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How to grow your own.

Have you ever grown your own food? Growing your own veg can be easy and rewarding once you know the basics.

Growing your own fruit and veg is the ultimate in green living. Food miles are reduced to the length of your garden and you can be certain everything you’re eating is chemical free. It′s amazing how good food can taste when there’s only a few minutes between picking and cooking.Anyone can grow their own veg – all you need is a patch of earth and some seeds. Stick to a few easy-to-grow plants to begin with, then when you’ve caught the gardening bug, you can become more adventurous.

Getting the basics right

If your veg plot is in the wrong place or has lousy soil, you won’t be getting off to the best start. But a little work preparing will pay dividends later on. Choose the sunniest, most sheltered spot you have for your veg - put in a fence or low hedge if it’s exposed.

Next, get to work on the soil. This is your secret weapon - good soil produces bumper harvests, so it‘s worth looking after it. Remove weeds and large stones, then empty barrowloads of well-rotted manure over the top, digging it over lightly with a fork to work it in.

What to grow

The golden rule with veg growing is only to plant what you will eat. Make a list of your favourites, then pick the easiest to grow and concentrate on those for your first season - you can always add more later on.

Five trouble-free crops.

Leafy, nutritious veg that practically looks after itself and crops for ages. It is mainly sown in the spring for picking over the summers, although by protecting with a cloche, you can harvest leaves during autumn and winter.

Sow: mid March to mid May.

How: Make a trench 2.5cm deep with a garden cane and space seeds about 8cm apart. Cover, water and label. Cover with soil and keep watered. For a summer crop, try spinach, which you can sow from early spring to the middle of June in the same way as chard. Aftercare: When the seedlings are about 2cm tall, thin out to give the stronger seedlings a better chance. Harvest: Spring sowings should be ready to be picked within 12 weeks.

Salad leaves

Simple to sow and grow anywhere, even if all you have is a windowbox or a couple of pots.

Sow: Half a row every fortnight from March, for a continuous supply until about September.

How: Scrape a shallow row with a stick and carefully sow the seeds along the row, spacing them out as evenly as possible. The distance between the seeds should be about 3cm. Use the edge of a trowel to cover the seeds lightly with soil and water the seeds in well.

Aftercare: Keep seedlings watered and protect against slugs.

Harvest: After about three weeks the leaves should be large enough to harvest. Cut them off carefully; the smaller leaves should grow to give you a second crop.

Climbing beans

Runners or French beans will grow like triffids up wigwams of canes tied together at the top. Runners, climbing French and dwarf beans are perfect for a sunny, well-drained spot. You can also grow them in pots.

Sow: Late April.

How: Sow dwarf French beans 2.5cm (1in) deep next to a support and about 5cm (2in) deep for climbing French and runner beans. Water well. After germination remove the smaller, less robust plants.

Aftercare: As they grow, ensure the plants continue to twine around their canes. Regular watering is vital.

Harvest: Regular picking is essential - its true that the more you pick, the more they grow. Most should bear pods by July and you can continue cropping until the first frosts (should you experience frosts!).

Click4Carbon choice: French bean ‘Cobra’; Runner beans: ‘Red Rum’ – very easy to grow; ‘Painted Lady’ – heavy cropping.

Tomatoes

‘Bush’ tomatoes are easiest as they don‘t need staking or training and grow happily outdoors. You can either grow them in pots or in grow bags.

Sow: late February to March.

How: Fill a 10cm (4in) pot with seed compost, lightly firm and water. Scatter seeds thinly and cover with a plastic bag, then put on a windowsill to germinate. Seedlings should appear within two weeks and be large enough to move into separate pots in about eight weeks.

Aftercare: Keep watered, and feed once a week with liquid tomato feed after flowers form.

Harvest: From July to the first frosts.

Click4Carbons choice: Tomato ‘Red Alert’.

Potatoes

Virtually indestructible. There are dozens of different potato varieties, usually described as early, second early and maincrop. Second earlies are easiest as they don‘t need chitting (chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout when planting).

Sow: mid-march or early April.

How: Dig a trench 15cm (6in) deep and 30cm (12in) apart, and set a seed potato into the trench with the shoots pointing upwards. Cover the potatoes lightly with soil.

Aftercare: As soon as shoots appear earth up each plant by covering it with a ridge of soil.

Harvest: June until September – dig up entire plants as you need them.

Other things to grow

Fruit

Strawberries take up hardly any room; you can just put them in spare corners of your garden. ‘Cambridge Favourite‘ is vigorous and easy. You might want to net fruit to stop birds getting them before you do.

Herbs

Herbs, in most case, are tough wild plants, which when spoilt by the lush conditions of a garden will thrive. Robust herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme are trouble-free and grow happily in the ground or in a window box when in full sun.

Getting into a routine

Taking care of your veg takes less time than you think, especially if you stick to easy-to-grow, robust varieties.

Once a week:

Water, but only in very dry weather and concentrate on leafy veg and plants, which are flowering or fruiting. Use collected rainwater wherever possible, and really soak each plant.

Once a fortnight:

Hoe through to remove annual weeds and fork out any nasties like bindweed root or ground elder – if you keep on top of them they shouldn’t turn into a problem.

Twice a year:

Spread a layer of well-rotted manure over the soil around larger plants to keep down weeds and hold in water.

Once a year:

Scatter pelleted chicken manure around plants in June. Tomato plants need more regular feeding - once a week as soon as flowers appear.