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Green fingers: what to plant and when

Ask any gardener who grows their own fruit and veg and they'll tell you that their lettuce, spuds or peas taste far superior to those found on supermarket shelves – and they're not wrong.

There's something extremely satisfying about tending to your own fruit and veg patch. And it's a great feeling when someone compliments the carrots while eating roast dinner and you can say, "I grew that!"

So, if you're just about to put your green fingers to the test, we thought it might be useful to share a simple guide to sowing and growing popular starter fruit, veg and flowers.

Fruit and vegetables

Carrots

Carrots need an open, sunny site and fertile, well-drained soil.

  • When to sow: April to early July.
  • How to sow: 1cm deep in rows 15cm-30cm apart.
  • How to grow: Best grown in the open ground and don't require much watering.
  • Ready to harvest: Approximately 12-16 weeks.

Beetroot

Beetroots also require fertile, well-drained soil.

  • When to sow: Mid-April to July.
  • How to sow: 3 seeds at 10cm intervals, 2.5cm deep in rows 30cm apart.
  • How to grow: Protect early sowings with horticultural fleece and water 10-14 days during dry spells.
  • Ready to harvest: Pull up half when they reach golf ball size, and the other half when they are the size of a cricket ball.

French beans

The perfect crop for smaller patches, French beans require a sunny spot in a well-drained garden.

  • When to sow: May/June, or April for an earlier indoor crop.
  • How to sow: In each small pot, sow 2 beans 5cm deep and place outside in a cold frame. Plant once the beans reach 8cm.
  • How to grow: Use bamboo canes as supports between rows, setting 15cm apart, planting 1 bean plant for each cane. Loosely tie the shoots to it.
  • Ready to harvest: Pick when they are 10cm long.

Strawberries

This delicious red fruit is super easy to grow in borders, containers or even hanging baskets. All they need is sun, shelter and fertile, well-drained soil.

  • When to plant: Order plants in late summer to plant in early autumn.
  • How to grow: Grow under a tunnel cloche for an earlier crop, and use a cloche over plants in early spring. During growing season, give plants a liquid potash feed every 1-2 weeks, and in spring use general fertilizer.
  • Ready to harvest: Pick when they are bright red all over!

Blueberries

Hailed a 'superfood,' blueberries are one of the easiest container plants you can grow.

  • How to grow: Place in moist, well-drained, acidic soil (PH 5.5 or lower) in a sunny but sheltered spot. Use a container that's at least 30cm in diameter for young plants, then move to one that's 45-50cm when it outgrows it.
  • Ready to harvest: Ripening starts from mid-summer – pick when blueberries are a dusty blue colour.

Plants / flowers

Dahlias

Bright and beautiful, dahlias are a staple of any gardeners' summer borders.

  • How to propagate: Start tubers into growth in early spring indoors. Divide when shoots reach 2-3cm, potting each section in a separate container.
  • When to plant: May to early June, when there is no danger of frost, with flowering time in mid-summer to autumn.
  • How to plant: Fertile, well-drained soil in full sun.

Crocus

This 'lady killer' plant is goblet-shaped with a striking, silvery central stripe.

  • How to propagate: Sow seeds in containers in a cold frame when ripe.
  • When to plant: Self-flowering bulbs should be planted in early autumn.
  • How to plant: Plant in gritty, poor/moderately fertile soil in full sun.

A few, final tips:

  • Plant flowers by your plants – they'll naturally pollinate them!
  • Protect tender plants from frost by bringing indoors, watering thoroughly ahead of the freeze, and covering with buckets/large sheets, depending on size.
  • Keep your bird feeder stocked so birds don't feel tempted to peck at your seedlings.
  • Start off with just a few crops, then add to them as you go – before you know it, you'll be a pro horticulturist!

Do you have any growing tips of your own? Share them with us if you do.

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