Whether it's a bleak December or the more mild weather we are becoming used to, you can still spend useful time in the garden. David Coton suggests the jobs that can occupy the shortening days.
Walk into any garden centre and you’ll be met with racks of seed packets promising every type of vegetable. Working your way along the rows, with images of perfect produce, you are tempted to buy the lot. But, as Martyn Loach points out, there’s only so much you can grow. So which ones?
Obviously when deciding what vegetables to grow figuring out which vegetables you like to eat would be a good start. But some of those, perhaps if they require a hot climate for a good harvest, can be put back on the rack.
That still leaves a huge range.
Although finance can matter less than personal satisfaction when growing vegetables, some crops really aren’t worth growing. You should aim for high yield vegetables especially those that are expensive to buy.
For instance, main crop potatoes can take up a lot of space and are ideal for breaking up the ground. But I gave up on them a long time ago, when I found I could buy them at a good price in a local farm shop. However, new potatoes are worth growing, they taste so much better than pricey ones in the shops and lots can be grown in a relatively small area.
Varieties that aren’t available in shops are a good choice. It’s easy to buy bland symmetrically shaped carrots, but what about Paris Market – sweet and early with round roots – Cosmic Purple or Solar Yellow?
Supermarkets stock vegetables and varieties on the basis of longevity not taste. Clearly the produce that you buy can be several days old. After harvesting there’s transportation to a warehouse, then on to the shop, more storage and then onto display.
This means that the qualities we like about many vegetables start to change and deteriorate the moment they are harvested and transported. Peas lose their sweetness, lettuces start to go limp.
If a vegetable, such as the artichoke, or a particular variety does not have a long shelf life, it is unlikely to be stocked. By eating vegetables straight from the ground, this isn’t a consideration, the texture is at its best and none of the nutrients, vitamins or taste has been lost.
But remember not to overproduce these vegetables, succession sowing and planting is important to have a continuous supply of produce.
So if you want fresh vegetables all through the summer choose those that ripen quickly and keep on producing. Tomatoes, lettuce, spinach would be among the favourites.
Growing time is also a consideration. I have to admit hanging up my fork and hoe once winter sets in. I don’t have the appetite for cold weather gardening. If you’re like me, steer clear of parsnips, winter cauliflowers, brussels sprouts and other vegetables such as kale that are at their best when you’d rather be exchanging presents next to a warm fire.
Start off with planting your own tomatoes. We recommend Thompson & Morgan’s seeds Click here to buy some now
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