Sowing and Growing

Growing Vegetables

It all starts with a packet of seeds... Growing vegetables, watching the little seedlings start to break through the potting compost or earth really brings a great sense of warmth to the system. Most packet of seeds will now come with sowing, planting and aftercare instructions but a lot will all depend on the soil you have and the conditions.

This is just a brief run down of the vegetable’s I have tried and what has worked for me.



Beets are easily grown and nice roasted although I think they are an acquired taste. I am not a fan of pickled beets though so a small amount suited me fine.

Sow: mid-April to end of June

Spacing: About half inch deep in rows 6-8 inch apart

Aftercare: Thin out as they grow. The thinnings can be eaten in salads along with the leaves. Water them in dry spells.

Harvesting: leave them in the ground until needed but lift the remainder before the frosts come. I find they are at their best between the sizes of a golf ball to the size of a tennis ball. Otherwise they become too woody.

Broccoli (sprouting)

For the time and effort goes into the broccoli I just found you would need a big amount of it to make it worthwhile. Very tasty though.

Sow: April to May or sow under cover in pots in late winter and transplant out in June

Spacing: give 18 inch apart in each direction

Aftercare: weed regularly and keep watered in dry spells. Give them a boost of organic feed once in a while.

Harvesting: In late winter (late Jan to early March)

Brussels sprouts

Sprouts are a firm favourite at Christmas and although they are not everyone’s cup of tea it wouldn’t be Christmas without them. They are easily enough grown and surprisingly very hardy, surviving the plummeting temperatures of this past few winters.

Sow: Best to sow in late winter indoors and transplanted in early summer

Spacing: like the sprouting broccoli give 18 inches in each direction and firm the ground down around it.

Aftercare: watch out for cabbage whitefly, which can be troublesome.

Harvesting: Start picking them when they are bib enough

Butternut squash

Squashes are such a versatile vegetable, great for beefing up vegetarian dishes. They do take up a good deal of space so if your short on room this wouldn’t be an ideal vegetable to grow.

Sow: under glass in mid spring

Spacing: they need a good bit of space so if you only have a small plot one plant will be enough. About 3 ft each direction

Aftercare: regular watering is required along with organic liquid feed. Keep young plants weed free until it can fend for itself

Harvesting: leave in the ground for as long as possible but harvest before the first frosts.

Cabbage/Red cabbage

We went through 3 different attempts to grow cabbages last year before we were successful as we tried to start them under glass but the got burnt too easily with a flash of sun. they worked better started outside in warmer weather.

Sow: summer cabbages in March/ April, winter cabbages late April to late May and spring cabbages in mid-July to early August. Summer cabbages can be started under cover and transplanted out in May/June.

Spacing: about 12 inches in each direction.

Aftercare: water them well in dry spells. Can benefit well from organic liquid feed. Carefully weed around them as they have shallow roots. Keep a good look out for whitefly; it is best to keep covered with insect proof netting.

Harvest: pick cabbages when they look like the hearts have firmed up.


Carrots need deep light soil but if you don’t have much space they can be grown quite successfully in containers outside the back door if you like in multi purpose compost.

Sow: from March on, they can be sown right up until late July.

Spacing: in shallow drills about 6 inches apart. Sow lightly and then thin out as they grow; however only thin them on a damp day or just before dark as the aroma attracts carrot fly. Planting beside onions can also deter carrot fly, as they don’t like the scent of onions.

Aftercare: water well in dry spells and keep a good eye on weeds coming up.

Harvest: start pulling baby carrots as soon as they are big enough to eat, as they are so sweet and full of flavour. This will allow the others space to grow fully.



This year will be my first attempt of growing celeriac but I have been doing my research… so watch this space.

Sow: start off under glass in March then plant out in May and June.

Spacing: about 12 inches (or more if you have the space) in all directions

Aftercare: organic liquid feed regularly to help the root swell.

Harvest: from September on as long as the roots are big enough


I first grew celery in containers after buying young plants in a garden centre. They grew very successfully in the containers.

Sow: start off under glass in March and transplant out in May and June.

Spacing: 8-9 inches in each direction.

Aftercare: as they grow celery need to be earthed up. Water well in dry spells and keep weed free.

Harvesting: cut them when they are roughly the size you would buy it at in the shop, usually between September and October.


Out of 3 plants grown in a grow bag last year we easily got over 70 red chillies so if you like them they are well worth it. They are low maintenance and if you don’t have a greenhouse a sunny porch or a conservatory would be just as good.

Sow: in seed trays in early March and transplant into beds/grow bags (still under glass) in mid-May to mid-June

Spacing: allow 12 inches between plants.

Aftercare: avoid over watering although grow bags can dry out quickly in hot weather but try and find a happy medium. They can be fed using tomato feed or organic liquid feed. Support the stems with bamboo canes as they grow.

Harvest: pick green chillies as soon as they are big enough or like I do, leave them to ripen on the plant before harvesting.


I had never tasted courgettes before a local lady gave me some spare plants. I had no room for them so just shoved them into a few empty patio containers I had… we had courgettes for about 5 months continuously. They featured in a lot of meals and supplied friends and family with spare ones.

Sow: sow under glass in early April in seed trays. Transplant out in warm weather in mid-May to mid-June

Spacing: 2 ft apart in all directions as they grow quite big.

Aftercare: water well regularly and also feed with either tomato liquid feed or organic liquid feed.

Harvest: cut off young fruits, there is no need to wait until the flower falls off. Don’t let them grow too big though as all the plants energy will go into that fruit


Growing your own garlic is as satisfying as it sounds. It’s easy and the taste of homegrown garlic is fantastically better than shop bought garlic.

Sow: Garlic can be sown in November to be ready for summer but it doesn’t do well in hard winters. Sow in February or March. To sow separate the bulb into cloves and push into the prepared bed with just the very tip showing above ground.

Spacing: about 6 inches in all directions

Aftercare: check that birds haven’t tried to pull any of the cloves up, if so then simply push back down again. Weed and water in dry spells

Harvest: wait until the foliage has turned yellow before harvesting, usually in August. It will keep better than if you’ve been impatient and pulled it earlier.



Kale is very like spinach but takes longer to cook. It is a winter fresh green which in my book is well worth having.

Sow: in pots or seed trays in April/May/June and transplant out in May/June/July

Spacing: 18 inches in all directions

Aftercare: keep watered in dry spells

Harvest: pick big enough leaves when you can but best left until winter


I always put my leek seedlings in where the early potatoes come out that way you don’t have to designate a separate spot for them. Great for hearty, comfort, winter stews and soups.

Sow: Mid-March to April and transplant out in June

Spacing: 6 inches apart in rows about double that apart

Aftercare: make a hole with a cane and just drop the seedling into it and water, letting the water fill the hole in. Ridge up the leeks as they grow, as you would do with potatoes. Keep weed free.

Harvest: lift the leeks, as you need them when they are bib enough. If you need the ground before you have used all the leeks you can lift them all and at some free space simply split some ground with a spade and drop the leeks in. they will keep here until you need them.


There are so many varieties of lettuces you’ll be spoilt for choice. Just pull the leaves as you need them. Can be grown very successfully in window boxes or patio containers so there is no excuse for not having fresh greens this summer.

Sow: from March to end of July

Spacing: depends on the size of the variety (best to check the seed packets)

Aftercare: keep the soil moist all through the growing season. Keep weed free

Harvest: you can start pulling leaves as soon as they are big enough


It is now the start of March and I am still using the onions harvested last summer… enough said!

Sow: sow the sets either in September/October to be harvested from May to July, or in March/April to be harvested August/September

Spacing:  4 inches apart in rows 6 inches apart

Aftercare: water in dry spells otherwise they could suffer a stall in growth which will cause them to bolt. Weed regularly

Harvest: when the onions are big enough remove them from the ground with the help of a garden fork. Leave them out on a drying rack in the sun for a day or so before storing them


Freshly dug parsnips roasted are so wonderfully sweet. I harvested the last of mine lately, as I needed to start preparing the ground for the year. I cut them into batons and froze 3 freezer bags of them.

Sow: in late February and March in deep rich stone free soil.

Spacing: sow thinly in rows 8 inches apart

Aftercare: thin out as they grow so the main crop will be roughly 5-6 inches apart in their rows

Harvest: from October on. They say parsnips are at their sweetest after a good frost. They keep best in the ground so only dig what you need


I grow peas basically to pick and eat as I am pottering around my plot. It’s a taste of early summer!

Sow: from late March until late June

Spacing: 2 or 3 staggered rows in a flat-bottomed drill that is about 10 inches wide. Sown so each pea has about 3 inches of space around it.

Aftercare: after sowing put canes or any kind of a frame in so the peas can climb. I use a rose arch and sow them under each base… it’s a pretty feature in a garden.

Harvest: common sense comes in to play here. You will see when they are ready for picking. Normally from June on.



To keep me in peppers I would need to dedicate all my greenhouse area to growing them. But I grow 3 plants for the novelty really.

Sow: under glass in March in seed trays

Spacing: transplant seedlings about 18 inches apart in final bed/grow bag

Aftercare: water after planting then water sparingly until plants are well established. Support canes by tying main stems to a cane. They’ll benefit from tomato feed or organic liquid feed
Harvest:  start picking green peppers when they are big enough. Although if you want red peppers you will have to let them ripen on the plant which will slow up new fruits growing. Twist and pull rather than cutting the fruit off.


The mighty spud… where would we be without it? So versatile and with so many varieties out there from Earlies, Second Earlies and main crop you will find something to suit your needs. I do 3 different varieties.

Sow: late march…. For me all varieties should go in them, unless its under cover.

Spacing: a foot apart in drills 2 feet apart.

Aftercare: hoe between drills to keep the weeds at bay. Earth up the drills as the potato shoots grow. Blight is a big problem to look out for especially in wet muggy weather. Look out for brown patches on the leaves. Spray with Bordeaux mixture in this type of weather and generally every fortnight to be sure.

Harvest: each variety will have different harvesting times but they all keep best in the ground… until the frosts that is.


Very easily grown and adds a great peppery crunch to salads.

Sow: March right through until September

Spacing: an inch or 2 apart in drills 5 inches apart

Aftercare: keep weed free and water regularly. They grow fast.

Harvest: don’t let them grow too big or they will go woody and split.

Runner beans

I chose runner beans out of the different varieties due to the beautiful red flower it produces. Adds great colour to the plot.

Sow: under glass in April/May and transplant out in May/June

Spacing: grow about 8 inches apart along a growing frame or trellis

Aftercare: keep weed free and watered well in dry spells

Harvest: runner beans can be picked when they are big enough, about 4 inches long. You should have a regular supply for 4 months from July on


Popeye would be proud… spinach is a wonderful addition to all sorts of dishes. It is a thirsty plant but well worth the effort. And just think of the iron intake…

Sow: from March to May and winter spinach August to November

Spacing: thin out to about 2-3 inches in all directions

Aftercare: water, water and more water!

Harvest: pick at the leaves when they are big enough as you need them


If I could only ever grow one vegetable I think it would be sweetcorn. The taste difference of freshly picked corncobs is second to none. It becomes the main item of dinner for me. When it is all gone at the end of the season the shop bought frozen corn is just a slap in the face!

Sow: best started off under glass in April in ‘paper pots’ as they don’t like to be disturbed, you can plant pot and all when they are about 5 inches tall.

Spacing: plant in blocks rather than rows, as they need to self-pollinate. 18 inches in all directions

Aftercare: just keep weed free and watered in dry spells

Harvest: when you think the cobs are big enough pull back some of the leafy sheath to expose some of the kernels, push your thumbnail into them and if ripe they should produce milky juice. If it is clear they have another bit to go.


Again, fresh tomatoes just picked are a taste sensation. Like the chilli plants they can be grown in a sunny porch or conservatory in a grow bag if you don’t have a greenhouse. Or cherry tomatoes grown in hanging baskets instead of inedible flowers.

Sow: under glass in march/April in seed trays and transplant into beds or grow bags in early may

Spacing: 2 ft apart

Aftercare: support the main stem with a cane. Keep well watered at all times. Feed with tomato feed or organic liquid feed. Pinch out any shoots growing out of the angle where the branches and each leaf joins the main stem. Blight can be a problem but more for outside varieties so just to be on the safe side spray them with Bordeaux mixture every fortnight.

Harvest: pick tomatoes as they ripen, roughly from July onwards.


Baby turnips roasted are a great accompaniment to any meat dish. Easily grown and harvested.

Sow: in April until July

Spacing: in rows 8 inches apart. Thin out seedlings when they are big enough.

Aftercare: keep well watered in dry spells and weed free.

Harvest: don’t allow them to grow any more than 4 inches as they will become woody.


Herbs are such a wonderful way to improve the taste of food. Growing them couldn't really be easier as even if you don't have much room you can plant them in pots, window boxes, inside or outside. Herbs are quite accessible these days in most supermarkets but there is no greater feeling than going to your herbs and picking them fresh. Plus herbs that are bought in pots in supermarkets have been forced under glass all year round, they don't have the same flavour or fragrance. I would be totally lost without my fresh supply of herbs.

Here is a brief run down of the herbs I've grown and their uses:


Goes fantastically with Italian dishes and Mediterranean Vegetables like tomatoes, courgettes & peppers.


Excellent addition to stews & casseroles. Also adds great flavour to fish and roasted vegetables.


Related to onions chives are a nice accompaniment with salads, eggs & fish.


Lovey with Thai and Indian curry's, the seeds from the coriander are great with meat & vegetables.


Ideal with fish dishes and great in sauces


Perfect as mint sauce or added to salads. Mint goes hand in hand with lamb. It is also refreshing in drinks, desserts, and vegetables such as sweeetcorn.


Great as a garnish and adds flavour to soups & stocks


Fantastic with lamb and other meats, vegetables, stews and great chopped up with garlic.


Perfect with pork duck and great to include in stufffings.


Delicious with any meats, soups, stews and wonderful with game.

*Images from Google Image

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