Plants must pay their way when you grow your own, especially if you’ve a small garden. So over the next fortnight, I’ll suggest some good bets, starting with annual veg and herbs, and turning to perennial edibles next week.
Start planning your planting now and look out for the containers and equipment you’ll need to transform a postage stamp into an attractive and productive hub . You’ll only need window boxes, a few containers, possibly one or two small beds, and certainly walls or fences. Perfect for some fresh, tasty produce.
With space at a premium, it must be kept fully occupied, so use good compost and organic liquid feed to keep plants growing vigorously. Although you’ll have very little home-made compost, you could use a wormery and get highly nutritious wormcast from raw kitchen scraps.
Aim for as little bare soil as possible, so avoid land-hungry plants like slow-growing hearting lettuces or broccoli. Go for closely packed cut and come again greens. Or the direct-sown Cima di rapa with its delicious taste of broccoli. Harvest after a few weeks, when it reaches 30cm, and resow. It’s been one of my best discoveries of 2018.
There’s no shortage of cca leaf crops, including beet, chard and oriental greens such as pak choi, mizuna and komatsuma. Use tender beetroot and turnip leaves as well as their tubers. These quick catch-crops fill a space before courgettes and runner beans. Or simply sow successionally for cropping between April and October.
Herbs, like coriander, also work well. Varieties such as ‘Cilantro’ or ‘Calypso’ produce a good flush of leaves and are suitable for both containers and the open ground. When the weather warms up in April, sow in clumps or rows. And because the seed is large, it’s easy to poke individual seeds in to soil or compost round other plants.
But, as with every plant, ruthlessly remove coriander when it flowers or goes straggly after a month or so. There’s no room for a plant that’s not pulling its weight.
Herbs are always a good idea, but focus on ones you could use at any time, not just occasionally. They lose that precious flavour all too quickly, so timely picking is essential. I find salad rocket meets the bill. I’ll direct sow every month between late March and September, making sure each row is at least 30cm long. This allows for regular harvesting and prevents premature bolting, I have to water regularly during a dry spell, like last summer. ‘Astra’ and ‘Esmee’ do specially well.
Nothing beats a garden burgeoning with healthy plants, but it also needs shape, colour and style. Carefully chosen veg, herbs and the fruit I’ll discuss next week will give you this.
Although green provides a wide palate of shades, leaf and produce come in many colours. There’s nothing wrong with traditional deep red/purple beetroot, but some varieties offer much more. ‘Rainbow beet’ is a mix of 5 differently coloured skins: purple, red and pink stripes, yellow, green and white. And, while good old Swiss chard is a key player, ‘Bright Lights’ chard is a feature plant, with its green, yellow, red and near purple leaves standing high and proud in any bed.
And you can go further in even the smallest bed by letting 3 ‘Painted Lady’ runner beans scale a 2 metre tripod, towering above other vegetables or flowers.
And why not paint a wall or trellis with these climbers? Make full use of these vertical areas with tall mange-tout peas. After a colourful display of flowers, you can eat ‘Carouby de Maussane’s’ purple pods, or ‘Spring Blush’s’ dappled pink ones.
Plant of the week
Galanthus nivalis, Common Snowdrop. Pretty and scented, most snowdrops do not usually show white until well in to January. The mild weather of late has encouraged some to flower already.
Source : HeraldScotland