Growing Vegetables

Gardening expert Doreen Moody reveals the veg she wouldn't be without

Growing vegetables is so rewarding. Vegetables fresh from the garden taste quite different and if grown without fertiliser you know they are truly organic.

If you have only a small space you are limited as to what you can grow, so grow the plants which will give you the most return for your labour. Here are a few plants, I wouldn’t be without.

Everyone should have a few plants of everlasting onions, also known as scallions. They are so easy to grow and if you just use the green tops leaving the bulb in the ground, they will go on and on and on. My original everlasting onions were given to me almost 50 years ago!

Used in salads, stir-fries or champ they are very tasty, much more flavoursome than chives which tend to get tough and dry, or the white Lisbon seedling onions which are usually sold as spring onions. They can be planted as the edge to a border or even a clump in a large pot.

Most varieties of lettuce mature at the same time so try varieties such as 'Salad Bowl', which give you a continuous picking over several months. The curling leaves are also quite attractive.

Given rich moisture retaining soil a few plants of asparagus grown at the back of a flowerbed will give you a treat for a few weeks in April/May.

Runner or climbing French beans can be grown up a fence or a wigwam of canes – given a mulch and plenty of water – picked frequently will give you beans for at least three months.

Spinach can be picked continuously but I prefer a few plants of Swiss Chard which give you a crisp green vegetables for about nine months of the year. You not only can eat the green part of the leaves, in salads or cooked like spinach, but also the thick white centres, cooked like asparagus). There are coloured varieties that can be interplanted in flower borders as can beetroot. Seedlings can be grown on early in small pots to give you earlier crops.

A few herbs such as parsely, Jerusalem sage, mint etc do very well in pots. The black plastic pots which are used for cut flowers, I find can be recycled by making a few holes in the bottom. Because of their size they don’t usually require watering unless the weather is particularly dry and given a weak liquid fertiliser will surprise you with the results.

Tomato plants from my own seed which is an obvious hybrid between 'Gardener's Delight' and 'Sungold'. I grow these in the greenhouse but in recent years have tried growing them outside.

Don’t be discouraged by failure. If seedlings get eaten by rabbits (as has happened to me recently) or shredded by caterpillars, there is usually some other vegetable you can grow as a catch crop, such as Chinese cabbage. Useful for salads, stir-fry etc. No need to cut the whole cabbage, just take off the outside leaves. Of course this can be done with ordinary cabbages – they go on growing just the same. Nutritionists say there are more vitamins in the outside leaves. Whether, this is because they have been growing longer and absorbed more vitamins, I don’t know.

These are some of the vegetables I wouldn’t be without. But every year I like to try something different. Last year it was chicory, black salsify and Florence fennel. Who knows what it will be this year!

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