces when they arrive, but you plant with the chitted shoot pointing up. Potatoes like a rich moist soil, so the best thing to do is to dig a trench and line it with newspaper or cardboard, fill with well-rotted manure and soil, and then add your potato tuber, cover with soil making a ridge. As the potato shoots appear, keep raking up some more soil (called earthing up) as you want to keep any tubers covered. If they go green they are poisonous. It’s a good idea to mulch the plants over the summer, grass mowings do a great job. Then just leave, keep well watered if you have to and harvest when you are ready by digging them on a preferably warm, dry day. Leave the soil to dry off on the tubers then lightly rub it off and store in bags, or boxes in a cool dark area.  Blight is a problem in warm wet years (like 2007). If it strikes, be quick and cut off all the affected foliage and hope you’ve caught it in time. Chances are you haven’t and if all the plants seem affected cut off all the foliage. Some people say compost it, others say burn it. You choose depending on what’s available. After three weeks lift the tubers on a dry, warm day, check them thoroughly and store them. Any diseased ones should be eaten now, or taken away, don’t compost the tubers (you shouldn’t anyway, blighted or not!). Blight on potatoes will probably spread to tomatoes, and vice versa. By rotating your crop you should not get blight next year from your plot, but it may blow in from elsewhere.
Use:  Everyday in every meal!

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Cucumber/Cucurbitaceae
Description: Another plant that has evaded success for me. They like a rich soil, and can be grown on top of a compost heap, or their own ‘hot box’. I may try growing on ein a bag of compost.
Cultivation: Plant some seed under cover in May/June, then into the hot bed. They look like a courgette plant, so huge leaves, and trailing stems, with a flower from which fruit develops. You’ll need more than one plant for cross pollination, or you get flowers, but no fruit. Plant 60cm apart, or to climb up/over/down a trellis.
Use: Should be ready by Halloween, for lanterns or soup, or risotto.

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: Peppery, red bulb, and very easy to grow.
Cultivation: Oddly is a member of the brassica, as you’d think it was a root. They can be grown quickly anywhere and then whipped out when the space is needed. Sow from February straight into the soil, and the characteristic clover like leaves will rapidly appear. Harvest the plant when young or it goes woody or the slugs get it.
Use: Raw in salad.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Cane soft fruit
Description: You can grow summer fruiting and autumn fruiting canes and their care is different. Raspberry canes like a good mulching in spring, and to be kept well watered in dry periods. That’s why they grow so well in Scotland.
Cultivation: Summer fruiting canes should be planted in autumn or spring, and then new growth tied in to a frame, or stakes. They will fruit on the growth made the year before and then that cane dies. So, once they have fruited cut the canes that fruited to the ground, leaving the others to produce fruit for next year. Autumn fruiting canes should be planted in spring and cut back to the ground in spring. They are then left to grow and fruit over the summer. Remove weeds by hand, not hoeing, but if they are kept well mulched this should not be a problem.
Use: Eat raw, freshly picked from the garden; or freeze to eat year round.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Bush soft fruit
Description: Fiddly to eat, but pretty as a garnish, and add diversity to your garden as birds love them.
Cultivation: They fruit on a spur, or bud created the previous year, so take care when pruning in the autumn. Their care pattern is like a Gooseberry, not a Blackcurrant. Prune once the fruit is set in June/July by cutting the shoot back to the fruit. Then in winter prune the new growth back again by half on the leaders (main shoots) and the side shoots to about 10cm. Feed and mulch in March/April.
Use: Freshly picked, or stewed with lots of sugar and other summer fruits.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Polygonaceae
Description: Stunning pink stems with green leaves make rhubarb instantly recognisable. Yorkshire is home for rhubarb and RHS Harlow Carr has the national collection. Currently rhubarb is a trendy fruit being heralded with many beauty and health attributes.
Cultivation: The plant is huge, and stays for years, but is not fussy about location being happy in sun or shade. It tends to be put somewhere out of sight, that something more ‘useful’ cannot occupy. Crowns can be bought from catalogues, or if you know someone with a plant, divide it and share. Plant crowns outdoors Oct/Nov or Feb/March in a rich, deep soil with the bud on the crown exposed just below the soil’s surface (it needs frost to break its dormancy). Force in Jan-Mar, but I don’t know about this, except that the clay forcing pots cost £100 in the catalogues! You can crop from Jan-July depending on the variety and whether you have forced it or not. The leaves are poisonous to eat, but it’s fine to put them on the compost heap.
Use: Rhubarb crumble; in yoghurt; stewed; in a smoothie.

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: Can be an annual or perennial, some can be very peppery, others not. Great to have to snip off a handful of leaves for a salad. Delicate small yellow flower. Also get a black flea like pest, but it goes if you remove the flowers.
Cultivation: Plant out in a row, or pot, March to June. Sow about 10cm apart, but just a few every few weeks. Once they flower they get woody and lose their flavour.
Use: Great to have to snip off a handful of leaves for a salad.

Runner Bean – see bean

Crop rotation group: 1
Family: Root/Chenopodiaceae
Description: A healthy easy to grow vegetable, that is available most of the year. They do not like to get dry and will bolt if they do.
Cultivation: As a member of the Chenopodiaceae, strictly speaking they should be grown with other roots, but because spinach can be fast growing, they can be treated like a slad crop around the plot as well, so long as they are in and out quickly.
Use: Raw in salad; steamed and tossed in butter; or with cheese and eggs, in lasagne; with fish; lovely on pizza.

Crop rotation group: Permanent
Family: Bedding soft Fruit
Description: Red, sweet fruit in summer that everyone eats. The plants are very low maintenance, and apart from June/July harvesting and a bit of weeding you can pretty much ignore them. Because they do hog a lot of space, you could save on plot space and grow strawberries in a container.
Cultivation: Plant out young plants in autumn or spring, into well-manured soil. Leave to flower, and then once the fruit have set it’s a good idea to put some straw or shredded paper under the plants to keep the fruit off the soil, and exposed to the sun. Slugs, birds and squirrels all love strawberries, so netting is required once fruit has set, but not before, as you need the bees to fly around pollinating the flowers. Once the plant has fruited it will send out runners with new plants on the end. Ideally you’ll have a bed with plants kept just to produce runners, and a bed with plants kept just for fruit, but in a small home plot this is unusual. However, you do need to keep replacing your strawberry plants every five years, as they do produce less. Again, ideally you would create a new plot for strawberries every five years, and if you are crop rotating you can do this. Just pot up some runners and after eight weeks, snip off the shoot to the parent and you have a perfect new plant. After this, keep removing the runners to put the energy back into the plant. In spring, remove dead leaves and any runners and put some compost around the plants, and keep weeding.
Use: Eat fresh from the plant.

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: I’ve never grown a swede, but I know they go in ready-made vegetable soups. I don’t like their sweet smell and off-yellow colour. But the book will tell you…
Cultivation: A really easy veg to grow. Sow some seeds in late spring or early summer, thin and harvest from the autumn.
Use: Some people love them mashed, with carrot. Why ruin the carrot?

Crop rotation group: Anywhere
Family: Poaceae
Description: They are best sown in pots and then planted out when about 10cm tall, in June. They like a rich moisture retentive soil, and I read somewhere that they grow well with beans (they like the nitrogen and the beans use them as a support).
Cultivation: The plant grows quickly and can be very tall and thick, if you’ve ever been to a ‘Maize Maze’ you’ll know what I mean. So, give the plants space to grow, and water well. You’ll need at least five to ensure pollination, but it’s worth it as home grown sweetcorn is so sweet. Plant in a grid so that the pollen can easily blow onto the next plant, to make the cobs. They will shade smaller plants planted behind, but squashes like the shade so can be grown underneath them, and then climb up the stem. Their roots are shallow, so do not hoe, mulch instead to keep down weeds. The cob is ready to harvest when the silky tassels turn brown, usually in August.
Use: Boiled, or steamed in foil on a barbeque.

Crop rotation group: 4
Family: Potato/Solanaceae
Description:  Part of the Solanaceae family, like the potato, so grow them together if growing outside. Do not follow potatoes with tomatoes or vice versa as they are subject to the same diseases. There are every type, colour, shape imagineable, so try a few and see what works. In pots the Tumbler variety produces small cherry shaped tomatoes for months. Just pick when you need some.
Cultivation: In a greenhouse, or outside, best in pots or a grow bag. Tomatoes like lots of water, so make it easy to do by putting an upturned plastic bottle (base removed) by each plant. Then you just tip the watering can in, and each plant gets a dedicated supply. You can buy an organic tomato feed, or make your own with nettles or comfrey. If you grow a plant in a large pot against a warm wall they will do as well as in a greenhouse. If you get to October, but have lots of unripened fruit, with frosts looming, cut the whole plant off and hang upside down in a warm sunny room. Or, pick off the fruit and put on a sunny windowsill with a banana. The banana emits ripening hormones and you’ll have ripe tomatoes in no time!  Blight can affect tomatoes (and potatoes) in warm, wet summers (like 2007). The plant’s leaves go black and then the whole plant looks sick and pathetic. At the first signs cut off the foliage and hope you’ve got away with it. But if not, all hope is pretty much lost. Pick off any fruit worth saving and then compost or burn the plants. Blight is caused by fungal spores and some people think that composting is not enough to kill them off.  The spores may remain in the soil so that’s why you must rotate the crop for next year.
Use: Fresh with salt, or basil; cooked in any dish, or pureed down for a sauce.

Crop rotation group: 2
Family: Brassicaceae
Description: I’ve never grown a turnip, and probably not eaten one knowingly for a long time, but assume some appear in ready-made vegetable soups. But the book will tell you…
Cultivation: Keep them small and sweet, don’t let them get woody. They are easy to grow and mature quickly, and the green leaf tops can be harvested and eaten like spinach. They are traditionally a vegetable lifted over the winter (and fed to livestock).
Use: Raw grated in salad, or in soups, or roasted.

Whitecurrant – as for redcurrant


Proverb: As you sow, so shall you reap


garden flowers

This is a plentiful plot measuring 1mx2m x 6

London Garden Designer, layout image