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Michael Pollock EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


Jim Arbury Tree Fruits, Grape Vines
Guy Barter Vegetables, Crops
John Edgeley Soft Fruits
Jim England Vegetables, General and Crops
Michael Pollock Growing Fruit and Vegetables,
Culinary Herbs

Project editor Caroline Reed

Project art editor Elaine Hewson
Senior editor Helen Fewster
Senior art editor Joanne Doran
North American consultant Lori Spencer
US editor Margaret Parrish
US senior editor Rebecca Warren
Jacket designer Nicola Powling
Production editor Sean Daly
Production controller Claire Pearson
Managing editor Esther Ripley
Managing art editor Alison Donovan
Art director Peter Luff
Publisher Mary Ling

Editors Kanarindhana Kathirvel, Nidhilekha Mathur
Assistant editor Neha Ruth Samuel
Senior art editor Balwant Singh
Senior DTP designer Pushpak Tyagi
Managing editor Glenda Fernandes
Managing art editor Navidita Thapa
CTS manager Sunil Sharma

First UK Edition, 2002

Senior editor Annelise Evans
Project art editor Murdo Culver
Photographer Peter Anderson

First American Edition, 2012

Published in the United States by DK Publishing,
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Discover more at
Visual index of fruit 148
Planning 149 • Tree fruit forms 152
GROWING FRUIT Rootstocks 153 • Grafting tree fruits 154
AND VEGETABLES 8 Pollination 156 • Planting tree fruits 158
Climate and location 10 • Shelter from wind 12 General care 160 • Pruning and training principles 162
Soil types and structure 14 • Essential nutrients 17 Pruning different tree forms 166
Lime and soil acidity 18 • Fertilizers and manures 20
Making compost 24 • Planning your garden 27
Crop rotation 31 • The bed system 32
Using containers 35 • Soil preparation 37
Planning 206 • Planting soft fruits 208
Mulching 41 • Protected cropping 43
General care 209
Weed control 49 • Keeping your garden healthy 51
Watering and irrigation 53 • Tools and equipment 55 SOFT FRUIT CROPS 211


VEGETABLES 58 Planning 227 • Grape vines under cover 228
Vegetable seed 60 • Sowing seed under cover 62 Grape vines outdoors 231
Sowing seed outdoors 66 • Planting out 70
Routine care 72 • Winter storage 73 GROWING TENDER FRUITS 234
Visual index of vegetables 74 CROP PLANNER 238
Brassicas 76
Root crops 82
The onion family 89 SEASONAL TASKS 243
Legumes 95 PLANT PROBLEMS 246
Salad crops 101 INDEX 265
Fruiting vegetables 108
Cucurbits 114 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 272
Stem vegetables 120
Leafy vegetables 123 The gardening year
Perennial vegetables 129 Throughout this book, the gardening year is assumed to consist
of 12 seasons, or partial seasons. These correspond to calendar
months, as shown below.
CULINARY HERBS 136 early spring: March early fall: September
mid-spring: April mid-fall: October
Growing culinary herbs 138 late spring: May late fall: November
Visual index of culinary herbs 141 early summer: June early winter: December
midsummer: July midwinter: January
A–Z of culinary herbs 142
late summer: August late winter: February

Growing your own vegetables, built up an impressive body of
culinary herbs, and fruit brings expertise and knowledge over
a very special satisfaction to the years. This volume sets out
gardening. There are, of course, to continue the tradition by
substantial savings to be made distilling that experience into
in turning a small investment an accessible format for the
on seed or plants into a regular modern gardener.
supply of food for the table, The cultivation of food
whether you grow only a selection crops, more than any other
of choice seasonal crops, such form of gardening, demands
as asparagus, or strive for self- commitment from the
sufficiency. For those concerned gardener. Knowledge of
about additives in commercially Fruits of your labors basic principles, thoughtful
Enjoy the intensity and subtlety of flavor that
produced food, there is the security is possible only with produce freshly picked planning, good preparation,
of knowing exactly how your from the plant. and, above all, time spent in
produce has been grown. The regular care of growing crops,
exceptional pleasure of kitchen gardening lies, are crucial to success. Failure in any of this leads to
however, in the subtlety and freshness of f lavor of disappointing results, and wasted time and money.
crops gathered straight from your garden—a f lavor Those new to kitchen gardening would be wise
that has not been diminished by long transportation, to start on a modest scale, but to plan the garden
storage, or special packaging. so that the area given over to food crops can expand
The decorative qualities of edible crops, whether with your experience. There is no ideal size for a
grown in a dedicated plot or among conventional kitchen garden because it depends on many variable
ornamental plants, are too little appreciated. Colorful factors such as family demand, the garden site, and
blossom smothers fruit trees in spring, handsome personal abilities and preferences. The good news
foliage such as the ferny fronds of carrots or crinkly is that no garden is too small: crops can be grown
leaves of lettuces adorn the summer garden, and in all sorts of containers, including windowboxes.
evergreen herbs and overwintering vegetables are
enhanced by frost. Tree and soft fruits trained along In harmony with nature
walls and fences or over archways can be very Most gardeners have a particular affinity with the
attractive as well as productive. natural environment and fully appreciate the good
sense of maintaining a natural balance of living
Learning from organisms within the garden and of conserving
experience natural resources. Many take the opportunity to
It is not surprising then that run their kitchen garden entirely on organic lines.
interest in growing fruit and It is not necessary to grow produce that is totally
vegetables is on the increase. free of blemishes or to extract the maximum
Generations of professional possible yield from every plant—as is the case with
gardeners as well as individual commercial cultivation. A reasonable level of pests
backyard growers have and diseases can be tolerated in the garden, and

there are means of recycling organic waste and Potager garden, Tintinhull
Orderly lines of well-managed vegetables and flowers for cutting,
of using water wisely. This philosophy is followed abundant and full of promise, have their own special beauty.
throughout the book and you may be inspired to
examine further aspects of gardening organically. The introduction of new cultivars (garden varieties),
Chemical treatments are available for those who often with improved quality or genetic resistance to a
wish to use them, but there is no doubt that the pest or disease, is a great boon to the kitchen gardener.
range is diminishing because of safety regulations To help you choose from the bewildering number of
and commercial considerations. cultivars now available, each crop covered in the text
includes a core list of recommended cultivars. Your
Increasing choice own experience will eventually be the best guide.
The wide range of fruit, vegetables, and culinary The comprehensive information in this text will
herbs described in this book ref lects the modern provide a good grounding for you to develop your
gardener’s interest in growing an increasing variety own style of kitchen gardening. Never forget the
of crops. Most of the crops can be reliably grown principles, keep abreast of new developments, and,
outdoors in temperate climates, although some, above all, take time to enjoy your garden.
such as peppers and peaches, produce better quality
crops for a longer season under cover. The prospect
of climate change, and the popularity of the
greenhouse, however, raise new possibilities; so
tender fruits such as citrus and pineapples are
covered—to fire the imagination.
Plants grown for food differ from ornamentals
in one key respect—that in harvesting their
crops, full of goodness and nourishment, we
continually take something from the plants
and from the soil. It is critical, therefore, that
we repay this debt with care—choosing the
best site possible for our crops, understanding
and nurturing the soil, recycling where we can
(for example, by making garden compost), and
tending the plants as they grow—protecting
them from competition from weeds, attack
by pests and diseases, and harsh conditions.
Growing fruits and vegetables can be
demanding, and does require commitment,
but brings with it an enormous amount of
satisfaction—the excitement of planning what
crop, and which cultivar, to grow and how to
grow it; control over how the food we eat is
produced; a sense of expectation and work and
patience rewarded as crops in their turn come
into season; and, of course, plentiful harvests.

Climate and location

For most of us the choice of where Warm spot
we live is governed by considerations In a sheltered garden,
other than the ideal conditions for a wall facing the sun
absorbs heat during the
gardening. In many cases one has to day and then releases
make do with a challenging site, but it again at night when
a great deal can be achieved by careful the air temperature falls.
planning, imaginative design, and It also concentrates
choosing suitable crops and cultivars. the power of the sun by
The characteristics of your location reflecting some warmth
back immediately.
are even more significant for fruit and
Breezes will be deflected,
vegetables than for ornamental plants, but a solid wall is not
because the range of plants is narrower, suitable as a windbreak
with less scope for selecting to suit the in an exposed position.
climate. It is essential to understand Warmth of wall counters
the basic needs for healthy plant growth: cooling effects of any breeze
light, suitable temperature, water, air,
and nutrients. Each is influenced to ripens the shoots of woody fruit plants, THE EFFECTS OF TEMPERATURE
varying degrees by the conditions in improving flowering and consequent The way in which sunshine raises air
the area, which we cannot change; but fruiting in the following season. temperature is almost entirely beneficial
through respecting, maintaining, or Average daily hours of sunshine to the gardener. It encourages all stages
improving the physical characteristics vary from place to place, but in all areas of plant growth, from the sowing of
of a garden within such constraints, the goal should be to ensure that any vegetables or bud burst in woody fruit
we can still help meet these needs. shade to the kitchen garden is kept to plants through to crop maturity. It
a minimum by avoiding, or removing raises the soil temperature, promoting
THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHT wherever possible, any trees or other seed germination and also enhancing
Direct sunshine provides the quantity obstructions that create shade cover. root growth. Bright, warm days increase
and quality of light needed to maximize Cane fruits, brassicas, and perennial insect activity, essential for satisfactory
photosynthesis—the process by which vegetables will all tolerate moderate pollination of fruiting crops. Areas
plants use light to convert water and shade where a site is only partly in sun. that enjoy high levels of sunshine
carbon dioxide into energy for plant There are a few situations where it and resulting warm air usually have
activity. This is vital for healthy growth, may be necessary to provide temporary a relatively long local growing season.
producing bulk in leafy vegetable crops artificial shade. Prolonged exposure to Growth starts early and finishes late,
and sturdy development of flowers and strong sun can cause scorch or, more so cropping may be extended, especially
fruits. The importance of sunshine often, wilting in newly transplanted in vegetable gardens.
can be seen in the weak, unproductive crops; this is associated mainly with The adverse effects of low
growth of plants that are shaded by the sun’s warmth, which is primarily temperatures are considerable. Cold
buildings or hedges. Summer sunshine of benefit to the gardener. air and soil lead to slower germination,
growth, and bud burst; frost can be
WHAT IS A MICROCLIMATE? devastating. Tender vegetables, such as
tomatoes or cucurbits, will be destroyed,
Whatever the general climate of an area, ■ Open areas of the garden that face into and frost brings the threat of very
variations due to topography, such as the sun, particularly if they slope down serious damage to the blossom of fruit
the sunny or shaded sides of a hill, will toward it, warm up quickly in spring and
plants, resulting in loss of the crop.
create differences within it, producing are ideal for early crops.
The restrictions on fruit and
microclimates. The structures and plants ■ Walls and buildings can provide added
vegetables growing in areas with a high
around and in a garden create their own warmth and protection for fruit trees if they
risk of frost can be reduced by choosing
microclimates, making one garden, or even face the sun, but can also create turbulence
one area within a garden, markedly different by blocking or funnelling winds.
hardier crops and cultivars. For instance,
from another. Levels of shade and shelter will ■ Sheltering hedges will provide a better
the brassica group of vegetables includes
almost certainly vary, some corners may be microclimate for all crops, but the areas of very hardy crops compared with the
more prone to frost, and moisture levels are the garden closest to them may be relatively generally more tender pea and bean
likely to differ across a site. It is important to dry and receive less light. group, and among the fruit crops
be aware of these variations and use them ■ Low-lying areas may be sheltered from peaches are more tender than apples.
to their best advantage when planning your wind, but are potential frost pockets and There are lettuces bred to survive winter
fruit and vegetable garden, as plants that are also likely to have colder, wetter soil outdoors, and relatively late-flowering
thrive in one area can do poorly in another. than higher areas in winter. fruit plant cultivars are less likely to be
damaged by spring frosts.

Unimpeded flow Blocked flow

Cold air is heavier than Barrier across slope
warm air, so flows down traps cold air, creating
slope to lowest point frost pocket

▲ How frost pockets form

◀ Winter freeze Cold air may accumulate in certain areas of
Some crops, such the garden, making them prone to frost—these
as these Savoy and areas are known as frost pockets. They can
ornamental cabbages, occur in hollows in the ground or behind a
are hardy enough barrier, such as a hedge; thinning the lower
to withstand even a branches of hedging plants will improve the
freezing blanket of situation by allowing some cold air to flow
snow in winter. through and away.

Protection with glass or plastic is a lower rainfall, as the falling air warms. demanding. Chemical fungicides can
proven method of growing fruit and In areas of low rainfall there is risk of be effective in controlling diseases,
vegetables in a frost-prone climate drought, the effects ranging in severity and if used as directed they should
(see pp.43–48), and tender fruits may from checked plant growth to crop loss. pose little risk to the environment
be nurtured in the shelter of a relatively Leafy vegetables such as lettuces require or the gardener, but they can be less
warm wall (see previous page). a steady supply of water to develop into effective in high-rainfall areas. Where
Frost does provide some benefits an edible product, and water is similarly the gardener sensibly wishes to keep
to gardeners. It helps in the shattering essential for fruit to swell. Conservation fungicide spraying to a minimum, it
of clods on clay soils (see pp.14–15), of natural water resources is very becomes essential to discourage diseases
and will also help to destroy or reduce important, and gardeners need to ensure by excellent plant care. Some fruit
overwintering pests and diseases. that the soil holds moisture well and to and vegetable cultivars with natural
Cold air accumulates in hollows, so reduce surface evaporation by the use of resistance to disease are also available,
be alert to the potential effects of frost mulches (see pp.41–42). but the general choice will inevitably
pockets (see above right). Sometimes such A high-rainfall climate brings its be reduced in a high-rainfall climate.
reservoirs of cold air can be removed own challenges: the greatest of these
by opening up gaps in barriers, such as is the likelihood of waterlogged soil. ALTITUDE AND EXPOSURE
hedges, to allow air current to f low to Good soil drainage is important for Strong winds are predominantly a
a lower level. A slightly sloping garden kitchen gardens anywhere, but it is a feature of exposed sites. Gardens at high
site is therefore less likely to be prone prime consideration in such localities. altitudes will usually be more prone
to frost, provided that the air f low is Young vegetable plants are particularly to strong winds, as will coastal sites,
not obstructed. Gardens in coastal areas vulnerable in saturated soils that are where salt deposits on leaves can be an
are much less likely to be subject to cold and airless: growth is inhibited, additional problem. Strong winds can
frost, although this is inevitably at the and vital nutrients, such as lime and also be created where air is funneled
expense of exposure to the damaging nitrogen, may also become depleted. between buildings or natural features.
effects of high winds. High rainfall encourages some The most obvious effects of wind
pests and diseases, such as slugs are physical damage and loss of stability;
LEVELS OF RAINFALL and snails and damping off (see Plant other adverse effects, less immediately
Rainfall is a major influence on the Problems, pp.246–264). Fruit crops apparent, include increased water loss
success of fruit and vegetable gardening. are more prone to disease in areas of and a reduction in the pollinating
Levels of rainfall across temperate high rainfall and high humidity: trees activity of flying insects.
regions are often highly variable, due to suffer shoot, leaf, and fruit infections, Shelter, in the form of well-placed
the effect of topographic features such as and soft fruits, such as strawberries and windbreaks (see pp.12–13), is necessary
plains, hills, or mountains. A hillside raspberries, are affected by fruit soft rot for the gardener to achieve success
facing the prevailing wind experiences and show root growth restriction. Fruit in cropping in these conditions.
relatively high rainfall, as the rising air crop management in areas receiving Fortunately, of all the elements of
cools, causing precipitation; the leeward more than 39in (100cm) of rainfall natural climate, the effects of wind
side of the hill is its rain shadow, with in an average year will be very can perhaps most readily be modified.

Shelter from wind

There is no doubt that the provision Sheltered garden
of shelter around a fruit and vegetable The mature hedge
garden is vital to successful production. that surrounds this
garden affords the
It has been shown to raise temperatures ideal protection
by up to 5˚F (3˚C), encouraging the from wind. Its
opening and pollination of f lowers and semipermeable
the ripening of wood and fruit. In any nature has the
site, no matter how suitable the soil and effect of breaking
climate, carefully selected shelter will up and slowing the
wind without giving
increase yields. In some cases, shelter
rise to damaging
will be essential for any kind of success, turbulence, and crops
and the earlier it is in place the better. flourish in the settled
conditions created.
Wind has both immediately apparent
and unseen influences on crops. The
most obvious effects result from high temperatures. Winds increase water often a risk of creating a frost pocket
winds. Branches of fruit trees and bushes loss from plants, especially those newly by enclosing an area where very cold
are broken, and trees on rootstocks planted out, because air moving over air can accumulate (see p.11). Shelter
that are shallow-rooting can be blown the leaves causes evaporation. This features can cause shade and impede
over in gales. There may be blossom drying slows growth, as plants reduce the even distribution of rainfall. The
damage in springtime, and loss of fruit activity to conserve moisture. The effect enhanced temperature and relatively
as crops reach maturity. Physical damage is heightened during hot, dry summer still air of the microclimate (see p.10)
to vegetables is most likely to be seen in months and is aggravated by the drying may create favorable conditions for
taller crops, such as Brussels sprouts and effects of wind on the soil surface. plant pests and diseases. Where living
fava beans, keeling over. Pea and bean On exposed, flat or elevated sites, plants are used to establish shelter,
supports may be loosened or destroyed, wind can erode very light or peaty soils. they may compete for moisture. In
and high winds can damage or even The pollinating activity of insects is likely any situation, bear in mind all of these
destroy glass or plastic structures, such to be reduced, and if pesticide sprays are considerations at the planning stage.
as tunnel cloches, used to protect crops used, their operation can be much less Shelter is clearly most valuable in
like strawberries and many vegetables. effective as they are blown off-target. protecting crops from the prevailing
More tender foliage, such as that of wind, but there can be damage from
lettuces, beans, and cucurbits, may be PLANNING SHELTER cold winds from other directions, and
damaged. Near to the sea, wind often There is a wide range of potential the best practice is to establish shelter
also carries damaging salt deposits. benefits to be gained from shelter, both around all sides of the fruit and
Aside from these clearly visible effects in gardens with some level of existing vegetable garden. A good windbreak
of wind, horticultural experiments shelter within a developed urban will provide 30ft (10m) of protection
have shown significant depression in setting, and in country gardens, but on the leeward side for every 3ft (1m)
the growth and cropping of fruits and the advantages do need to be weighed of height, so a large garden will need
vegetables on open sites. The most likely against the possible disadvantages. some internal windbreaks if the
causes are higher water loss from plants Establishing shelter incurs financial perimeter shelter is not to be too high
and lower average air and soil expense and physical effort. There is and cause possible shading problems.
Negative pressure Height of turbulence Extent of turbulence
Action of wind
Air passing over top of barrier creates Air will be disturbed for up Effects may extend over
Solid windbreak negative pressure on lee side to twice height of barrier whole garden site
barriers are actually
Oncoming air is
forced up over the Windward side
Turbulence created
barrier, then drawn
as air is forced
down on the other upward
side by the low
pressure behind the
barrier. Turbulence
is created both on
the leeward side and
to a lesser extent on
the windward side.


Alder (Alnus glutinosa) Especially good Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) Bears small
on damp sites, and bears catkins in spring. leaves with saw-toothed margins. Like beech,
Trim in fall. Seed-raised and inexpensive. it retains a large proportion of dead leaves until
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) Bears abundant spring if clipped in late summer. Seed-raised
small, attractive leaves. Tolerant of clipping; and so relatively inexpensive.
if done in late summer, a large proportion of Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) Makes
the crisp, dead leaves remain attached until a decorative hedge with pink flowers in spring
spring. Seed-raised, so relatively inexpensive. if grown in full sun, and does well on most
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) Tolerates soils. Trim after flowering.
strong winds, but it is prone to fireblight Roses (Rosa) Alba, Gallica, and sweet briar
disease and so not recommended for a fruit roses can be used in moderately exposed sites.
garden. Trim after flowering or in the fall. Reduce some stems and remove a few of the
Hazel (Corylus avellana) Multistemmed, oldest when dormant in winter.
with strong shoots, attractive catkins in Spiraea ‘Arguta’ Grows on most soils in full
spring if lightly trimmed, and yellow sun and bears dense clusters of white flowers
leaves in the fall. in spring. Trim after flowering. Spiraea ‘Arguta’

Avoid solid barriers, which can create the following spring. Set out plants erection at the exposed boundaries
turbulent eddies and cause damage at 24–36in (60–90cm) spacings, and of a garden or as internal dividers,
on the leeward side. If gusting wind plan to restrict shelter hedges to a and they should be no more than
is filtered through a roughly 50 percent maximum height of 8ft (2.5m). 6ft (2m) high. Make the fence with
penetrable shelter barrier there is little After planting, always add a mulch strong support posts, spaced at a
risk of this. Many hedges naturally of rotted manure or compost (see distance equivalent to the screen
give this sort of shelter; with artificial pp.41–42) along the line. height, and always attach the cladding
barriers, solid parts should be separated to the windward side of the posts.
by their own width or slightly less. ARTIFICIAL BARRIERS There are several specially made
Shelter barriers made from fencing materials available, such as plastic
SHELTER HEDGES provide instant protection and require net, or more durable and expensive
Hedges will be the first choice for most less annual maintenance than hedges. plastic strap cladding; black is the
gardeners, because they are attractive and They do not encroach, and in many least intrusive color. Instant decorative
have a natural association with fruit cases can more readily be moved, but cover can be achieved with post and
and vegetables. They require careful initial outlay in cost and effort are wire fences planted with blackberries
planning to ensure that they do not generally greater than with planting a or rambler roses. Permeable wooden
block sunlight and rainfall, and regular hedge, and the effect is less decorative. lath panels and willow hurdles are
trimming to keep them neat and within Artificial shelter screens are suitable for also suitable.
bounds. The garden needs to be large
enough to allow for an uncropped area Artificial shelter barriers
at least 6ft (2m) wide along the hedge,
due to the moisture and nutrient needs
of the hedging plants; in many sites this
area can be used as access pathway.
Almost any woody ornamental plant
can be trained as a hedge (see box above)
and many evergreens are traditionally
grown as excellent barriers. However, it
is best to choose a deciduous subject for
enclosing a kitchen garden, because it is
more likely to filter the wind acceptably:
native species will do well. A mix of
shelter hedges provides a greater range Plastic strap cladding Woven mesh fence
of seasonal interest, and espalier- and This heavyweight windbreak is suitable for This lightweight plastic mesh makes
cordon-trained apples and pears (see an exposed site. The initial cost is high, and an effective and relatively inexpensive
pp.174–184) make attractive shelter it is not the most visually appealing solution, windbreak. It can also be used to provide
barriers within the garden. but it will stand up to strong winds and last quick temporary shelter while hedging
for years. Relatively lightweight uprights plants become established to provide a
Fall planting allows trees or shrubs to must be closely spaced, as here. more permanent solution.
establish over winter and grow well in

Soil types and structure

Just as we cannot alter features such as Soil supports and sustains plants, able to identify the essential type of
climatic conditions and aspect, so we providing anchorage and a source of the soil on which a kitchen garden
have to accept the soil that comes with nutrients and water. It is highly variable is to be established. This is because
a garden plot. You may be fortunate according to location, even between the different soil types have different
enough to have a garden site with soil sites in close proximity. Soils differ in attributes, which affect plant growth
naturally quite suitable for producing their physical characteristics, their levels and call for different ways of cultivating
excellent crops, or one that has been of organic matter, and their depth and and maintaining the site. With a few
made so through a history of careful condition. All soils are a mixture of specific preferences, most fruits and
cultivation; the ideal soil would be a weathered rock and rotted plant and vegetables will grow reasonably well
fertile, well-drained loam 18in (45cm) animal remains or waste, naturally on a wide range of soils.
deep. Often, however, we have to supporting myriad organisms, whose Soil texture is broadly classified into
contend with cold, heavy, poorly lifecycles make the soil into a living five main types: clay, silt, sand, chalk,
drained clay soil or light, sandy soil medium. It is organic matter and this and peat (see chart below left). The term
prone to rapid drying and loss of soil fauna that give the surface layers loam is widely used to suggest fertility
fertility. Luckily, these less than ideal their range of brown coloring. and a soil of all around excellence for
soils can almost always be improved; growing, as in the recommendation to
even where this cannot be done, at SOIL TEXTURE choose “a good medium loam.” The
least some fruit and vegetables can The average gardener does not need term really needs qualification, for
be grown in raised beds (see pp.32–34) to learn or understand soil science there is clay loam, silt loam, or sandy
or in containers (see pp.35–36). in depth, but it is necessary to be loam, depending on the basic soil type;
clay, silt, and sand describe soil textures
based on the proportions of different-
Particles below 0.002mm in size are defined as clay. Clay soil is often sized mineral particles found in them.
described as heavy, and sometimes regarded as difficult, but it has Although the basic mineral content of
very useful qualities. Clay naturally holds certain nutrients in chemical soil is fixed by its origin, the structural
combination, so that they are not easily leached out and instead become
available to plant roots gradually. It binds together better than sandy soil
nature is affected by the occurrence of
and is more water-retentive. Disadvantages are that it is relatively slow to stones or gravel and also by the addition
warm and is susceptible to waterlogging in winter and baking in summer, of lime (see pp.18–19) and organic
Clay problems reduced by adding bulky manures. Timing of cultivation
requires care, but in many respects a clay soil is very desirable in the
matter (see pp.24–26).
kitchen garden. Black currants, plums, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages
often do well on clay. SOIL FERTILITY AND STRUCTURE
The organic matter and fauna in the
Particles between 0.002mm and 0.05mm in size are classified as silt. soil give it both its fertility and its
The silt soil is intermediate between clay and sandy soil, and has a
smooth or silky texture. Silty soil is more retentive of nutrients and
structure; these two are closely linked.
water than sandy soil, but it is liable to compaction, especially when it One essential component of a fertile
is dry. Plentiful organic matter will make this a good soil, especially for soil is humus. The term is usually taken
early sowings.
Silt to refer to the actual organic content of
soil, but this is a simplification. Humus
Particles between 0.05mm and 2.0mm in size are sand; a sandy soil is
commonly termed light. It does not hold together well, so is prone to
is a complex mix of compounds that
erosion on exposed or sloping sites, and its ability to retain water and derive from the decay of that organic
nutrients is poor because of its open nature. These properties can be matter to form a dark colored, sticky
corrected by the incorporation of generous amounts of bulky organic substance. It has a crucial influence
Sandy manures. Advantages are that it is relatively easy to cultivate and also
early in warming, a trait useful for strawberries, salad crops, young root on the retention and release of nutrients,
crops, and legumes. the formation of good soil structure,
and the soil’s ability to hold water.
Chalky or limestone soil is abundant in some areas. It is invariably Also essential to soil fertility are
shallow and well drained, but the high lime content can pose problems,
particularly in the cultivation of fruits. This kind of soil is moderately
the wide range of living organisms
fertile, with organic matter being broken down quickly, and should be that populate it, which we often take
regularly dressed with acidic organic matter such as farmyard manure for granted. These include beneficial
Chalky (see pp.22–23). bacteria and fungi, and a range of
microscopic worms and mites, besides
Peat soil is encountered on basically wetland sites where sedges and
mosses naturally thrive. Where it is drained and dressed with fertilizer
the visible centipedes, earthworms,
this type of soil can be made highly fertile, since it is both moisture- and beetles. All rely on organic matter,
retentive and high in organic matter. Peat soils are usually acidic, and variously incorporated and applied
they can be prone to being blown away by wind when they are dry. annually in mulches, which they break
down into humus.

Visual assessment of soil

Clay soil Sandy and silt soils

A clay soil is one containing more than 25 percent clay particles. It is Sandy soil has less than eight percent clay and is mainly sand
sticky after rainfall, sets into hard clods when dry, and is heavy to dig particles. It is very easy to dig (see above left), feels gritty when rubbed
(see above left). Test the soil by handling it. When moist, a clay soil between the fingers, and does not hold together when squeezed (see
feels tacky, is shiny if smoothed, and can be formed into a ball that above right). Silt soils are intermediate between clay and sand: they feel
holds together (see above right). silky and show imprints when pressed, but do not form a cohesive ball.

A soil must have good structure if plants the levels of organic matter present. especially in wet conditions. Aeration
are to thrive. Soil structure is measured Also important are the nutrients that can even be damaged by continual
by its tendency to form crumbs of the organisms need to form humus, winter rain. This damage can be
mineral particles and organic matter and lime (see pp.18–19), which is vital reduced by leaving a covering of
held together by humus. Well-structured to crumb formation. organic matter (see pp.41–42) on the
soil is easy to cultivate and has evenly Other factors helping the development surface during winter, which can be
distributed air spaces. This aeration of good soil structure include the action dug in to maintain soil fertility, or
allows plant roots to extend through of frost and alternating wet and dry by planting an overwintering green
the soil easily and facilitates movement conditions. Ensure that the soil structure manure or crop cover (see p.23).
of water and nutrients. It also has is not damaged by being cultivated in
the effect of warming the soil and so wet conditions or by excessive traffic SOIL PROFILE
promoting plant growth. Soil structure over the dug surface. Walking or moving The horizontal bands that can be seen
is inf luenced by the activities of soil wheeled implements across the surface when digging down into a soil make up
organisms in creating humus and by can compact soil at any time, but the profile. The most easily identifiable
profile in gardens is topsoil, subsoil, and
the parent rock material below them.
Topsoil is the layer of most activity,
because this contains organic matter
Characteristically and organisms that live on it. The
dark soil containing subsoil is usually paler in color, and
nutrient-rich is formed from weathered rock. The
organic matter
depth of topsoil and subsoil through
which roots can penetrate has great
Paler, less crumbly, importance to the growth of plants.
and less fertile It is worth digging a small test hole
than topsoil
on your site to ascertain the profile.
Fruit trees (see pp.174–205) do best
▲ The gardener’s friend where the total depth of well-drained,
Parent material
Among the most beneficial inhabitants of weathered soil is at least 24in (60cm);
Containing fragments
fertile soil, earthworms burrow extensively, sweet cherries ideally need at least 3ft
broken from rock
improving soil aeration and pulling organic
layer below (90cm). Soft fruits (see pp.211–233)
matter down from the surface and assisting
in its breakdown by digesting it.
require a soil depth of at least 18in
(45cm), except for strawberries, which
can succeed in a depth of 15in (38cm), as
can vegetable crops. These are general
▸ Soil profile
Almost all soils are made up of distinct layers
limits and are based on the success of
Parent rock
of topsoil, subsoil, and material weathered Unweathered rock
crops grown commercially; what is of
from the parent rock. The depth of all of these underlying all soil paramount importance is that water can
layers can vary depending on the soil’s history. drain freely through any depth of profile.

DRAINAGE OF THE SOIL A soil pan Topsoil

Roots require air to grow and to absorb Digging an inspection pit Open and crumbly soil
nutrients and water. Waterlogged soil to a depth of 3ft (90cm) can become temporarily
should reveal the cause waterlogged if drainage
becomes cold and airless. This prevents of any poor drainage. is impeded
nutrient uptake and leads to plant roots Here, the problem is a
becoming diseased or even dying. densely compacted layer
There are clues that indicate a poorly or pan that has formed
drained garden site. The most obvious between the topsoil and
the subsoil. This is Compacted layer
is evidence of persistent puddling Dense, hard layer of
preventing water from
after rain. Others are the presence of compacted soil impedes
draining freely into the flow of water
plants that thrive in wet conditions, subsoil, and needs
such as sedges, rushes, or moss, and breaking up. Compaction
poor growth of perennial plants. like this can be avoided
Poor drainage arises in several ways. by minimizing traffic over
It can occur if the topsoil is infertile the soil.
Once compaction is
through poor cultivation or lack of broken up, water should
drain well through
humus: careful cultivation and dressing
subsoil structure
with organic matter (see pp.22–23) will
improve structure. The soil profile may it is worth digging a narrow inspection more intractable: it may be that the
naturally include an impervious layer pit on suspect sites to examine the soil garden lies in a hollow of natural
known as a pan, which is often only profile. A natural hard pan is easily drainage from surrounding land, or
1–2in (2.5–5cm) thick. A pan can occur identified, as is compaction, which is that the area has a naturally high water
in the subsoil as a result of accumulated often marked by a dark horizontal band table. Both of these situations would
minerals, especially iron. Alternatively, (see above). Deep double digging (see be very difficult to remedy, and in
there may be a barrier in the subsoil p.39) will break up compacted layers, such conditions it may be necessary to
or the topsoil caused by compaction. and a natural hard pan can be breached grow crops in raised beds (see pp.32–34)
Because free drainage is so important, with a pickax. Other problems are or in containers (see pp.35–36).

Constructing drains
Pipe trenches Spacing pipes Joining pipes
Where cultivation methods will not solve Pipes should be at least 2ft (60cm) Lines of plastic or clay Pipes are laid end
the problem, it can be worth installing a and up to 3ft (90cm) below pipes should be laid to end—at junctions,
drainage system, but only the most difficult ground level approximately 11ft pipe ends are roughly
(3.5m) apart shaped to fit together,
sites justify the expense and work. At their
then covered by flat
simplest, such a system consists of surface tiles to stop soil from
ditches (see below) leading into a soakaway— Upturned silting up inside
a large pit at a low point filled with rubble. turves
Water will seep into the drains and be
carried to the soakaway. The drains can
be either left open or filled with gravel
and topped with upturned turves. A more
elaborate system is to lay a herringbone
grid of buried pipes (see right).

May be laid to give
level surface
Prevents soil from
Gravel bed
clogging gravel below
Coarse rubble graded
Gravel or stones to fine sand ensures
Provides free- water flows smoothly
into drainage pipes Soakaway
draining base
Drainage material Brick-lined pit, about
to trench
Soakaway is filled with rubble, 6ft (2m) square and
French drain then coarse sand or gravel and up to 6ft (2m) deep
This version of a land drain is simply a ditch topped with upturned turves
with sloping sides, up to 3ft (90cm) deep, Herringbone drainage system with soakaway
filled first with a layer of gravel or rubble, A permanent system of 4–6in (10–15cm) On a flat site, the pipes must be laid sloping
then brushwood, finally covered over with diameter perforated plastic drain pipes can down toward the soakaway; on a sloping site,
topsoil to give a level and natural surface. be laid, herringbone-fashion, across the site. they can be laid parallel to the surface.

Essential nutrients
All fruit and vegetable crops need a Boron deficiency
constant adequate supply of nutrients to Plants of the
sustain growth and yield a worthwhile brassica family may
occasionally be
harvest. Good nutrition is ensured by affected by boron
attention at the time of preparing the deficiency in garden
garden and then continual maintenance. soil. The most
Soil nutrients come from several common symptom
sources—weathering of minerals, the is the appearance of
breakdown of organic matter, chemical hollow stems in the
plants. This is most
reaction in the soil, and absorption
likely to be the result
from the atmosphere. The gardener of either a naturally
can also inf luence nutrient levels by alkaline soil or
applying additional fertilizers and excessive applications
organic matter (see pp.20–23). of lime, as a high pH
causes boron to be
locked up and so
unavailable to plants.
The essential plant nutrients required
in the greatest quantity are nitrogen,
phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen
is absorbed in quantity by plants to
promote growth; leafy vegetables
(see pp.123–128) use a great deal, as the effects of acidity (see p.18), excessive acidic soils. Dressings of potassium are
do black currants, plums, and pears amounts of another nutrient, or poor needed annually in the kitchen garden;
among the fruit crops (see pp.146–237). root growth as a result of waterlogging it should always be included in dressings
Phosphorus is necessary for chemical (see facing page) or disease. that are applied prior to planting, in
reactions within the plant and is vital Measuring levels of nutrients such order to balance the effects of nitrogen.
for cell division and consequently as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium
the development of shoots and roots. in a garden soil is not easy—especially LEVELS OF MICRONUTRIENTS
Potassium is essential in plant nitrogen because of its mobility. Because plant growth requires very low
metabolism, giving hardiness, steady Proprietary kits are available, but, levels of micronutrients, real deficiency
growth, disease resistance, and color for accuracy, laboratory testing and symptoms are rarely seen. The effects
and f lavor in vegetables and fruit. professional analysis are best; this is of shortages most frequently occur on
Magnesium, calcium, and sulfur also inevitably less straightforward, and alkaline soils (see p.18), especially light
have essential roles, but are required expensive. Once initial testing of the soils affected by drought.
in smaller amounts. Magnesium is a kitchen garden soil has taken place, Plants on such soils frequently show
constituent of chlorophyll, needed to annual testing thereafter is not necessary, symptoms of iron deficiency, such as
convert light into energy for growth, provided the soil is well maintained. severe yellowing of the growing tips,
and has a role in the transport of with the mature leaves also yellowed
phosphorus within plants. Calcium LEVELS OF THE MAJOR NUTRIENTS except around the small veins. Often
facilitates growth. Sulfur is a central Nitrogen is used in quantity and is also seen in fruit crops, this is known as
constituent of the protein in living highly prone to washing out in rain. lime-induced chlorosis. Manganese
cells, and is usually in short supply. Make regular supplementary dressings, deficiency also occurs on alkaline soils,
There are also essential trace elements but avoid excessive amounts, which can causing yellowing of the older leaves,
or micronutrients, required in much lead to rank growth and unfruitfulness; starting at the edges; on acid soils,
smaller quantities. The most important and also lead to the pollution of water levels of manganese toxic to plants can
of these are iron, manganese, copper, courses. Follow directions on proprietary occur. Boron deficiency may arise on
molybdenum, boron, chlorine, and zinc. fertilizers (see pp.20–21). light soils after heavy liming and is
Phosphorus is retained quite well, and often seen in hollow stems in brassicas;
DETERMINING NUTRIENT LEVELS sufficient levels are present in most soils, zinc deficiency can occur in similar
Total absence of a nutrient from the an exception being old, grazed pastures conditions, stunting shoots and leaves.
soil is rare; low nutrient levels as a result converted to garden. Supplements are Molybdenum can be made unavailable
of leaching by rainfall or f looding, or probably needed only every two or on acid soils, causing damaged growing
through depletion by successive crops three years in a well-maintained garden. points and whiptail in caulif lowers, in
over time are more common. Another Potassium is usually held in clay soils which the leaf blade does not develop.
significant cause of deficiency is reserves by a chemical reaction, but is easily lost Controlling the pH of the soil will help
in the soil becoming unavailable due to to leaching on sandy, free-draining, and to prevent these problems (see pp.18–19).

Lime and soil acidity

Lime is a vital soil ingredient in the values above it, up to pH 14, indicate
kitchen garden because it affects increasing alkalinity. Garden soils usually
the fertility of the soil in several ways. have a pH of between 4.5 and 7.5, and
Lime is itself a source of calcium, an most of the crops to be grown in a fruit
essential major element for healthy and vegetable garden will do best on alkaline soil
plant growth, and is also vital to the soils of around pH 6.5; this standard unsuitable
production of a good soil structure. remains constant, and is the level for for most
edible crops
which you should aim in treating your 8
THE EFFECTS OF LIME soil; the pH level directly or indirectly
The presence of lime governs the acidity affects everything else that you do.
of the soil: the more lime present, There are accessible and inexpensive
the less acidic the soil. This affects the means for the gardener to determine
microorganisms that break down the level of soil acidity and the need for
organic matter, which mostly cannot lime. Simple pH measurement kits are 7 Neutral

survive in a soil that is very acidic. Soil available from good garden centers and
acidity is also important in the uptake mail-order retailers; their results are easy
of nutrients, because some of them, to read and sufficiently reliable. Use a kit Best soil for
such as potassium compounds, become in the first stages of planning, and rectify most edible
unavailable to plants in soils that are any imbalance before planting. It is also crops
very acid, while others may accumulate advisable to use them for checking every
to concentrations that are toxic to few seasons, as levels will change, and it
plants (see p.17). The incidence of some may be necessary to make adjustments.
diseases is inf luenced by soil acidity; On a large site, take small samples
clubroot in cabbages thrives on acid from across the area, then mix them
soils and scab in potatoes on alkaline before testing a small quantity as a 5
ones (see Plant Problems, pp.246–264). representative sample. Alternatively,
Lime has a valuable beneficial effect perform several tests at various points.
on the structure of clay soils, because
its presence initiates a chemical process EXTREME pH PROBLEMS
that aggregates soil particles into stable The acidity of the soil affects the 4
crumbs, which are clusters of mineral availability of nutrients (see p.17), and
and organic matter. A good crumb modifying soil acidity by applying lime
structure is important both for proper is an effective means of inf luencing
aeration of the soil and for effective nutrient availability. Some liming Strongly acid
water and nutrient retention (see p.15). products can also be sources of the soil unsuitable
for most edible
The level of lime also influences the main nutrients; for example, ammonium
living inhabitants of soil. The activity nitrate formulated with lime contributes
of earthworms and the microorganisms, nitrogen, and dolomitic limestone also
especially bacteria, that reduce bulky contains magnesium. pH scale and values
organic matter to a constituent of humus A soil with an excessively high lime This section of the pH scale shows the
range most likely to be found in garden
(see p.14), decreases as the acidity of the content is just as unsatisfactory for fruit situations. The best soil testing kits assess
soil increases. and vegetable growing as a soil with a suspension of soil in distilled water; the
too little. In very alkaline conditions, pH level is indicated by the color of the
KNOWING YOUR SOIL pH most of the essential nutrients that are suspension after mixing.
To gain the maximum benefits of
lime in soil and avoid the problems GUIDE TO LIME APPLICATION
resulting from its absence or excess,
Original Amount of ground limestone per sq yd (sq m) to adjust to pH 6.5
it is necessary to understand first how pH
to measure the acidity of the soil, and Sandy or gravelly soil Medium loam soil Peat or clay soil
second how to adjust the level. The 4.5 1lb 3oz (640g) 1lb 10oz (920g) 2lb 2oz (1150g)
degree of acidity of a substance is 5.0 12oz (400g) 1lb 3oz (650g) 1lb 7oz (790g)
measured on a graduated system known
5.5 7oz (225g) 11oz (375g) 14oz (470g)
as the pH scale. At the middle of this
scale, pH 7 represents the neutral 6.0 4oz (135g) 5oz (190g) 12oz (400g)
condition: values lower than this, down 6.5 0 0 0
to pH 0, indicate increasing acidity, and

Liming the soil

Weigh out enough lime to treat
1 1sq yd (1sq m) of your plot. Put it
into a pot and mark the level, so that
you can measure out the rest of the
lime using the pot. Mark out your site
into a square yard (square meter) grid.
Put the lime on the blade of a shovel
2 and scatter it gently and evenly over
your marked-out square of soil. It is
important that liming is done on
a still day, so that the lime is not
blown onto other areas of the
garden, causing scorching of plants. 1 2
Work across the plot treating each
3 square of the grid in the same way.
Rake over the surface to distribute the
lime evenly and incorporate it into the
soil, or dig it in to a depth of 6in (15cm).

required in only small quantities—trace gradually, so regular pH checking is

needed in the early development of the SAFETY TIPS
elements such as iron, manganese, and
copper—cannot be readily absorbed garden. Dressing requirements of more ■ Store with care, keeping lime or sulfur

by the plant (see p.17). On overly lime- than 12oz per sq yd (400g per sq m) in a clearly labeled, closed container,
rich soil, apples and pears often show need to be applied over several seasons. securely placed out of reach of children.
marked yellowing (chlorosis) between Whatever the quantity, best effects ■ Choose your time and only ever apply

the leaf veins, due to iron or manganese will be obtained where the application lime or sulfur on a clear day.
having become unavailable, and similar is made well before planting, ideally ■ Cover your eyes with protective goggles

chlorosis is found in some vegetables, on two or more occasions in the fall that offer protection around the sides and
for example, beets. and winter; this will allow the lime fit closely to the face.
■ Protect your skin by wearing pants, long
to initiate changes in the soil gradually
APPLYING LIME and more effectively. Apply lime after sleeves, and close-fitting gloves.
■ Wear a simple cloth mask over your
It is much easier to reduce soil acidity incorporating animal manures, but
mouth and nose, since lime is easily inhaled.
than to raise it, so take care in deciding not less than three or four weeks later,
■ Be sensible: the operation of liming is
how to apply lime. Three forms of lime to avoid chemical reactions that will
a perfectly safe practice if these simple
are generally available: quicklime, which release ammonia and allow nitrogen
precautions are followed.
is caustic and dangerous; hydrated lime, to escape, and aim to work in the
which is faster acting but can damage dressing to a depth of 6in (15cm).
foliage; and crushed chalk or ground mask
limestone, the least hazardous and REDUCING ALKALINITY
usually the least expensive form of Rainfall, continuous cultivation, and
lime for garden use. cropping will gradually increase soil
Rates of application to bring an acidity. Application of flowers of sulfur
acidic soil to pH 6.5 vary not only also has an effect, but this is slow, and
according to the existing pH value but dependent on relatively warm soil for
also to the soil type: the chemistry of bacterial activity. For general guidance,
a clay soil makes it far more resistant to apply 8oz per sq yd (270g per sq m) on
the effects of liming than a sandy soil. clay soils and half this quantity on sandy
A general guide to application rates is soils. Repeat pH testing and application
shown in the table (see left). The pH as necessary; the process is only worth Latex gloves Eye protectors
of very acidic soil can be raised only considering in extreme conditions.

Fertilizers and manures

Most previously cultivated garden sites derived directly from animal and plant CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS
have adequate levels of nutrients (see wastes, while fertilizer is any material The letters N, P, and K on fertilizer
p.17), with the most likely exception that provides more concentrated packaging are the chemical symbols
of lime (see pp.18–19); old grassland nutrients than bulky manure, and can standing for nitrogen, phosphorus,
converted to garden use is often low be in powder, granular, or liquid forms. and potassium, respectively.
in phosphorus. Cropping makes heavy Manure inevitably comes from organic Phosphorus and potassium are
demands on soil, however, and a fruit sources; fertilizers may be from organic included in fertilizers as more stable
and vegetable garden requires more or inorganic sources. Organic substances or accessible chemical compounds:
feeding than an ornamental garden. are those derived from decomposed phosphorus as phosphate (P2O5) and
As an insurance, incorporate fertilizers plant and animal remains and the waste potassium as potash (K 2O). The shorter
and manures (detailed below and on p.22) products of animals; inorganic fertilizers chemical symbols are most used for
containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and are derived from nonliving, carbon- convenience, but all the different
potassium as a base dressing before free sources, including rock. Many descriptions are met with in general
planting. After good site preparation (see gardeners, committed to the principles gardening parlance.
pp.37–40), maintain fertility by annual, of organic growing, prefer to use There is a recognized notation for
light applications of fertilizer to areas dug organic products to the total or near the nutrient content of compounds,
over for cropping, and by top-dressing exclusion of inorganic fertilizers, which is always printed on the fertilizer
or surface application to growing crops. regarding their use as unacceptable for packaging. This gives the percentage
a variety of reasons. There is a view that content of each nutrient, always in
UNDERSTANDING TERMINOLOGY organic derivatives are much less likely the order N:P:K, so a compound
The terms manure and fertilizer are to pollute the environment, and that fertilizer that is described as 20:10:10
commonly used interchangeably, but it edible crops grown organically are will contain 20 percent nitrogen,
is worth distinguishing them. Manure more wholesome and of better f lavor 10 percent phosphate, and 10 percent
best describes bulky material that is than those grown using other products. potash (see also chart, below).


Commonly available Average nutrient content Approximate Characteristics and uses
forms of fertilizer (percent) rate of
Nitrogen Phosphate Potash application

21 0 0 1–2oz per sq yd Also called ammonium sulfate, this is a fast-acting, crystalline

(35–70g per sq m) source of nitrogen, particularly suitable for top-dressing. Nitrogen
or 11 ⁄2 times this is used in quantity, especially by cabbages, main-crop potatoes,
for the higher- celery, leeks, beets, pears, plums, black currants, and rhubarb.
demand crops
Sulfate of ammonia
0 0 50 ⁄2 –1oz per Also called potassium sulfate. Potassium chloride has a higher
sq yd (20–35g potash content and is cheaper but can be toxic in excess,
per sq m) especially on tomatoes, gooseberries, and red currants.
Potassium nitrate is expensive and used in liquid feeds.
Potash is important for crop quality, balanced growth, and
Sulfate of potash disease resistance.

0 47 0 1–2oz per A concentrated form of phosphate, best added to a depth of

sq yd (35–70g 8in (20cm). Phosphate, vital for cell division and root growth, is
per sq m) relatively immobile and quite small annual dressings are needed.
Farmyard manure and garden compost maintain suitable levels.
Superphosphate is less concentrated, at about 18–21 percent.
Triple superphosphate

7 7 7 4–6oz per The widely available Growmore formulation is a general

sq yd compound fertilizer suitable for the maintenance of nutrients
(135–210g in a well-prepared fruit and vegetable garden, ensuring adequate
per sq m) supplies of all three essential nutrients.

General compound

20 10 10 1–2oz per Artificial fertilizers that are incorporated as a base dressing at

sq yd (35–70g preparation time should be scattered evenly over the surface of
per sq m) the soil to avoid pockets of infertility: this is easiest to achieve
with granulated formulations. This 20:10:10 compound is suitable
for leafy crops.
High-nitrogen compound

Top-dressing crops Processed organic fertilizers (see chart,

Weigh out fertilizer for p.22) are usually relatively expensive
1sq yd (1sq m) and
per unit of nutrient due to their
use a small container
to judge the volume. manufacturing process, and weight-for-
Wearing protective weight they contain less of the major
gloves, pour out the nutrients than inorganic fertilizers.
fertilizer into one hand They have the advantage, however,
and scatter it evenly of containing trace elements that are
over the crop rooting
usually lacking in artificials, and are also
area. Take care not
to drop any onto the
useful for their slow release of nutrients
plants—it could as the substance decomposes in the
scorch the foliage. soil. This release is governed by soil
temperature, because the soil organisms
APPLYING FERTILIZERS fertilizers. The average nutrient content involved need warmth for activity.
Wear gloves and take precautions against is printed on the packaging (see also Soil of any texture also benefits from
inhaling airborne particles when chart, facing page). Combinations of the presence of organic matter, which
handling any kind of fertilizer or manure. the elements are known as compound increases humus content and encourages
When applying base dressings before fertilizers. Straight fertilizers may worm activity, improving the soil
planting, ideally mark out the area in be formulated as crystals, powder, or structure and in turn its capacity to hold
a grid; at least measure out one square granules, while compounds are almost water and air, its temperature, and its
to help you to estimate the area. Weigh always sold in granular form, which is drainage (see pp.14–16).
out the appropriate quantity, mark its easier to apply. Inorganic fertilizers are Seaweed meal, bone meal, hoof and
volume in a pot, and then use this to also available in liquid form, suitable horn, fish meal, and fish, blood,
distribute. Incorporate the fertilizer for watering in or using as a foliar feed and bone meal are all widely available
down to a depth of 4in (10cm) by to boost growth or supplement forms of concentrated organic fertilizer
forking in or raking. This guidance nutrition in developing crops. that have long been recommended for
applies to ground preparations for most Where straight inorganic fertilizers inclusion in base dressings.
planting or sowing. All fertilizers need are used as base dressings, remember For top-dressing growing crops,
moisture to be effective; wait until that both phosphorus and potassium dried blood has excellent effects, and
just before rainfall before applying it, take longer than nitrogen to become many organic growers also advocate the
or if this is not practicable, water in available to plants, and the ideal times use of liquid feeds containing extracts of
any dressings made to dry ground. for incorporation of these nutrients comfrey or seaweed, both of which are
Liquid fertilizers may be applied by are fall and spring, respectively. These rich in minerals. Some animal carcass
watering a solution along crop rows or timings are not critical, however, and derivatives are likely to be withdrawn
around individual plants; always water a base dressing of compound fertilizer from sale because of associated risks to
onto moist soil for even distribution. can be applied when most convenient. health, however remote these may be:
Alternatively, liquids can be applied Inorganic fertilizers are suitable take precautions when using to avoid
as foliar feeds through a watering can for nitrogen top-dressing around any skin contact, accidental ingestion,
or sprayer. Cover the leaves thoroughly, individual plants or along crop rows. or inhalation. Store these substances in
and never apply foliar feeds in full Take care not to let the fertilizer touch sturdy, sealed containers, since they can
sunshine, as the leaves may be scorched. the stems or leaves, which could be attract vermin and flies.
scorched. Work the top-dressing into
INORGANIC FERTILIZERS the soil surface using a push hoe or a
Inorganic fertilizers are often known as rake. The insurance dressings suggested
artificials. These fertilizers are usually in the chart (see facing page) are likely
fast-acting, and often more efficient to be excessive on fertile soils. In the
than organics weight-for-weight, with interests of economy and avoiding harm
quite consistent content. In most cases, to the garden environment, always
however, they lack trace elements and limit applications. Much can be learned
have relatively short-term effects. Their about your crops’ annual requirements
beneficial effects are directed primarily through careful observation.
at the plant, rather than the soil in
Two types of inorganic fertilizer are In all situations concentrated organic
Raking in fertilizer
available. Those formulated to supply fertilizers have a unique role, and their Measure out the fertilizer and scatter over
mainly just one of the three principal use in the kitchen garden can certainly the surface, here a seedbed. Draw a wide rake
nutrients of nitrogen, phosphate, or be complementary to the use of lightly and evenly over the surface so that the
potash are referred to as straight inorganic fertilizers. fertilizer is worked into the soil.

BULKY MANURES already substantially broken down. also excellent for mixing with farmyard
Bulky organic manures contribute far Fresh manure is likely to generate manure in a stack to be rotted down.
more to good soil structure than any ammonia as it breaks down, which There are environmental reasons for
of the concentrated organic fertilizers. can damage plants. If your supply considering the use of treated sewage
They are mainly used as a soil additive, has not been weathered outside, leave sludge and municipal waste as bulky
but also have an important use as a it in a covered stack in the garden for soil additives, but theoretically these
surface mulch (see pp.41–42). Manures at least six months before use. substances can contain heavy metal
are often more difficult to find and Spent mushroom compost is another contaminants and are best avoided
transport, and are much more laborious possible source of bulky organic matter. in the domestic garden.
to apply, but these challenges are well It consists of straw well-composted
worth facing up to. Homemade garden with horse manure or a high-nitrogen APPLYING MANURES
compost has the advantages of being fertilizer, together with the spawning Bulky organic manures are most often
free and made on site (see pp.24–26). layer, usually a mixture of peat and incorporated into soil during fall or
The most commonly quoted form chalk or ground limestone. The nutrient winter digging (see pp.37–40). For
of bulky organic is farmyard manure. value of mushroom compost is normally most crops, it is best to mix the manure
This term describes a variable mix of similar to that of farmyard manure. evenly throughout the soil down to
dung, urine, and some kind of litter, In coastal areas it may be legal and the depth of a shovel blade (see p.38).
usually straw; the main constituent is practicable to collect seaweed; check An alternative system is to overwinter
cattle manure, but pig and poultry dung with the relevant authorities before the material as a deep layer spread
may be added. Nutrient levels are low doing so. Seaweed is relatively rich in over the surface of the soil and then dig
and variable (see chart, below). Horse potassium, with 0.5 percent nitrogen in the residue during early spring. Much
manure is often more readily available, and one percent potassium; it contains of a layer of manure overwintered this
and usually has a relatively high straw significant amounts of iron, magnesium, way will be pulled into the top layers
content and higher nutrient levels; it is and manganese, too. To avoid subjecting of soil by the action of earthworms.
excellent for improving soil structure. young crops to unacceptable levels of This natural action does not allow for
Use only well-rotted farmyard or common salt, leave seaweed out in heavy incorporation to much depth, but it is
stable manure, in which the litter is rain before incorporation. Seaweed is a suitable method for sandy soils. These


Fertilizer Typical nutrient content Approximate Characteristics and uses
(percent) rate of
Nitrogen Phosphate Potash application

10–12 0 0 2oz per sq yd Dried blood has excellent effects on boosting growth
(70g per sq m) when used as a top-dressing, and it may also be used
dry or in 2 pints as a base dressing. It can be applied either as a powder
(1 liter) water or as a liquid suspension.
Dried blood

3.5 8 5 4oz per Use as a base dressing applied several weeks before planting
sq yd (135g or sowing, and as a top-dressing.
per sq m)
Blood, fish, and bone meal
7–15 1–10 0 4oz per A slow-release fertilizer of varying nutrient levels, suitable for
sq yd (135g base dressing. Hoof and horn also raises the level of calcium
per sq m) in the soil.
Hoof and horn

2–5 1–4 1–2.5 4oz per Pelleted chicken manure is often available. This processed
sq yd (135g form is easier to spread than bulky, unprocessed manures.
per sq m) Chicken manure has a higher nitrogen and phosphate
content than farmyard manure. Use as a base dressing.
Pelleted chicken manure

0.5 0.25 0.5 10lb per The most commonly available bulky organic manure. NPK
sq yd (5kg content varies with methods of stock rearing, straw content,
per sq m) and time stored; horse manure usually has higher levels.
Rotted animal manures Of special benefit in improving soil structure.

0.7 0.3 0.3 10lb per A bulky organic material with physical properties that vary
sq yd (5kg with age. Its main value is as a soil structure improver with
per sq m) low nutrient content. Because of its lime content, regular
dressings of mushroom compost can raise the soil pH.
Spent mushroom compost

fit more easily into the plan of short-

term vegetable crops than into the
growing of perennial fruit crops.
The greatest nutrient contribution
from green manuring is nitrogen.
To gain the most benefit from this,
plan for the shortest interval between
incorporation and cropping. Usually
the best time to dig in a green manure
crop is as it nears flowering time; do
Neglected soil Spreading manure not allow it to be in the ground so long
Soil devoid of organic matter is likely to have On light soil the structure can be protected that it becomes woody; this contributes
poor structure. Water absorption can be a from winter rain by spreading a 2–3in (5–8cm) less nitrogen and will temporarily take
particular problem on poorly structured light layer of well-rotted manure over the surface.
nitrogen from the soil on decomposition.
soil, as shown here. Bulky manure improves Much of the manure will be drawn into the
absorption and retention on all soils. soil by worms; dig or fork in the rest in spring.
benefit from protection against severe especially where the green manure can A suitable green manure crop needs to
weather during the winter, and are be left to grow over winter. It will help establish well from sowing and grow
quite amenable to spring digging, when to stabilize the soil and also allow for quickly to produce lush bulk. Suitable
the residues can be turned in. Generally the steady absorption of soluble nutrients annuals for garden use are peas and annual
speaking, the more well-rotted bulky that might otherwise be washed out in lupins (Lupinus), both of which have root
organic matter that can be worked into heavy winter rainfall. nodules capable of absorbing atmospheric
the fruit and vegetable garden soil at Remember that in dry seasons green nitrogen. Also suitable are rape (Brassica
preparation time the better. Plan to add manures can actually deplete the soil napus) and white mustard (Sinapis alba),
at least 10lb per sq yd (5kg per sq m). of moisture reserves. Before digging both of which will grow rapidly and break
in green manure plants, chop them to down quickly to release nitrogen.
GREEN MANURES aid decomposition. Of the perennial candidates, comfrey
Green manuring involves sowing a (Symphytum officinale) is well tried, as
suitable fast-maturing crop, either PLANNING GREEN MANURES is borage (Borago officinale). Rye grass
broadcast or in very closely spaced Unless one is totally committed to (Lolium perenne) is useful because of its
rows, cutting it down while still this style of soil management, it is searching root growth. The tops of all
young, and incorporating the bulky most sensible to see green manuring of the perennial green manures will
living plant material into the soil by as a technique supplementary to the need to be cut down before digging;
digging. Here it will decay fast, quickly use of other types of organic manuring where tops have become very mature,
releasing its constituent nutrients and and fertilizer application, rather than a consign them to the compost heap
aiding the production of humus. replacement for them. The system will rather than digging them in.
When a kitchen garden has been
well established, with close attention Digging in a green manure
to soil condition, there is no doubt at
all that green manures are a useful
means of improving and maintaining
fertility. Well-managed green manuring
practice is helpful in the production
of humus and the maintenance of soil
structure, although it is unlikely to be
sufficient on its own.
Careful management, however,
is crucial to the success of any green
manuring. The choice of plants, the
planning of their place in the cropping
calendar, and their maturity at the time
of incorporation into the soil are all
important considerations. The soil type, Cut green manure crops to the Skim off the wilted residue of the green
as well as its existing state of fertility,
will have a strong influence on the
1 ground when they reach about 6–8in
(15–20cm) in height and are still green
2 manure plants into a trench as deep
as a shovel blade (spit) as single digging
usefulness of green manuring. Green and soft. Leave them to lie and wilt on proceeds across the plot (see p.38).
manuring is particularly relevant to the surface for a day or two.
the management of light-textured soils,

Making compost
Rotted plant refuse is a valuable source Composting is a practical alternative material of even consistency that is
of organic matter for improving and to the use of animal manures (see p.22), agreeable to handle and not too wet.
maintaining the fertility of soil, which may be difficult for the kitchen This is best achieved by what is called
and making garden compost from gardener to obtain. Garden compost aerobic composting, which involves
plant remains and kitchen waste has is low in nutrients, but is a rich source ensuring that air can get into the bulk
a place in even the smallest of gardens. of humus (see p.14). It has most of the of waste material, accelerating decay.
The practice also makes a positive advantages of other forms of bulky
contribution to recycling. When we organic matter, without the possible COMPOST BINS
compost household and garden waste disadvantages, such as difficulty of Place compost bins in a screened area,
materials we reduce the need for transportation or unacceptable odor. perhaps conveniently near the kitchen;
collection and dumping of refuse, and Any heap of plant waste will gradually they can be in shade. Depending on
also avoid using wasteful and potentially decay and reduce to yield a useful soil the productive garden size and the
polluting bonfires to dispose of plant additive, but careful management of a space available, plan for at least two bins
remains. All of these factors are in the compost heap will pay dividends. The side by side, each about 3–5ft (1–1.5m)
interests of our natural environment. goal is to produce a dark-colored, friable square. The purpose of having more than
one bin is to allow the rotting compost
Constructing a compost bin to be turned and moved from one bin
to another. This exacting process is well
worth the effort for aeration.
Bins need to be established either
on an 8in (20cm) layer of thin, woody
prunings laid on soil base, or with
a floor of strong wire mesh laid over
bricks. Both methods allow air to
circulate at ground level. You can
make your own bins (see left) with walls
of strong, treated lumber, builders’
pallets, concrete blocks, or even straw
bales. Ideally, construct the front walls
with removable boards that slot in,
Lay 2 uprights on the Stand the sides up Nail a plank across the
1 ground. Nail planks to
them using 2 nails each
2 and tack 2 strips of
wood across the tops to hold
3 front of the bin at the
bottom, so that it is in line
allowing the height of the front to be
raised as the bin is filled. A removable
end. Start 3in (8cm) from them the correct distance with the bottom boards of the
cover is essential to keep the heap from
the bottom and keep the apart. Attach the planks for sides and back. Remove becoming too wet, but fit it so that
planks 1/2in (1cm) apart. the back to the uprights, as the stabilizing strips from the some air circulation is possible over
Make 2 sides in this way. for the sides. top of the bin. the surface of the compost.
Proprietary composting containers
made from strong, rigid plastic are
available, and these are suitable for
use in the smaller garden.

Any bulky matter of plant origin is
suitable for composting. Nitrogen-
rich material, in the form of leaves
and nitrogen-rich additives such as
animal manures, will accelerate
decomposition. There must be a
Attach 2 battens to Try sliding each of the Paint the bin with a good balance of material in a heap in
4 the front uprights with
nails, leaving a gap to allow
5 planks for the front of
the bin down between the
6 water-based preservative,
with particular attention to
order to ensure the movement of air.
Mixing in a proportion of some woody
planks to slide down battens to make sure cut edges. Tie a strong nylon material helps this by preventing the
between them. Nail a piece that they fit correctly. If cord around the front posts heap from becoming compacted.
of wood in the bottom of necessary, trim the ends to prevent the sides from It is quite easy to ensure a supply of
this channel as a stop. to the correct length. bowing as the bin is filled. lush, leafy waste during the warm days
of summer, but as the growing season

draws to a close, the nature of material it may be worth investing in a small

available for composting is relatively shredding machine. Other less obvious
low in nitrogen. Temperatures also fall, materials can also be composted, as long
slowing the composting process. At as they are made from natural substances.
this time rotting can be encouraged Newspaper and cardboard can be added
by adding nitrogen in the form of a if they are shredded first; even cotton
2in (5cm) layer of animal manures, and woolen items that have been cut
including litter from poultry or pets such up can be composted, although they
as rabbits. Alternatively, add dried blood will inevitably take a much longer time
at a rate of 8oz per sq yd (250g per sq m) to break down than other waste.
or a proprietary compost activator.
Grass clippings, fallen leaves, and MATERIALS TO AVOID
cleared plant debris from ornamental Although the heat generated in a well-
borders will all decay suitably, as will managed compost heap will destroy
trimmings made from vegetables on many plant pests and diseases (see Plant
harvesting and waste from fruit and Problems, pp.246–264), exclude any
vegetable preparation in the kitchen. material carrying persistent infections,
Brassica leaves and stems can be added; such as clubroot in brassicas, black spot in
Using a compost activator
the stems are best chopped up. Pea and roses, canker in apples, and white rot Specially formulated compost activators that
bean plants, including the pulled roots, in onions. It is best not to add brassica accelerate rotting are available, and are useful
will compost. Unused root crops can roots, which may be diseased; similarly, when leafy green material is scarce. Sulfate
be added, chopped into fragments, potato tubers may perpetuate disease and of ammonia is a good activator.
provided they are pest and disease free. can also be troublesome in resprouting.
Doubts are often raised about adding Be careful not to carry over weed weedkillers, for there is a small risk
rhubarb leaves to compost, but this is populations in the form of seeds, roots, of contaminating the crops grown
quite acceptable. Blight-diseased potato bulbs, corms, and f leshy parts that may on ground to which these composted
haulms can be composted in a well-made survive composting. All the underground remains are added.
heap that reaches a high temperature. parts of grasses, curly docks, nettles, and It is also important not to put any
Annual and perennial weeds are usually oxalis, for example, should be excluded plastics in a compost heap, nor any
relatively high in nitrogen and the tops from compost; it is also best not to put waste food products, such as meat,
will compost well. in abundantly seeding annual weeds. that might attract rats to it.
Hedge clippings and thin woody Check that grass mowings and straw
prunings will decompose if reduced to added to the heap have not recently MAKING THE HEAP
small fragments, and for this purpose been treated with selective (or hormone) Build the compost heap up in layers
of about 6in (15cm) depth, aiming to
Layered material Rotting down
Straw separates 6–9in (15–23cm) As compost rots, it will
mix the type of material added where
deep layers of preferably reduce in volume and possible. It is best, if possible, to have
differently textured material sink down a space beside the bins to store heaps
of different materials until there is
enough to make a proper layer,
ensuring a good variety of material
through the heap. Add chopped, moist
straw to a similar depth over each layer
to maintain aeration. Do not allow
compacted layers of a single type of
plant waste, such as lawn mowings,
to lie in the heap, because they will
form a slimy mass and create airless
conditions that slow the rotting process.
The heap must not be allowed to
become waterlogged, which will
exclude air and lower the temperature.
Keep it covered at all times to keep off
Twin compost bin system rain and maintain warmth and internal
Fill the first bin with alternating layers of different bin and start refilling the first bin. Once the first
types of organic material. Keep the heap load of compost is black and friable (above
moisture. Conversely, the heap should
covered with black plastic or carpet to keep it right), it can be removed and used. You can not be too dry, as this similarly slows
moist and warm. When the bin is full and partly then turn the contents of the other bin (above decay; in warm summer weather you
rotted, turn the contents into the empty second left) into it, and repeat the process over again. may need to water it.

Rotting waste generates heat through plant waste to rot in the open or in
the activity of microorganisms, and a plastic sacks, mixing types as much
well-made compost heap can reach as possible as for a standard heap. This
around 158˚F (70˚C) within three or method allows less air to penetrate,
four weeks. It is most beneficial to turn and is known as anaerobic composting.
the heap from time to time, ideally by Complete rotting takes much longer,
forking rotting material out of a full at least one year and up to two years.
bin into an empty one. Move less Burying waste in a large trench and
rotted material from the sides of the bin digging it up once it has rotted down
to the center of the new load, where it is also suitable on a small scale.
will rot faster. Do this at least once per
full loading and preferably more often. LEAF MOLD
The speed of decay is determined by Tree leaves collected in the fall can
the nature of the waste, but above all form compacted layers if not mixed
by the management of the heap. A heap with other materials before adding to a
that is carefully loaded, regularly turned, compost heap. They are best composted Forking out finished compost
and has suitable additives can produce in a separate container of similar size Compost is ready for use when it has decayed
useable compost within six months, to compost bins, but with mesh or to a crumbly, dark mass that has few large
particles and runs easily through the hands.
although it is wiser to plan for a year. netting sides. They rot slowly, taking Use it for digging into beds or mulching.
at least a year to produce leaf mold.
ANAEROBIC COMPOSTING This has an excellent friable texture, WORM COMPOSTING
It is not always possible or convenient and is very suitable for mulching and Worm composting is a relatively small-
to make compost in the ideal manner. as an ingredient of potting composts. scale process, of particular use where
There is still value in producing bulky Oak and beech leaves in particular are space is limited or for dealing with
organic manure simply by stacking a great bonus to a leaf mold mix. kitchen waste. Dried samples of this
small-scale nutrient-rich compost
are especially suitable for adding to
Making compost in a worm bin potting mixes. There are various sizes
Redworms will turn kitchen waste into and styles of proprietary wormery;
fine worm casts in about 10 weeks. alternatively, a plastic bin, wooden
Avoid onions and leeks, and citrus fruits, box, or any large, rigid container
which can make the mix too acidic; can be adapted. The bin needs to
crushed eggshells help counteract acidity. have a lid and good drainage, and
Meat and dairy products can attract flies to be kept frost-free in a sheltered
and vermin if the bin is not securely place. Suitable worms, known as
lidded. Waste should be added in compost worms or redworms, resemble
thin layers: compost worms can small earthworms but are darker red.
eat up to their own They can be found in rotting manure
weight each day, or plant waste, or be purchased from
but it is best a specialty supplier. Managing the
to add at half bin requires experience: only small
this rate. quantities of kitchen waste should be
added at a time. To harvest the waste,
Covering spread it on a plastic sheet and place
Layer of newspaper
helps to keep bin
wet newspaper over part of it: the
Kitchen waste
Chop waste into moist and warm worms will collect under the paper
small pieces and and can be returned to the bin.
Active layer
mix well
Worms thrive and
work best in warm, THE ROLE OF COMPOST
Composted material dark conditions Any of these types of compost is
Worms work upward, beneficial: they all make an excellent
leaving casts below Initial bedding
Dampened straw or mulch (see pp.41–42) for fruit canes,
Drainage material
shredded newspaper, bushes, and trees, and for perennial
or rotted manure
Liquid drains through vegetables and runner beans. Although
layer of boards or Drain spigot a surprising amount of compost can be
permeable membrane Excess liquid should
into gravel or crocks
made in many gardens, it is likely that
be drained regularly
to prevent flooding
it will need to be supplemental to other
means of improving the soil’s organic
content because of limited production.

Planning your garden

The content and layout of a garden is Climbing plants, such as peas, beans, For most people, f lowers and fruit
determined by many factors. Although squashes, and melons contribute height are essential in any garden. Fruit trees,
practical considerations are paramount and structure from the supports needed canes, and bushes produce beautiful
in growing fruit and vegetables, try to grow them. These may be woody blossom and brightly colored fruits.
to make the most of these plants as an poles, brushwood, or more ornate Taking all these considerations into
extension of the ornamental qualities of wooden or metal structures, and can account, there are three basic points to
a garden. They may not offer the same make pleasing features themselves. The decide on at the outset. Do you wish
breadth of interest as ornamental plants, way in which plants are grown also has to grow crops mixed with ornamental
but they certainly have their attractions. an effect: where fruit and vegetable plants, or separately? If separately,
plants are arranged in beds and straight should they be integrated within the
CROPS IN THE GARDEN rows, the geometric layouts can make overall garden design or in a separate
Garden sites come in all aspects, shapes, a strong visual impact. plot? How large an area should be
and sizes. On the reasonable assumption Once the form of a garden has been devoted to crops?
that the majority of garden sites can be established, texture and color can be
made suitable for fruit and vegetables, considered. Many vegetable plants ORNAMENTAL VEGETABLE GARDENS
consideration of how they are to be laid have striking leaves and stems. In the There are two main possibilities for
out has to do with personal preference beet group, for example, are plants integrating fruit and vegetables into the
and the practical limitations of the site. with corrugated, deeply colored leaves, ornamental garden. They can be grown
Take some time to learn and think and chards with glowing colored stems. within the mixture of plants in a
about the style of garden you want. Carrots have graceful, finely cut herbaceous or mixed border, or they can
One of the most basic considerations foliage, the leaves of brassicas are both be grown alongside ornamental features
in planning a garden is the structural bold in shape and glaucous, and lettuces in formal beds, a system often described
form. Here, single specimens of fruit mostly have a soft, crinkled texture. as ornamental vegetable gardening.
trees and bushes can be used to good The great range of culinary herb plants Growing crops within the
effect; the structure of carefully trained includes many that could be grown ornamental borders of a garden
trees will provide strong interest as much for ornament as for usefulness. is particularly suitable where space is
throughout the year. Bold architectural These include sage, with its felty leaves, limited, or where only small supplies
form is also found in perennial crops, ruff led parsley, and thymes, which are wanted. There are disadvantages:
such as tall artichokes and corn, and contribute both aroma and f lowers the gaps left as annual vegetables are
the dramatic leaves of rhubarb. in addition to their carpeting foliage. progressively harvested are not

Color contrast
Even a small space
can be planted
with vegetables
and herbs to create
an attractive and
functional ornamental
vegetable garden.
Here, squares
separated by box
hedging allow for
planned crop rotation,
while crops of
contrasting forms
and color are planted
in simple patterns.
As crops mature, the
gaps will be filled with
succeeding crops.

attractive, and it is more difficult to Temporary screen

keep successional supplies going; raising A row of runner
plants in trays that can be transplanted beans supported
on stakes provides
to replace plants as they are harvested a quick and colorful
will alleviate these problems. divide, whether
Fruit and vegetables grown with between crops or
ornamentals require particularly close between a kitchen
attention. Additional watering or garden and flowering
feeding may be necessary, since it is plants. There are
beans with red,
very easy for them to be starved of
white, or bicolored
nutrients or moisture by neighboring flowers—try mixing
plants, and intervention may be needed cultivars to create
to prevent crowding by more vigorous a decorative effect.
species. It is also easier for pest and
disease attacks to be overlooked, so
extra vigilance is vital. For gardeners
who wish to use garden chemicals on
ornamentals but not on crops, mixing THE KITCHEN GARDEN currants are also both attractive and
the two types will be impossible. The traditional approach to growing productive options, as long as they
The ornamental vegetable garden is fruit and vegetables is to use a separate are not exposed to severe winds.
a traditional approach for incorporating section of the garden. Making a special
crops into your garden, with fruit and enclosed area will not only provide LOCATION AND SIZE
vegetables contained in formal beds. beneficial shelter (see p.12) but will also There are good reasons for positioning a
These are surrounded by permanent, create a “garden room” leading on from kitchen garden close to the house. Ease
trimmed edging of plants such as box the ornamental areas, adding interest of access is especially desirable in wet
(Buxus), lavender (Lavandula), or cotton to the garden. An attractive entrance or frosty weather, but there are likely
lavender (Santolina). The crops within can be made with an archway of trained to be frequent demands throughout
the beds are laid out in carefully planned fruit, such as thornless blackberry, or a the growing season if a wide range of
proportions to maximize visual impact. climbing vegetable, such as runner beans. produce is grown; this is particularly
A more relaxed variation is to use small On a large garden plot, the kitchen true for a herb garden. A short walk
island beds of a size and position to suit garden area can be enclosed with encourages both regular inspection of
your particular garden. These could hedges or permeable fencing (see p.13). the well-being of crops and frequent
even be of a curved shape, making Hedging is attractive, but for small use of compost bins (see pp.24–26),
them suitable for an informal garden. gardens the shade and the competition and having the kitchen garden near
Another productive and potentially for water and nutrients from hedging the house may deter some animal pests.
attractive way of including vegetables, plants makes fencing more advisable. The size of the area allocated to fruit
herbs, and fruit in smaller gardens is Post-and-wire fences or trellis used and vegetables will depend on what you
by growing them in containers, such to support ornamental climbers and wish to grow, how much you wish to
as tubs or pots, or even hanging baskets ramblers or espalier- or cordon-trained grow, and the overall size of the garden.
or windowboxes (see pp.35–36). apples, pear, gooseberries, or red It is not meaningful to make definite
recommendations as to the size of a
Ornamental beds
In this kitchen
kitchen garden because of these variable
garden, changes factors, the most limiting of which is
of level, decorative the area of ground available. Outlined
supports of woven below are the considerations that should
willow, and close be dealt with in planning your space.
planting of colorful There really must be room for some
crops such as lettuce
compost bins. You may wish to include
‘Red Oak Leaf’, peas,
red cabbage, and a small glass or plastic-clad greenhouse
nasturtiums, create and garden frames (see pp.43–48) in
an exuberant display. which to raise young plants, mature
tender ones, or extend the cropping
season by providing protection for
an early start or late cropping. Such
protection can increase the range and
yields from a kitchen garden, and so
will amply justify the time, effort, and
garden space devoted to it.

Remember to allow for pathways, with initial plantings, but, with so many broccoli, raspberries, and black currants
a continuous one running around the variables affecting yield, these estimates freeze well, and apples, cabbages,
perimeter of the kitchen garden and always have to be refined through onions, carrots, and potatoes can be dry
an internal network of paths dividing individual trial and error. In the long stored (see p.73) well into the winter.
the growing areas into suitable run, this is the only realistic means of It is quite easy to overproduce fruit
permanent plots. Plan for widths of planning the quantities to be grown. and vegetables; a few beets or radishes,
24in (60cm), and remember the need In using the available space efficiently, for example, go a long way. You can
for wheelbarrow access may require take account of how long a crop will avoid a glut by planning to make
wider pathways of up to 36in (90cm). occupy the soil: a plot that produces a successional sowings (see p.69) of these,
Once any such features are allowed great deal if several fast-maturing crops and of lettuces and French and runner
for, it is most realistic to think in terms are grown in succession will yield much beans. Some crops are demanding to
of containing the range of what will be less if one slow-growing crop occupies grow successfully, so might not be a
grown. If the available space and your the ground all season. Intercropping is good choice for the less experienced;
enthusiasm are great enough, an area of a practical way to increase output, in for example, caulif lowers require close
175 sq yd (150 sq m) will accommodate which rapidly maturing catch crops like attention to cultivation, and are then
a good range of fruit and vegetables. lettuce and radish are planted between very likely to mature all together in
slower crops (see p.70). Also consider the greater quantity than can reasonably
USING SPACE EFFICIENTLY alternative purchase price of what you be used at one time.
It will be helpful in planning your grow. For instance, potatoes, Brussels
garden to have some idea of the likely sprouts, and cabbages not only take up CROP SITES
yield of individual crops. Estimates a great deal of space for a long time, but Once you have chosen your crops and
vary greatly, being dependent on many are also fairly cheap to buy and so may decided on the space you have available,
factors. The productivity of fruit plants not be worth growing in a small plot, you need to decide how they should be
varies with their age; vegetables may whereas beans, lettuces, and peppers arranged within the allocated space.
yield a small, succulent early harvest are relatively expensive and are The position of nonperennial crops
or a larger crop if harvested later, and frequently in great demand when they should ideally be governed by rotation
different cultivars of the same crop can are in season. Rotation of crops is also (see p.31). One consideration when
show considerable variation. On top of a consideration at this point, because planning crop sites is shade. Fruit and
these factors, the time and length of the you will need to plan your groups of vegetable crops will not thrive in the
local growing season, the site, and plants carefully (see p.31). dense shade of fences, hedges, or
the feeding and watering regime also To some extent, the freezing and overhanging trees, but you should
all have considerable effects. Average storage qualities of crops are relevant also ensure that there is a minimum
yields (see p.242) are useful in planning to the quantities grown. Peas, calabrese of shading from one crop over another.
Work and pleasure
In this kitchen
garden, ornamental
alliums and marigolds
(Tagetes) grow
alongside crops of
brassicas and beets.
Some gardeners
claim that additional
flowering plants can
attract more
pollinating insects
and improve the
yields of fruiting
crops; they certainly
help to create an
attractive setting.

This can be achieved by planting fruit be supported. Position such panels

trees at the northerly end of the plot carefully to minimize turbulence (see
and low crops such as strawberries at p.12) or shade. Cordons and espaliers
the south. Very tall vegetables, such as or soft fruits trained on posts and wire
corn, Jerusalem artichokes, or trained make effective and attractive boundaries N
runner beans, are also best not arranged or dividers, while bush and cane fruits
in east-to-west rows that will reduce should be planted in blocks separate
the light available to shorter crops, but from those for tree fruits. Soft fruits,
this is unlikely to be critical. peaches, and cherries need protection
Take full advantage of relatively warm from birds, and the same is true of peas
spots (see What is a microclimate?, p.10). and brassicas, especially when newly
Areas that slope toward the sun, and emerged or planted. The most effective
those backed by fences, or possibly solution is netting, usually in the form
walls facing the sun, are valuable for of a cage (see p.51), and you should Rough plan
growing more tender plants such as allow for removing and replacing the Start by drawing a rough, relatively small-scale
outdoor tomatoes, melons, eggplants, netting where appropriate, and for plan of the kitchen garden area within the
whole site. This will give you an idea of the
and peppers, and also strawberries. working around the plants inside it.
space you are going to devote to it and
Wherever possible, arrange rows to run the impact that it will have on your garden.
north to south, so that sunlight is evenly DESIGNING YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN
distributed among the plants—but this Settling down with a sheet of squared perennial vegetables, or compost bins:
is a bonus rather than an essential. paper to plan the layout of a fruit and you can cut these out of paper so you
Another way of maximizing the vegetable garden is a worthwhile can easily try them in different positions
sun is to use solid panels for part of the contribution to good results. before reaching a decision. When the
kitchen garden boundary or as internal Start by measuring the area, working layout is set, plan crop planting in detail:
dividers: if one side faces the sun, it will from fixed points such as house corners this last step is essential, whether for a
provide a warm surface against which a for accuracy. Draw an outline plan with kitchen garden, an ornamental vegetable
fan-trained peach or sweet cherry could permanent features such as beds, trees, garden, or informal island beds.

Detailed plan Compost bins Cold frames Cordon-trained fruit

A larger-scale plan Allow for at least Useful for hardening off young Cordon apples and espalier apples and pears can line
of the layout within two bins, about crops and also for growing boundary, while loganberries and blackberries can be
the kitchen garden 4ft (1.2m) wide cucumbers and melons trained over arches to make entrances into garden
allows for proper
calculation of how
much you can
expect to fit into
each area. This
is the time to adjust
the design: decide 6 x 8ft (2 x 2.5m)
just how important greenhouse should
each element is be sufficient for
and balance most gardens: place
the plants’ rain barrels to collect
requirements of runoff from roof as
space, orientation, supplementary
water supply
and shelter to find
the best solution. Fan-trained fruit
Every plan involves Allow 12ft (4m)
compromises. between specimens
for fan-trained trees

Rotation beds
Annual vegetables
can be rotated in
bed system, with
temporary protection
such as fleece or
Fruit cage
tunnel cloches
Must be big enough to
when needed
allow access to all
sides of fruit bushes—
bushes will need to be Raspberry stakes Strawberry tunnel
6ft (2m) apart for ease You must be Strawberries should be spaced at Climbing beans Dimensions:
of management and able to pick from least 12in (30cm) in beds and can be Trained on stake 56 x 40ft (17 x 12m)
optimum yield both sides protected by tunnel cloches wigwams

Crop rotation
Generations of experience have shown disease can cause reduced or even The third benefit of rotation is that it
that growth and yield can be reduced if stunted growth. Nutrient exhaustion, helps to control weeds and maintain
crops are grown in the same ground year virus transmission from eelworms, and good soil structure. This is where the
after year. Rotating crops in sequence fungal diseases may all be implicated. third group is particularly beneficial:
is a long-established practice to prevent A second reason for using rotation is the cultivation of the soil for potatoes
this. There are three main reasons for to meet differing nutritional needs. Well- and other root vegetables helps to break
using rotation: to combat pests and planned rotation can help to maintain up the ground and keep it open.
diseases, to maintain soil fertility, fertility, taking account of the different
and to keep the soil well cultivated. preferences of crop groups. Legumes, THE LIMITATIONS OF ROTATION
especially fava beans, can extract There are practical problems in strictly
THE ADVANTAGES OF ROTATION nitrogen from the atmosphere (see p.95), following rotation. Crops in the groups
The greatest advantage in leaving a while brassicas need plenty of nitrogen may be required in different proportions,
gap of at least three or four years before to produce edible leaves and flowerheads; or their seasons may overlap. Close
growing the same crop in a site again therefore, it makes sense to plant brassicas proximity of crops enables diseases or
is in interrupting conditions that favor where legumes have recently grown. pests to spread readily to new areas; a few
particular pests or diseases. Several fruit Root crops, which require low levels of diseases, like clubroot and white rot, can
and vegetable problems (see pp.246–264), nitrogen, can be grown after brassicas. remain viable in the soil for many years
like eelworms in vegetables such as Alternating crops also sets up a regular beyond a reasonable rotation period.
potatoes and tomatoes, foot and root pattern for maintaining ideal soil pH (see Rotation is an aid to pest and disease
rots in peas and beans, clubroot in pp.18–19). Legumes benefit from ground suppression, not a total prevention or
brassicas, white rot in onions, and dressed with organic matter, which cure. Some gardeners hold that in small
parsnip canker, are carried in the soil. lowers pH, while brassicas do best in soil areas it is better continually to grow one
Continually growing related or similar with a higher pH, which discourages crop on the same ground, and then avoid
crops on the same site will only club root: alternating manuring and it altogether for susceptible crops when
nurture the pests and pathogens. liming with these rotating crops ensures infestation reaches an unacceptable level.
Strawberries are highly susceptible to that the soil never becomes either too
viral diseases, some of which are carried acid or too alkaline. PLANNING ROTATION
by eelworms; plant new stock where It is difficult to adhere strictly to a
large populations of eelworms are less uce; onion; oyster pl three plot rotation in a small garden,
ek; lett ant;
likely to have built up. It is also best rrot; le pars but the principles are sound and it is
c a i ach beet; Swiss char
et; a ch; sp d; sc nip;
to avoid replanting fruit bushes, Be ; s p i n
o o t v eg e t a b le g r o u p orz a practice to be aimed for. The
R o ne
tato ra
canes, or trees on sites from po plantings suggested here are
which old ones have been reasonably flexible: as long
removed. A condition as the main plant groups
known as replant of legumes, brassicas,
and potatoes and root

crops are kept separate,

C h


ne s e

the other crops that


; zuc
ra; p

Rotation plan

are included with


This crop rotation plan

ress; br

er; eggplant; ok

them may be placed

tillo; watermelon

suitable for kitchen

in one group or
e; kale; kohlrabi; m

gardens is based
occoli; Brussels s

on dividing the another to suit

vegetables that are other planting
grown into three considerations. The
to; toma

groups. Some crops crucial rule is to

g r oup

are grouped not

have two complete


with the plants to


abl e

which they are most

cropping seasons
ry; c
d gr
; ca

without repeating a
ua unne veg et

closely related, but

s si

el e
e en


with those that share vegetable group if at


r; c
s; r



all possible. Keeping

gr o res

their cultivation needs.



Lim and

Tomatoes, for example, are

i sh

a record of operations
lab aba



related to potatoes, but since


gu in the fruit and vegetable



oc e
L y,

they are not a root crop they a; c

se oli; c ne ki garden is always time well


would neither break up the soil

a a , kid p
nor benefit from the low levels of kale uliflo c h um spent, and a diary of each year’s
we en le; p
nitrogen left by brassicas, and so they
; tu
rni r; C va, Fr h i planting is especially valuable for
p; hine s: fa d c
se bro Bean
are placed with the legumes instead. texs ccoli; t an planning rotations.
el g
re we e
r: s
ens p e pp e

The bed system

Fruit and vegetables are best grown
in open ground, either on the f lat or in
raised beds. In these situations the soil
benefits from rainfall and weathering,
and the plants have a free root run.
Although it is quite possible to mix
edible crops with ornamental plantings
(see pp.27–28), it is more usual to set
aside a particular garden area specifically
for fruit and vegetables. This area can
be a wide, open plot, but an excellent
alternative is to set out the vegetable ▲ Standard raised bed
garden as a series of narrow beds The soil in raised beds remains uncompacted,
divided by pathways. providing better conditions for plant growth, in
this case Swiss chard.
A common arrangement for a kitchen ◀ Narrow flat bed
garden is to have long rows of vegetables Narrow beds that are easily reached from the
across the plot. A packet of lettuce seed, surrounding paths are particularly suitable for
crops that are frequently harvested, such as
for example, is best sown in rows 12in
these cut-and-come-again vegetables.
(30cm) apart, with seedlings thinned to
8in (20cm). This is a perfectly good Compaction reduces the air in the soil, This prevents soil compaction, and one
way to grow produce, including resulting in poor growth (see pp.14–16). important benefit is that harvesting and
strawberries, allowing all of the ground Look at the rows of vegetables beside other jobs can be done soon after rain
to be used with maximum f lexibility heavily trafficked pathways, and you will without risk of damaging soil structure.
and large areas to be cultivated. invariably find that they are less vigorous There is less need to dig beds once
Growing crops, however, requires than the rest. The adverse effects of they are established and fertile, and
constant access for sowing, thinning, compaction can be avoided or reduced what cultivation is necessary is greatly
planting out, watering, top-dressing, pest by taking care not to step on wet soil reduced because of the smaller cropped
and disease control, weeding, harvesting, and by walking on planks to spread the area. Another advantage of using beds
and clearing. Where long rows cover weight; narrow beds prevent the need is that, because bulky organic manures
the whole plot, each of these tasks to walk on cropped areas. are concentrated on a smaller area, it is
brings the need to walk on the ground easier to build up high levels of fertility:
alongside the growing plants, and every USING BEDS this encourages better soil aeration and
visit results in compression of the soil. In a bed system, the kitchen garden is drainage, which in turn leads to
divided into semipermanent or fixed stronger root growth.
beds. All the cultivation tasks can be The number of plants per square
carried out from the dividing pathways, yard (or square meter) can generally
without needing to step onto the soil. be increased in a bed system, because
there is no need for access along crop
rows, so it is possible to grow the plants
equidistant from each other. In a bed
system, the lettuces of the example
above might be arranged 8in (20cm)
apart in all directions in staggered
rows. This arrangement will allow the
maximum root space for each plant in
the smallest area, making the best use
of the soil available and increasing the
total yield of the area.
The close spacing of plants in beds
has further indirect benefits. Irrigation
High raised beds Large bed
This version of raised beds is suitable for a Large beds like this one can be planted with
using low-level distribution systems
wheelchair user, but it could provide moveable several crops in longer rows, but have the such as soaker hoses (see p.54) will be
beds in a courtyard. There needs to be at least disadvantage that the crops can be reached more manageable, due to the smaller
6in (15cm) depth of growing medium. only by walking on the soil. areas that are to be served.

Close spacing of plants in fixed beds

also results in the smothering of annual
Making a flat or semi-flat bed
weed growth, so there is usually less Measure and mark out
weeding to be done.
Using a bed system can also make
1 the beds and paths to the
dimensions you require (here,
crop rotation (see p.31) much easier, 4ft/1.2m beds with 18in/45cm
since each crop group can be allocated paths), bearing in mind access
a bed and then planted in a different and convenient use.
bed each year according to the rotation. Rake the soil from the path


2 area over to the adjoining
bed area, so that the beds
1 2
Beds may be rectangular, square, or are raised slightly above the
even curved, if that suits your garden surrounding paths. Incorporating
best; the prime consideration is that organic matter into the growing
they must allow the whole bed to be area will also slightly raise the
cultivated from the paths. level to make a semi-flat bed.
Tread down the paths to
An ideal width is 4ft (1.2m); this can
be increased to 5ft (1.5m) if this makes 3 firm them and define the
edge of the beds more clearly.
better use of available space, or reduced
The paths can simply be left
to 3ft (1m) if you have an area to be
as soil or given another surface
protected with glass or plastic cloches.
covering (see p.34).
Narrow strips are particularly suitable
for strawberries, for ease of mulching
and harvesting. The length of a bed is
governed only by how far one has to 3
walk to get around to the opposite side
without stepping on the bed, although it
is, of course, possible to bridge the bed
with a plank resting on raised edging. TYPES OF BEDS addition of bulky organic dressings,
The orientation of the beds is not of There are many terms that are used to the surface of such a bed will gradually
vital importance, but running them describe beds, but for most purposes it become raised above the path level.
from north to south generally ensures is simplest to distinguish between f lat Raised beds are constructed by
the most even distibution of sunlight. or semi-f lat beds and raised beds. similarly marking out beds and then
The width of the paths between beds A f lat or semi-f lat bed is simply building sides up to 12in (30cm) high
is also important: they will need to be marked out from the surrounding from lumber, such as railroad ties, or
at least 18in (45cm) wide in order to garden and cultivated (see above). With even bricks or cement blocks (see below).
allow for easy access. repeated annual cultivation and the It is possible to dispense with the walls,

Making a raised bed

Measure and mark out beds. Fill the bed with good- Spread the soil using a Level the soil with the back
1 Edge with 6 x 1in (15 x 2.5cm)
boards, sunk into a 2in (5cm) slit
2 quality topsoil that has been
enriched with organic matter
3 rake. Break up any lumps,
aiming to achieve an even, firm
4 of the rake to leave a smooth
finish. Top off with more soil as
trench and supported by wooden such as well-rotted manure (see texture and bring the surface necessary in later weeks when the
stakes driven into the ground pp.22–23) or garden compost roughly level with the top of filled bed settles and the level of
every 4–5ft (1.2–1.5m). (see pp.24–26). the boards. the soil falls.

Making a mulched path

Mark out a path 18–24in (45–60cm)
Pathways between beds can
be formed simply of trodden
soil, but it is worth making a
1 wide. Cut a length of landscape fabric
6–8in (15–20cm) wider than the path.
semi-permanent path, as shown Level and walk on the path, then cut a
here, to avoid unsightly and 1in (2.5cm) slit trench along each edge.
Fold the landscape fabric edge
invasive weeds and to provide
a firm, all-weather surface. Use
preservative-treated 4 x 1in
2 into the slit trench on one side, then
lay the wood edging into the trench on
(10 x 2.5cm) planks as edging top of it and knock down with a hammer
and make sure that they are until it is level. Repeat on the other edge,
proud of the bed surfaces. Once 1 2 making sure that the fabric is taut.
Using a sharp knife, cut crosses
the base of the path has been
constructed, it can be finished
with any of a variety of surfacing
3 in opposing pairs in the landscape
fabric close to the plank at 5–6ft
materials (see box below), such (1.5–2m) intervals. Knock in a wooden
as the bark chips shown here. stake through each cross, to at least
1in (2.5cm) below the top of the plank,
to support the board.
Pour in the mulch (here of bark
4 chips). Rake it level and tamp down
with the rake, so that the mulch surface
is flush with the top of the boards and
3 4 the supporting stakes are covered.

but in that case the base of the bed should MAKING PATHS landscape fabric, which is then topped
be about 12in (30cm) wider than the At their simplest, the paths between with mulch of bark or gravel (see above)
finished top for stability; this shaping is beds can be maintained as soil areas to make a hard-wearing and attractive
most suitable for narrower beds, such as from which weed growth is regularly garden feature.
for strawberries. Making the top of any skimmed off. Grass pathways are also a possibility,
bed rounded rather than flat aids drainage A mulched path is an alternative that provided that a durable edging, for
and increases the surface cropping area. requires more initial effort, but which example rigid plastic or concrete blocks,
should reduce maintenance in the is constructed around the beds; the grass
THE ADVANTAGES OF RAISED BEDS longer term. The path should first surface must stand proud of the edging
Raised beds bring all the advantages of be covered with a weed-suppressing to allow for unobstructed mowing.
f lat beds, but have improved drainage
and warm up faster in spring. Making Types of path surfacing
a raised bed higher along one side than
the other, so that the surface slopes
toward the direction of the sun, will
warm the bed even more effectively
and promote early plant growth.
Raised beds provide a means of
gardening successfully on the most Landscape fabric Bark chips Granite chips
unpromising ground, such as where a Available by the roll and Relatively inexpensive, blends Easily obtained and long-
site is naturally very badly drained (see can be cut to measure; well with surroundings, and lasting; use with landscape
water-permeable. soft to walk on. fabric base.
p.16) or perhaps even concreted over.
Higher raised beds can also extend
the pleasure of gardening to people who
are less mobile; this is inevitably a more
expensive undertaking, but certainly
worthwhile. Higher beds can be made
by constructing walls to a height of
24–36in (60–90cm). The base of the Slate chips Grit Turf
An attractive option, available Soft surface material that Fairly inexpensive and easy
bed should be filled with rubble, which
in blue or green hues, but needs to be raked regularly. to establish, but requires
is then topped with 12–18in (30–45cm) relatively expensive. regular maintenance.
of fertile soil.

Using containers
Not all gardens are suitable for growing
crops in the open ground. The soil may
have intractable drainage problems (see
p.16), or contain persistent soil-borne
pests or diseases, or just be paved or
otherwise sealed over. In these situations
many crops can be grown in containers.
This is a technique much used with
flowering plants, allowing every area of
a garden to be fully exploited. Growing
in containers has its benefits: crops can
be grown just outside the kitchen door,
especially herbs, or small containers
moved to a prominent spot when most
attractive, and containers can be filled
with soil or compost of better structure
than exists in the open garden site.
Container growing also makes
demands. There will be expenditure on
containers, although some can be made
at home. With most containers, large
quantities of growing medium must be
made up or purchased and transported.
Above all, there is the need for constant
attention to watering and feeding. Herbs on display
Many fruits and vegetables are as decorative including basil, chives, mint, parsley, and
CHOOSING CONTAINERS as flowers, and in containers can make very thyme, make a bright and aromatic feature
There are various types of container to attractive garden features. This range of herbs, in a sunny corner.
choose from: pots of all shapes and sizes
made in earthenware, concrete, plastic, annual vegetables or strawberries should with ballast in the bottom. Growing
galvanized metal, or terra-cotta; wooden have a depth of at least 6in (15cm); bags can be laid out on any firm base.
tubs, either specially made or adapted the deeper they are, the better. A Attach windowboxes and hanging
from barrels; or units temporarily built windowbox approximately 24in (60cm) baskets securely with strong brackets for
up from blocks, bricks, or lumber. Even long by 8in (20cm) wide and deep can safety, and place them conveniently for
small containers like windowboxes and hold a useful selection of salad vegetables watering and to avoid troublesome drips.
hanging baskets can be used, and there or herbs, and a 16–18in (40–45cm)
is scope for all kinds of ingenuity in basket can hold herbs, strawberries, or SUITABLE CROPS FOR CONTAINERS
adapting various used containers of all a trailing tomato plant. Growing bags Apple and pear trees raised on semi-
sizes for growing fruit or vegetables— are usually 36in (90cm) long, 12in dwarfing rootstocks (see pp.174 and 181)
even stacks of used tires or sections of (30cm) wide, and up to 6in (15cm) deep. can be grown in large containers, as can
very wide drainpipe. Specially made Whatever type of container is used, many bush fruits; even blueberries can be
growing bags come ready-filled, or think carefully about its position. Avoid grown in a lime-free growing compost.
sacks made from thick, flexible plastic shade but at the same time aim to site Strawberries can be grown in pots or
sheet can be filled with compost. containers away from full sun and wind tall planters with holes for several plants.
When choosing containers, make exposure, where they are likely to dry Special care in watering, feeding, and
sure they will be large enough for the out quickly. The largest kinds should be pest and disease monitoring is necessary
crop you intend to grow. The greater correctly placed before filling, because for these mostly long-term crops.
the volume of a container, the more they can be very heavy to move after. Almost any vegetable crop can
likely it is that the growing conditions Always raise containers on pot feet or be raised in containers. Successional
of open ground can be matched, and shallow blocks about 2in (5cm) high sowing will keep supplies constant, and
this is most important with regard to to aid drainage. Make sure that pots for transplanting multiblock-sown plants is
maintaining water supplies. Some woody plants or tall crops on climbing recommended for all container-grown
specially made plastic containers for tree supports will not become top-heavy vegetables (see pp.65). There are
and bush fruits or most vegetable crops when the crop is fully grown; they must tomatoes suitable for any of the types
may be as much as 36in (90cm) wide and be large and of heavy construction. described, including hanging baskets;
24in (60cm) deep. Smaller versions for Lightweight containers can be weighted other fruiting vegetables and legumes

will also succeed. Salad crops are

an excellent use of containers, and Planting crops in a growing bag
herbs lend themselves to growing in
Shake the growing bag to loosen the
windowboxes or other small containers. compost, and place it against a sunny wall
Root vegetables are possibilities; these to take advantage of the radiated warmth
particularly benefit from transplanting and shelter. Tall crops such as tomatoes will
as multiblock-sown plants. Perennial need support: use wires 12in (30cm) apart
vegetables and brassicas are the least fixed to the wall, single stakes, or proprietary
worthy of space in containers. supports as shown here. Cut holes in the
bag—for tomatoes, three holes are
PLANTING CONTAINERS sufficient—and plant the tomatoes through
All containers must be well drained; them. Sink a 3in (8cm) plastic pot in front
waterlogging leads to crop failure. of each plant to act as a watering reservoir.
This can be ensured by the existence Tie in each plant to a support, using garden
of several drainage holes in the base; twine in a figure-eight; tie twice around the
if there is only one and more cannot support and loosely around the stem to
be made, put plenty of broken pots in allow for growth. Water thoroughly to settle.
the bottom to provide a drainage layer.
Proprietary soil-less or soil-based
growing composts are best for filling In addition, apply a compound fertilizer of soil than they would have naturally,
the smallest of the containers, including to the soil surface at 1oz per sq yd so the soil needs to be enriched by
windowboxes and hanging baskets. Soil- (50g per sq m) and work it in to a regular feeding. Supplementary feeds
based products will give more stability depth of 2–3in (5–8cm). (see pp.20–23) can be added as growth
and are likely to hold moisture better. proceeds. This can be done by top-
Adding up to 20 percent sand or grit WATERING AND FEEDING dressing with a dry compound fertilizer,
by volume will aid drainage, add weight, Where porous materials are used, such but liquid fertilizers are most effective
and probably make the overall purchase as terra-cotta, it is helpful to line the and convenient. For annual crops, it
less expensive. For the largest of rigid sides with thin plastic sheet, which will is best to start each season with fresh
containers and plastic sacks, the best effectively reduce water loss. Surface compost, but the growing medium in
course is to resort to filling with fertile evaporation can be reduced by applying large, well-fed, and watered containers
garden soil, specially prepared by mixing a mulch of well-rotted organic matter or can be left in place for more than one
in well-rotted and shredded farmyard even composted bark or stone chippings season. Compost in growing bags is
manure or garden compost and a good (see below). In all cases, watering crops ready mixed with fertilizer and will
measure of grit. in containers requires close attention usually serve for one season’s tomato,
to the plant and weather conditions, cucumber, or sweet pepper crop; after
and the feel of the soil. Always water clearing, bags can be used in a second
copiously and not in dribbles; in hot season for strawberries or salad crops.
or windy weather this may be necessary The need for constant attention to
twice a day or more. Never assume that crops grown in containers cannot be
natural rainfall has done the job for you. overemphasized. Plants in containers
Nutrients are also used up rapidly in are living in fundamentally stressful
free-standing containers. The roots will conditions, and it is all too easy for
be restricted, and have to obtain all the much enthusiastic investment to go
necessary nutrients from a smaller volume to waste because of a little neglect.
Gravel mulch
½in (1cm) layer to
Filling a container
conserve moisture
A layer of porous ballast
Potting compost in the base, such as
Soil-based or soil-less broken pots or stones,
compost can be used will help drainage. This
Upturned turf should be 4in (10cm)
2–3in (5–8cm) deep deep in large containers
prevents compost from and 1in (2.5cm) deep in
clogging drainage layer the smallest. Cover this
Scaling the heights Drainage layer with upturned turf or
Peas and beans can be grown in containers, Broken pots or stones twigs and leaves before
and the largest pots will accommodate Pot feet adding growing medium
brushwood or bamboo-stake wigwams Hold base off ground so to 1in (2.5cm) below the
or proprietary kinds of support. water drains through holes rim to allow for watering.

Soil preparation
The time and care that are invested in Forking sandy soil
soil management will be repaid in the Light, sandy soils may be prepared
successful growth and productivity of in spring with a fork. Spread a
good layer, 2–3in (5–8cm) deep,
fruit and vegetable crops. Seasonal
of well-rotted manure or compost
weather is an inevitable challenge, but over the surface—preferably
soil conditions can be governed to a to overwinter, or at the time of
large extent by improvement and good cultivating. Keeping the fork as
maintenance. Thorough preparation and upright as possible, push it into
continuing care serve to keep the soil the soil to its full depth and twist
to turn over the soil, so that the
free-draining yet suitably retentive of
manure is well worked in.
moisture, well aerated, and satisfactorily
supplied with nutrients: characteristics
that all encourage root growth and the
supply of essential elements for healthy Never attempt digging when the soil segments by running a line down the
plant development (see pp.14–17). is saturated from heavy rain, since this middle: in this situation the ground is
Most vegetable crops are annuals or risks compaction and damage to the effectively dug as two plots side by side.
otherwise short-term crops, and basic existing structure. Most importantly, Beds (see pp.32–34) are dug from end to
soil preparation is therefore a seasonal the task is made much harder because end, following the same procedure as
operation. Most fruit crops are of the extra weight and stickiness of the for a wide plot.
perennials, and the considerations of turned-up soil, and it will be difficult The length of a shovel blade or fork
soil preparation are occasional, but all to achieve a satisfying result. prongs is 10–12in (25–30cm). This is
the more important. referred to as the spit, and it is the most
Garden soil that has been managed DEALING WITH DIFFERENT SOILS usual cultivated depth of soil. In some
well for several years can be prepared Relatively heavy soils are best dug in circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate
shortly before planting, but previously the fall or early winter. Turning over to two spits’ depth, but this will only be
uncultivated ground should be dug 12 portions of topsoil exposes them to the necessary on compacted soils when first
months in advance, removing perennial beneficial effects of winter frost. Water preparing the kitchen garden, and only
weeds, breaking up any compaction, in the soil freezes and expands, so that occasionally thereafter.
and improving soil fertility with the the soil clods are naturally shattered to
addition of lime and organic matter (see provide the basis of good structure. DIGGING TIPS
pp.18–23). Together with liming (see pp.18–19), this
■ Fix the principles of the method in your
is the most effective way of handling
mind at the outset, and work methodically
DIGGING THE SOIL soils of high clay content.
and rhythmically.
Most gardeners find that the best soil Light, sandy, or silt soils are best dug ■ Adopt a comfortable and relaxed body
preparation is digging. A prime reason in the spring a week or two before posture when digging into and lifting soil;
for digging is that it provides immediate planting, because otherwise winter this will help you to work for longer periods
clearance of annual and perennial weed weathering may destroy what natural without strain.
cover by burying or removing the upper structure there is. With such soils it is ■ Keep your shoulders down and use

layer, leaving a neat surface exposed to a good plan to cover the surface with the weight of your body, not your arms,
weathering. Digging can also break up well-rotted organic matter in the fall to drive the shovel or fork into the soil.
compacted layers within the soil profile (see p.22 and pp.41–42). ■ Know your limits and never attempt

(see p.15), ensuring free drainage and Both types of soil can be dug with to do too much at one time.
allowing the roots of plants to explore to a shovel, but the garden fork is an ■ Don’t overload the shovel—it is quicker

their maximum range. Turning the soil essential partner tool. It provides the and less stressful to lift smaller amounts.
over allows rotted organic matter to be best means of removing perennial ■ Keep the wall of the digging trench

incorporated rapidly throughout the top weeds without breaking the roots vertical, so that the full shovel’s depth
layers—although do not underestimate before you dig, and of moving and of soil is cultivated.
■ Use the best tools you can afford;
the capacity of earthworms to do the spreading organic matter. It is just as
same on undug sites—and at the same suitable as the shovel for digging light if you are tall, it may be worth
time exposes some soil-inhabiting insect soils in spring. seeking out long-handled
pests to the attention of birds. tools for greater comfort
when working.
Certainly digging is laborious, but PREPARING TO DIG
■ Keep your tools
if it is tackled in limited sections, at the Plan the digging in an orderly way.
clean and sharp for
most suitable time, and using the best The best approach is to have or mark
ease of working.
technique, it can, in fact, be a very out a rectangular plot. Large plots can
satisfying activity. be divided into more conveniently sized

Single digging the soil

1 2 3

4 5 6 7
Mark out the plot and dig out the first surface in order to mark out manageable At each progressive run of digging
1 trench to a depth of one spit and a
width of 12–15in (30–40cm). Place the soil
portions that can be turned over neatly
without overloading your shovel.
6 across the plot, scatter some organic
matter over the floor of the new trench,
in a wheelbarrow to be taken to the other Moving along the trench, thrust the along the face of the turned-over soil, and
end of the plot, where it will be used to
fill the last trench.
4 shovel blade vertically into the soil to
its full depth to loosen each section.
on the ground to be dug next. Spreading
it in this way results in a good mix through
Scatter well-rotted manure or compost Press the handle downward while the top spit of soil.
2 over the base of the trench to a depth
of 1–2in (2.5–5cm) and over the ground
5 levering it back. Lean forward and
downward and twist the shovel blade to 7 Continue down the plot, turning each
trench into the previous one. Fill the
that is to be dug next. turn the portion of soil over into the trench. last trench with the soil from the first. Do
Mark out the next area to be dug. Take care to bend at the knees, and hold not chop or beat the surface of the soil;
3 Insert the shovel blade at right angles
to the digging trench, nicking the soil
the shaft of the shovel near the blade, to
reduce the strain on your back.
leave it roughly dug so that weathering
will break it down.

There are a number of systems of the width of the plot. Remove the soil perennial weeds are best removed
digging, but for general purposes soil from this trench by wheelbarrow to manually, teasing out the underground
preparation can be covered by two: the opposite end of the plot and deposit runners of weeds like couch grass and
single digging and double digging. Both it in an even line outside the plot nettles with a fork.
procedures follow the same pattern of boundary. This transported soil will The operation is repeated down the
digging and suit most kitchen garden be used to fill in the last trench at the plot, and the last trench is filled with
situations. For widely spaced fruit trees end of the dug site the soil from the first. In the case of a
or row planting, the principles can be Digging proceeds by pitching soil into large split plot, the second plot is dug
adapted to preparing either individual the first trench, which in turn creates in the opposite direction from the first,
planting holes or trenches. a second trench (see above). If organic and the last trench will be adjacent
matter has previously been spread over to the first. This removes the need to
SINGLE DIGGING THE SOIL the surface it will automatically be transport the soil removed from the
This is the most common annual incorporated. Manure may also be added first trench; it can be deposited outside
treatment, in which the ground is at the base of each trench or, much the plot boundary right next to where
cultivated to the depth of a single better, scattered in forkfuls over the full digging the first plot began.
spit. The operation requires moving profile. Scattering in this way is generally
methodically backward down the plot, a preferable system to burying manure DOUBLE DIGGING THE SOIL
digging trenches from right to left at the bottom of the trench, because the This is a system for first opening up a
and left to right on alternate runs. matter will break down faster. site and for occasional use thereafter,
Take out a trench about 12–16in Skimmed-off grass and annual weeds if necessary. Double digging follows
(30–40cm) wide to a spit depth across can be buried (see facing page, top), but the same pattern as single digging, but

the ground is cultivated to two spits’

depth. The working trench is 24–30in
Skimming weeds
(60–75cm) wide; this allows the base of If the ground to be dug
a much more clearly defined succeeding
trench to be forked to a second spit
1 is covered with weeds,
remove any established
depth. Because the trench is wider, it perennial weeds with a fork.
is necessary to turn over two parallel You can then skim off the
furrows into the previous trench, annual weeds and bury them.
Before you dig each
instead of one (see below).
In all digging operations be sure not 2 trench, use the shovel to
nick the soil into sections
to bring the subsoil to the surface; this
is most likely to be a problem when about the size of a shovel
1 blade, then slide the blade just
double digging a plot.
under the surface of the soil
and lift the weeds off.
Turn the skimmings
Some gardeners hold that digging is not
essential and point to disadvantages in
3 into the base of the
previous trench, so that
treating the soil in this way. The most the weeds lie upside
obvious disadvantage of digging is that down. Once they are
it is hard work—although the energy covered by soil they will die
required can make it a healthy exercise. 2 3 down and enrich the soil.
It is possible to damage soil structure by
digging, and there may be disadvantages
in disturbing the balance of beneficial matter (see pp.41–42). This needs to weeds like couch grass, nettle, and
soil-inhabiting organisms. Buried weed be applied well in advance of cropping, curly dock weed from a site that is
seeds are brought to the surface by the to allow for worms to pull the material to be managed without digging. This
procedure, and digging is also likely to down into the surface layers, improving can be done by meticulous forking
result in the soil losing moisture as it is soil structure and enhancing fertility. out of clumps of weed, or by laying
exposed to the air. On soils that have a good structure, a covering of sheet mulch over the
Management of a no-digging system the no-digging regime is a good way infested area; this latter treatment will
is based on minimum disturbance of of dealing with the areas between crop be successful only if left in place for
the surface, which is regularly dressed rows or between widely spaced trees. many months (see p.49). The weedkiller
with a thick mulch of rotted organic It is vital initially to remove perennial glyphosate is also an effective treatment

Double digging the soil

Mark out the plot; with placing it against the wall
1 a large area, as here,
divide the plot lengthwise into
of the trench. This will keep
the shape of the trenches
2 halves. At one end, dig out a clearly defined.
trench 2–3ft (60–90cm) wide Fill the first trench
to the depth of a spit, as for
single digging. Place all the
4 with the soil from the
remaining strip to be dug.
removed soil in a long heap, A new, second, trench has
next to the end of the now been created. Repeat
adjoining section. the process, working down the 1 2
Cover the base of the plot to the other end.
2 trench with a 2–3in
(5–8cm) layer of well-rotted
Fill the last trench of a
half-plot with soil dug from
manure or compost. Fork it the first trench of the second
into the soil to another full half-plot. Continue to the end,
spit depth, so that the manure filling the final trench of the
is worked into the subsoil. second half-plot with the soil
Mark out a second trench that was placed off the plot at
3 to the same width. Dig the
trench in 2 halves, or strips.
the very outset.

Take out the soil from the strip 3 4

farthest from the first trench,

for gardens that are not committed to Avoiding soil

organic principles. compaction
Include the possibility of a no-digging When preparing the
surface of beds for
policy when planning the kitchen planting or sowing,
garden (see pp.27–30), but do not regard stand on planks laid
it simply as an easier solution. It is crucial across the bed to
to pay close attention to soil preparation avoid compacting
by this means. Incorrectly managed, it the soil. Mark the
can result in a very weedy patch carrying intervals for drills
(here with canes),
poor crops.
and line one of the
planks up with these.
SURFACE PREPARATION Stand on the planks
How the soil surface is prepared after and draw out a
digging and weathering is dependent straight drill along
on the cropping intention. the plank edge with
a hoe or cane.
Where fruit plants and robust
transplanted vegetable plants, such
as brassicas (see pp.78–81) and leeks Heavy soils dug in fall or early winter out with shallowly drawn drills for
(see p.93), are to be grown, all that is that have benefited from the action of transplant lines (see pp.66–67).
necessary is to level the surface with frost and rain are effectively cultivated In a no-digging situation, preparation
a wide wooden rake. On light soils, with a multitined cultivator, followed beyond the surface mulching stage
the ground may also need to be firmed by raking—all in various directions. entails simply pulling aside remaining
by gentle treading as leveling proceeds. Treading with your feet is helpful on organic matter to expose the soil,
For seed-raised crops and the smaller heavy soils for breaking down clods with possibly the need for shallow
vegetable transplants, it is necessary to and on light soils for firming soft hoeing off of any established annual
prepare a tilth: a surface layer with a ground. Treading must never be done weeds. This operation can be done
fine, crumbly structure. This is easiest on wet soil, no matter what the soil either at spaced planting stations, as
on light, sandy, and silt soils, where texture: a suitable test is that the soil appropriate to fruit plants or well-
it can be achieved by cultivating the should not stick to boots—it should spaced vegetable plants, or along
surface in different directions with a instead disintegrate quite easily when marked out rows for smaller transplants
wide rake. crushed in a hand grip. or sowing seed. The vital mulch
Stones and plant remains are most The process of creating a tilth can dressing will have improved the surface
easily pulled off by holding the rake include the incorporation of granular texture of the soil, and taking out
near to upright, whereas leveling and fertilizer dressing (see pp.20–21). planting holes and drawing drills will
tilth-making are more readily achieved When the top 2–3in (5–8cm) of be no problem: in many instances it
by holding the tool with its handle as surface is suitably friable, seed drills is perfectly suitable to plant through
close as is comfortable to the ground. can be drawn out or the area marked the mulch remnants.

Preparing soil for planting and sowing

Multitined cultivator Wooden rake Metal-headed rake

A three- or five-tined cultivator is an effective Use a wide wooden rake to level the surface Use a metal rake with a head at least 12in
tool for preparing roughly dug ground. Draw and remove large stones. To achieve a good (30cm) wide to create a fine tilth suitable for
the tines through the soil to break down level, hold the rake low and guide it through sowing. Rake the entire surface first in one
large clods and loosen the surface. one hand so that it glides through the surface. direction, then at 90° to this.

Mulching is the process of covering
the soil surface with a layer of organic
Using organic mulches
or inorganic material. It is one of the ▼ Choose well-rotted manure
most useful gardening practices, which Farmyard and all other animal manures
can bring significant improvements should be well weathered before use, to
in cultivation of fruits and vegetables. avoid the emission of ammonia, which can
The benefits of mulching cannot be be damaging to plants. After a period of
stacking, coarse-textured, strawy manure
overemphasized, and it is a technique
takes on a darker color and becomes
not sufficiently appreciated and used. more friable.
Mulching should feature in the plans
and maintenance of any size of kitchen
garden; it will save labor and result in Fine, crumbly
better quality and yield. There is a wide
choice of methods, so mulches can be
used by anyone, in any size of garden. Well-rotted
All crops require continuous supplies of
water, and mulching helps this in two
ways. Any type of mulch provides a seal, Straw still
reducing evaporation from the soil: this prominent
▲ Applying organic mulch
is particularly beneficial during warm
Apply well-rotted manure or garden compost
or windy weather when large quantities to a depth of 2–3in (5–8cm) while the ground
of water are lost in this way. Organic is still moist. Take care not to heap the mulch
mulches also help moisture retention up around the stems of the plants (here,
by improving soil structure and fertility runner beans), since this would encourage rot.
Fresh manure
(see pp.14–17) as they are drawn down
into the surface layer by earthworms.
A mulch can also protect soil structure during summer: this reduces water loss mulches such as heavy gauge black
from being damaged by heavy rain. and also maintains good conditions for plastic or thick carpet (see p.49)
Mulches can enhance or maintain the beneficial soil-inhabiting organisms. should be put in place for a long time,
soil temperature. A mulch reduces These advantages apply to fruit plants well in advance of cropping. If annual
heat loss as air temperature falls: this as much as vegetables. Mulching around weeds do grow through mulches they
can keep plant growth active and in fruit trees and bushes can have a dramatic are invariably weak-rooted and easily
many cases prevent physical damage effect on growth, easily confirmed by pulled out.
to parts below ground, such as mature leaving a plant or two untreated.
carrot roots. A clear plastic sheet mulch Covering the soil with a mulch of ORGANIC MULCHES
applied before sowing raises soil almost any sort will reduce germinating Most bulky organic manures (see
temperature, encouraging germination weeds by depriving them of light. pp.22–23) can be used for mulching,
and early growth. Most other types of Short-term coverings suppress annual providing they are well decomposed
mulch keep the ground relatively cool weeds; to control perennial weeds, through weathering. Garden compost
and leaf mold (see pp.24–26) are ideal,
Straw mulch
Mulching is useful
as well as spent mushroom compost.
to keep developing Shredded prunings, bark chips, and
fruits clean of soil weathered sawdust are effective, but
on surface or trailing add supplementary dressings of nitrogen-
plants such as rich fertilizer (see pp.20–21), for the soil
strawberries, melons, may become deficient in this as the
marrows, and
products are broken down. Cocoa
pumpkins (as here).
Straw is particularly shell is available for use as a mulch; it is
suitable for this. relatively costly and its smell may attract
animals. Straw is especially good around
strawberries or over rhubarb beds. In
coastal areas, seaweed may be available,
but check that gathering it is permitted.
Organic mulches must be kept aerated

and free-draining: for this reason do APPLYING MULCHES

not put thick layers of grass clippings Apply all mulches to soil that is neither
around plants as a mulch, because they very wet nor very dry: a mulch will
become slimy and compacted. Some only serve to exacerbate both these
gardeners use old carpet and cardboard conditions. Spring application is valuable
or newspapers for mulching. Each is because the conservation of soil moisture
effective, but unsightly. encourages early growth and suppresses
the first flushes of annual weeds. Mulch
INORGANIC MULCHES fruit plants immediately after planting,
Film plastic is the most commonly used and put straw around strawberries just as
inorganic mulching material. Clear young fruit trusses are enlarging. Mulch
plastic is most effective for raising soil vegetable rows as soon as the plants are
temperatures, but because it lets light Landscape fabric mulches well established. Mulch in the fall to top
through it not only allows but also Various brands of landscape fabric that are off earlier applications as a soil improver
actually encourages weed growth. It permeable to water and air are available for or provide frost protection to root crops.
long-term mulching, or as a membrane on
is useful for warming and protecting Mulches of garden compost, leaf mold,
which loose mulching material can be laid.
a seedbed under preparation, and if or manure must be of friable texture.
carefully managed it can also be used Apply to a depth of 1–3in (2.5–8cm).
as a f loating mulch (see p.48) for the damage to plants through high levels Straw and hay around robust plants may
first few weeks after sowing. of ammonia. More inert organic be twice as deep, allowing for settlement.
Use black film plastic for longer-term materials, like wood derivatives, can Fix all plastic sheet mulches as tightly
cover. It suppresses weeds, conserves deplete the soil of nitrogen as they as possible, and lay during a warm,
moisture, and is useful for keeping decompose. Some materials may be sunny period, when the material will be
fruits and vegetables off the soil surface. unsightly or troublesome by being flexible. The soil surface should be flat,
Heavier grades of plastic sheet are less scattered by foraging birds. All mulches so that water will not collect in puddles
likely to tear and will last for more than provide refuge for slugs and some on the sheet. Push the edges of the sheet
one season, especially where made with types similarly for snails and even into the ground with a shovel, making
a sunlight-inhibiting ingredient. Old small animal pests like voles. Most a deep slit in the soil beforehand. Ensure
fertilizer or compost sacks can be cut film plastics are impervious to rain the sheet is removed as soon as its useful
to form covers for use around trees. or irrigation and may require watering life is over, as it can shatter on degrading.
Film plastics that are white or silver lines (see p.54) laid beneath. None of Organic mulches are absorbed into the
on one side and black on the other these problems cannot be dealt with. soil so do not need to be removed.
are very useful: with the black side The important thing is be aware of Mulching has a practical place for
downward they ref lect light up into them and be watchful about methods covering pathways, too, not only to
the plants. These are more expensive, of mulch application and of methods of control weed growth but also to give
and probably most justified where pest control where appropriate. a safe, clean walking surface (see p.34).
crops are grown under protection.
All-white plastic gives similar benefits.
Some heavy-gauge woven plastic
sheets can be found, made for long-
term mulching such as around fruit
bushes and trees or for pathways, where
they are an economic investment.
Decorative stone chips are possible
candidates for some situations,
especially around wall fruits. Such
cover brings significant rise in soil
temperature. Another less obvious form
of mulching is provided by shallow
▲ Black plastic sheet mulch
hoeing of the soil surface (see p.72), Thin film plastic can be used as a mulch.
which in effect produces a separate Lay it as tightly as possible to stop wind from
dust layer to aid moisture conservation. lifting it or puddles from forming on top.

◀ Perforated plastic
Mulching has a few potential pitfalls. Perforated clear film plastic is available, or
Organic kinds can encourage disease unperforated sheet can be punctured, to allow
if layered heavily right up to the necks water to penetrate the soil while it is warmed
of plants. Fresh animal wastes can cause under the plastic for use in early spring.

Protected cropping
Several factors govern the range and
harvest period of fruits and vegetables
that we can grow in the garden. Natural
season and site are important, but the
greatest influence is temperature.
Many popular fruit and vegetable
crops either cannot survive low
temperatures or struggle to grow
satisfactorily. In cool climates, citrus
and many other fruits can be grown
outdoors in only a few areas. Potatoes,
zucchini, and runner beans are among ▲ Early vegetables
vegetable crops (see pp.58–145) that Early crops of root vegetables—here broadcast-
will not tolerate extremely low sown radishes—can be raised in greenhouse
beds. A container of lettuces on the path
temperatures, and their natural season
makes maximum use of the floor area.
is therefore limited to frost-free periods.

PROTECTING CROPS ◀ Protection for fruit trees

The range of produce grown in the Greenhouses give fruits such as peaches
kitchen garden can be widened quite improved temperature, a controlled
environment for watering and pollination,
considerably by using various forms
and some protection against birds.
of protection: that is, raising the soil
and air temperature above that of the the greatest opportunity for growing well-rotted animal waste and plant
surroundings by covering crops with variety over the longest possible period. remains can be used for covering root
some sort of protective layer. This Similar benefits can be obtained to crops left in the plot over winter.
differs from the practice of sheltering some extent with garden frames and
plants from wind (see pp.12–13), a cloches of various kinds. Film plastic GREENHOUSES
procedure that itself helps to improve and spun fiber sheets are now widely A greenhouse is invaluable for raising
temperature in the vicinity of crops. available and are effective as protective vegetables (see pp.62–65) such as
There are many ways of growing ground covers, especially in vegetable brassicas, carrots, beets, onions, and
crops under cover. A greenhouse production. Plant materials such as lettuce. Crops can be started early,
is probably the most ambitious and straw, hay, and fern fronds also make sown and established in trays in warmer
demanding possibility, but it provides very useful insulating materials, and air temperatures than those outside;
they can be set out as sturdy plants
when frost is less likely and soil
temperature is rising (see pp.70–71).
Quicker germination and better
planning of succession are also possible,
and establishing crops can be kept
under close scrutiny. Tray-raised
plants are less dependent on high-
quality tilth than those sown directly
outdoors. Radishes, potatoes, lettuce,
carrots, and turnips can be grown to
maturity in a greenhouse.
Better-quality and earlier fruiting
crops (see pp.108–119), such as tomatoes,
sweet peppers, cucumbers, and melons
can be grown in a greenhouse, in soil
borders, large containers, or beds.
Strawberries are suited to greenhouses
and are commonly raised in growing
Tomato cordons in a greenhouse bed Growing bags in a greenhouse
Many half-hardy vegetables can be grown To extend the planting area, for crops such as
bags. The largest greenhouses are
outdoors, but growing them in a greenhouse these sweet melons, growing bags can be used suitable for tree fruits (see pp.149–205)
gives better results. Where soil-borne diseases in the greenhouse. Bags can also be placed on such as peaches, apricots, and figs,
build up, using growing bags is a solution. benching to grow cucumbers. and for vines (see pp.227–233).

The larger the size that can be fitted in,

Greenhouse ventilation the better. A 6 x 8ft (2 x 2.5m) rigid-
clad greenhouse is a very useful addition
Good ventilation is essential
to a kitchen garden, and a polytunnel
in a greenhouse. Warm air
rises to the ridge of the
of 14 x 20ft (4.5 x 6m) is about the
greenhouse, and is dispersed
smallest practicable unit for the garden.
by operating ridge ventilators.
As a guide, the roof area that EQUIPPING THE GREENHOUSE
can be opened should be For any greenhouse to be used to
equal to 20 percent of the floor its fullest, supplementary heating is
area of the greenhouse. Side required. The higher the temperature
ventilators are needed to desired, the more expensive it is to
replenish the flow of air into maintain. What is essential is to provide
the greenhouse; these should Louver vents Top vents frost protection by keeping a minimum
be plentiful, sited on both air temperature of 45°F (7°C) using an
sides of the structure, and electric, oil-fired, or gas heat source.
positioned as low as possible The supplier will usually advise on the
for maximum benefit. Hand size of heater needed to achieve this.
operated ventilators are the Because film plastic does not retain heat
least expensive option, but as well as rigid plastics or glass, heating
automatic controllers are is much less worthwhile in a polytunnel.
available. Louvers provide
However, for propagating purposes it is
effective side ventilation,
feasible to build a small, enclosed frame
and are opened or closed
or other unit within these structures.
by means of a simple lever. Side vents
Heat loss from rigid-clad greenhouses
can be reduced by installing insulation
A greenhouse is not essential. Seed- f lexible film plastic is stretched over during winter and early spring. Bubble-
raised plants can be bought from garden regularly spaced tubular metal hoops wrap products are particularly effective,
centers to gain the seasonal advantages, and held in place by burying the edges and the light loss will not be crucial.
and all the vegetable crops referred to as along the sides of the structure. Film All greenhouses must have built-in
suitable for greenhouse cultivation can plastic containing an ultraviolet-light systems for ventilation through air
be grown outdoors, albeit with a more inhibitor gives up to three seasons’ use. movement. In polytunnels it is most
restricted season and often lower quality Glass- or rigid-plastic-clad greenhouses convenient to rely on air movement
than is possible in the greenhouse. come in many shapes and qualities: even through the structure from large doors
At all costs, do not underestimate the polygonal shapes are available, and can constructed at each end, operated
care and attention required to get good make attractive garden features. They by rolling up or down sheet covers
results: regular greenhouse maintenance may be free-standing or abutted to a strengthened with horizontal wooden
will include ventilating, watering, and building as a lean-to structure, ideal for battens. End-door ventilation is equally
possibly shading, over and above the growing woody fruits, particularly vines. valuable for temperature control in
specific care of the crops grown. They may be made of wood, which glass and rigid-plastic clad structures,
needs the most maintenance, aluminum, but here vents are also used (see above).
CHOOSING A GREENHOUSE or polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC). To prevent crop damage from
Glass is the best material for light Older or more traditional, glass-clad overheating, it is also necessary to
transmission and heat retention, and it greenhouses may have brick wall provide shading facility to greenhouses.
is the most durable cladding if carefully supports up to half the side wall, or may This can be a movable cover in the
maintained, but it is relatively expensive, be glass- or plastic-clad to ground level. form of a roller blind; more economical,
heavy, and fragile. Plastic requires less
Extending the season
robust load-bearing structures than glass; While a polytunnel would not be
units are therefore generally cheaper and an efficient choice for use as a
easier to repair. Rigid plastic is available heated greenhouse, it can extend
as acrylic or acrylic-coated polycarbonate the growing season considerably.
sheet; sheets coated on both sides offer Here a range of winter greens,
improved insulation. Although they are including mizuna greens and bok
choy, are being grown together
less durable than glass, these materials
with winter radish and beets.
share many other properties.
Walk-in polytunnels are the cheapest
greenhouse choice, in terms of covered
surface and load-bearing structure. The

and suitable for all types of structure, Brick cold frame

is the application of a shading wash The most durable
in early summer, removed in the fall. cold frames have
brick walls, which
Be sure to have a continuous water retain heat better
supply connected to the greenhouse. than all-glass or
Rain barrel collection is a helpful plastic frames. If
supplement, but always limited at they are built onto
times of high demand. the wall of a green-
Benching, preferably removable house, as here, they
are very useful for
for convenience, is invaluable in a
hardening off plants.
greenhouse. It is also worthwhile
investing in a soil-warming cable to
provide bottom-heat to germinating
seed and developing plants; the ideal
situation is to have this within a frame
sitting on the benching. All heating crops are to be grown to maturity Frames are available in a range of sizes,
equipment should be controlled by under frame lights, ensure that there and can also be made to fit the space
a thermostat for fuel economy, and is a cultivated soil depth of at least available. The miniumum useful size
the electrical installation should be 8in (20cm). Forming the beds with a is 4 x 2ft (120 x 60cm). Frames can be
made by a qualified person. slope further enhances early warming set out in any length of run that suits
Most crops to be grown through and crop maturity. the need and location and they may be
to harvesting under protection need either single runs, or double runs each
support, and this is best done by fixing TYPES OF COLD FRAME sloping from a central apex.
wires and strings to the structural Traditionally, frames are permanent
members of the greenhouse. structures made from low brick, block, MAINTAINING PLANTS IN FRAMES
or wooden walls covered by glass- or Frames are relatively low in profile and
USING COLD FRAMES plastic-clad lights: multipaned window likely to be nearly airtight when shut,
Garden frames have been used by fruit frames can be used. Glass is the most so their management calls for close
and vegetable gardeners for generations. efficient cladding material, but rigid attention to ventilation. Lights require
The provision of frames is a possible plastic and in some cases f lexible propping open as necessary with some
alternative to a greenhouse for plant film plastic are suitable alternatives. wooden blocks or bricks. For maximum
raising, especially where it is possible The most efficient frames have the rear airing or to admit rainfall, the lights will
to fit a soil-warming cable. wall higher than that at the front, in need to be removed or at least tilted
Frames are important in acclimatizing most cases with a fall of no more than right back to expose all the cropped
or hardening off young plants raised 2in (5cm). This sheds rain and, when area; lights can be heavy and unwieldy,
under cover before planting out, suitably orientated, captures the so take care when handling them.
encouraging sturdy growth with less maximum sunlight. Custom-made Taller frames are constructed so that
chance of a growth check at planting aluminum or plastic frames (see below) the cladding sheets can be slid sideways
out. Progressively more air is admitted are popular and effective: this type of in specially made grooves. Inadequate
to the frames every few days, until the unit is an expensive investment, but it ventilation can lead to high humidity, in
young plants are completely exposed. is versatile and potentially long-lasting. which plant disease may thrive or crops
Another use of frames in the kitchen
garden is for low-growing crops such
as strawberries, zucchini, melons, and
early root and salad crops. A minimum
distance of 12in (30cm) between the
soil surface and lid, or lights, is needed.
With much taller lights, it is possible
to grow cabbages and cauliflowers to
maturity; tomatoes and cucumbers can
be accommodated if bush cultivars are
chosen, or the plants may be laid on the
surface as the fruit ripens, in which case
it is best to lay a plastic sheet mulch.
Aluminum and glass cold frame Wooden cold frame
Position frames in an accessible spot This tall frame covers a crop of winter lettuces. Frame covers or lights can be specially
that is prone to neither wind nor shade. It is excellent for light transmission, with the made, or multipaned window frames can
For raising young plants, frames may be added benefit of a light-reflecting mulch. A be used. Wood will require maintenance,
stood on a hard surface area, but where low-level irrigation line takes care of watering. and the struts reduce light transmission.

may become overheated and their a central clip. More versatile is the barn
leaves scorched or simply f lagged due to cloche, constructed of four panes.
evaporation of available soil moisture.
For the latter reason, frames may also CHOICE OF MATERIALS
need to be shaded in hot sun: here a Glass cloches have their disadvantages.
securely anchored covering of densely They are prone to breakage because
woven polypropylene netting is a good of the necessary pattern of regularly
solution. Conversely, during winter and moving them within the garden.
spring, be prepared to add an insulating The glass requires cleaning every
layer of thick plastic sheet mulch or old season to remove soil and particularly
carpet over the lights to protect tender tenacious algal growth. Those of
plants. Any snow covering serves as the barn type call for practice in
effective insulation, so do not remove it. assembling. Above all, glass cloches
Be watchful for mice in frames, provide a potential safety hazard in
especially in cold periods. They can do the garden, especially to young
considerable damage to young vegetable children. Where they are to be used,
plants, particularly peas. a protective barrier of wire netting
fixed to sturdy posts should be erected.
INDIVIDUAL CLOCHES For economy, safety, and relative
Cloches (see below) are another long- Tunnel and tent cloches ease of handling, consider cloches made
established means of protecting and This kitchen garden is exploiting a range of from materials other than glass, such as
advancing edible crops. They are very crop protection methods, from large frames in rigid plastic. These are widely available,
the background to tunnel cloches over large
useful for strawberries, and they can in sheet form to match the tent or barn
crops and barn cloches over the smaller plants.
also be successfully used to grow early cloche pattern or as portable tunnel
roots, lettuce, melons, and zucchini. The term cloche derives from the use units made from corrugated plastic.
Peas, beans, and potatoes can be of bell glasses, now also available in The main disadvantages are that
effectively advanced before finishing plastic, placed over individual plants to these cladding materials usually transmit
in the open. Cloches provide good hasten maturity. There were variations less light than glass and do not retain
cover for plants being raised in outdoor in design with panes of glass in a metal heat so well. Furthermore, they are
seedbeds. They are an aid to warming frame, shaped a bit like a lantern, which light and more vulnerable to wind,
the soil early before sowing, and at the are again now also available in plastic. so need securing with a line of strong
other end of the season can be used in More usual are cloches consisting of cord fixed to two posts and held taut
the ripening of onions and tomatoes. panes of horticultural glass clamped over each run of cloches. Whereas
One novel use of barn cloches is to together on a wire framework or simply glass is durable when carefully handled,
upend and place two together to form a held together with a patent clip. The plastics are subject to degeneration
more or less cylindrical unit, 2ft (60cm) simplest of these, the tent cloche, is through the action of sunlight, unless
tall, which is suitable for protecting crops made of two sheets of glass measuring a light-inhibiting chemical is added to
such as tomatoes and sweet peppers. 24 x 12in (60 x 30cm) held together by the material at the time of manufacture.

Types of cloche

Plastic bell cloches Glass barn cloche Glass lantern cloche Corrugated PVC cloche
Glass bell cloches are heavy Barn cloches have two sloping Made from small pieces of glass Used here to advance cauliflowers,
enough to be simply stood on panes forming a roof and two held together on metal frames, these can be left open at the ends
the soil; plastic bells need to be more panes forming the sides at these have the advantage of a to allow ventilation. If greater
pegged down around the rim, a steeper angle. Closing the ends lid that can be lifted and turned protection is required, the ends
but cost far less and sometimes with glass or sheets of plastic, as to allow ventilation without can be closed by securing small
have useful vents at the apex. here, provides more protection. removing the cloche. sheets of plastic across them.

How to make a tunnel cloche

Use a former made from a plank with 9in /16 in (4–5mm) Loop wire around 3/8in (1cm)
1 coach bolts to make eyelets and 9in
(23cm) legs in lengths of galvanized wire.
1 (23cm) galvanized wire coach bolt to create eyelet

Bend the wires into hoops about

2 2ft (60cm) wide. A second former,
with the hoop shape outlined in nails
Nail holds wire
steady while first
loop is made
78in (195cm)
driven into a thick sheet of wood, will
be helpful for this. Hoop 12in 4ft (1.2m) wide
Press the legs of the hoops into (30cm) high and

3 the ground at intervals in a straight

line. Drive wooden stakes into the ground
Eyelet at
24in (60cm) wide
clear film plastic

at an angle of 45º beyond the last hoops.
Secure one end of a roll of 150 gauge
clear film plastic to the stake. Unwind the
roll over the hoops as tightly as possible;
this is easier if the roll is warm. Secure
Hoops 3ft
the other end to the second stake. Use
Leg of hoop Polypropylene twine (1m) apart
polypropylene twine tied to the eyelets extends 9in Wooden stake 24in tied to eyelets holds
to hold the sheet taut.
2 (23cm) into soil
3 (60cm) beyond hoop plastic in place

CONTINUOUS TUNNEL CLOCHES lines (see p.54) along the crop rows. pests such as aphids and carrot root
Film plastic is really too f limsy to make Consider using a plastic sheet mulch fly (see Plant Problems, pp.246–264).
an effective cladding material for home- under cloches to conserve soil moisture; Clear film plastic can be used to
made rigid cloche frames; it is, however, many crops can be planted through advance direct-sown vegetable crops,
very suitable for a system known as such cover (see p.50). but perforated or woven film or spun
low continuous polytunnels or tunnel Choose a sheltered site wherever fabric is much more likely to be
cloches, a different type of low-level possible, but carefully fitted cloches successful. When using perforated
protection that in many ways matches can withstand quite strong winds. Glass plastic, choose lightweight, 150-gauge
the glass or rigid-plastic cloche. This cloches must be kept closely fitting, transparent film, with holes of about
form of cloche is relatively inexpensive and the ends sealed with securely fixed /2 in (10mm) diameter distributed at
and easy to make, being constructed of panes of glass or plastic, and tunnel around 200 holes per square yard (or
film plastic stretched over galvanized cloches must be constructed carefully meter). Film that has been UV treated
wire hoops (see above). The plastic so that the sheet is taut and the ends is available, and this will last longer
covering should last for two seasons. are tied or firmly buried in the soil. than untreated types. Plastic that is
Although the effects will not be quite woven or manufactured with fine slits
as beneficial as with other cloche types, FLOATING MULCHES
particularly glass, tunnel cloches can Crops may also be protected with
significantly advance crop maturity of the use of fabricated ground covers,
strawberries, lettuce, runner and French sometimes called f loating mulches.
beans, and numerous other vegetable This is a technique widely used by
crops, and are worth considering. commercial growers, especially for
advancing the bulking of early potatoes.
USING CLOCHES The system is quite compatible with
To get maximum use out of cloches, a vegetable garden laid out in 4ft
plan to grow crops in long, narrow (1.2m) wide beds (see pp.32–34).
strips. Even with tunnel cloches it is Floating mulches are effective in
then possible to bring on one strip raising soil temperature and protecting
substantially, then move the cover over developing seedlings and young
to a second strip. The second strip can growing crops from wind and pounding
then be advanced under cover, while rainfall, but only the thickest covers
the first crop matures in the open. have any value as frost protection,
As with using cold frames, watering and even then they do not match the
Access to tunnel cloches
the covered crop is crucial. It is possible benefits of frames or cloches. Another To ventilate tunnel cloches push the film plastic
to benefit from rainfall by moving or advantage is that some types of cover up from ground level between the metal hoop
opening the cloches, but for the best form a physical barrier to protect certain and the retaining string. This also gives access
insurance lay inexpensive irrigation crops from crucial stages of damaging for watering and harvesting.

serves much the same purpose as

the perforated types. An excellent
Using floating mulches
alternative to perforated film plastic
is horticultural f leece. This is a soft,
lightweight material manufactured
from spun and bonded acrylic fibers.
It is usually white and is permeable
to air and to some rainfall. It has
better insulating properties than film
plastic, and the heaviest grades will
give protection from frost. The f leece
is surprisingly strong in view of
its softness, a characteristic that is
Securing a long-term floating mulch Securing a temporary mulch
particularly valuable in not causing Open a slit trench all around the crop and The covering, here fleece, can be held down
chafing of the covered crops. If it is push the edges of the floating mulch, here at the edges with bricks, large stones, or
carefully handled, f leece can give perforated plastic, into the trench until taut. lumber on a sheltered site.This makes it easier
service for at least two seasons. Cover the edge with soil and tread to firm. to use the mulch as a short-term covering.
Both film and f leece are suitable
Loosening horticultural fleece
for encouraging the germination of Fleece covering can be used not only to
seed crops, but perforated or slit film advance a newly sown crop, but also
plastic is best for this purpose because, to provide some protection against frost,
unlike f leece, it does not stick to the as shown here on potatoes. In all cases
ground when it is wet. There are also the sheet must not be allowed to restrict
fine woven mesh covers available, growth; it is important to inspect the crop
regularly and loosen the cover, if necessary.
which are promoted particularly for
their value in excluding insects.


Floating mulches need to be securely
anchored to be effective and to prevent edge of the sheet by pushing it into the too long, because almost all are likely
damage to the covered crops. The best slit with a second insertion of the shovel. to deteriorate if constricted. Film
means of doing this is to make a slit Lay the film quite tightly, but be ready plastic should be removed from the
trench around the perimeter of the plot to ease it out of the ground as the crop site before it becomes brittle as a result
or bed by pushing the blade of a shovel develops, by pulling at the edges of the of degradation by sunlight; if this
deeply into the ground. Bury the folded sheet and refirming. Crops like carrot, happens, it is liable to shatter.
lettuce, and beet can be sown in drills
that remain slightly sunken when OTHER PROTECTION
finished, so that whatever sheet mulch Frost protection for figs and, in areas that
is used it is not in direct contact with are prone to severe ground frost, root
the surface of the seeded lines. vegetables can be provided by insulating
Floating mulches can also be used them with layers of sacking, fleece,
to advance germinated crops in the straw, or bracken, as available. Whether
spring, including early potatoes, and the material is packed around the plants
to provide some protection to crops or layered on the ground, do not allow it
going into fall and winter to improve to become saturated; this can be ensured
quality. With spring or fall covering, by regularly loosening or turning it.
use wider runs of material to allow All of the protection methods
for easement as the crops grow. described have a price in financial
Remove any weed growth around outlay and time commitment; it is not
the crop before laying, as this would essential to introduce any of them into
rapidly develop. Be watchful, inspecting a new kitchen garden immediately.
the crop regularly. Remember that Think of protection as a desirable
coverings vary in the amount of rainfall development, a means of extending the
that they allow through, so keep an productive range, season, and quality
Fine woven mesh
This fine-grade, insect-proof woven mesh
eye on the covered crop and lift the of crops. These are areas to progress to
is carefully laid to allow the lettuce plants floating mulch to water, if necessary. once the principles of good basic fruit
beneath to develop with protection against Most important is to ensure that the and vegetable production are mastered
insect pests. developing crops are not covered for through a few seasons’ experience.

Weed control
Weeds are plants growing where they
are not wanted. Usually they are native
Controlling weeds by light deprivation
plants that grow successfully in the wild,
but quite often they may be cultivated
plants invading new areas.
Some weeds are not only attractive but
may also have beneficial effects. Scarlet
pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) and wild
pansy (Viola tricolor) bear attractive
flowers, cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)
supports beneficial hoverflies, and red
dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) attracts
bees. It hardly needs saying that wild
plants should be tolerated and indeed
actively nurtured in appropriate places Using black film plastic Using old carpet
near the kitchen garden. Annual and perennial weeds can be Any durable, light-excluding material can
suppressed by covering the area with thick be used to control weeds. Even where some
Crops will, however, be adversely
black film plastic buried at the edges. Cover perennials are not killed, they are markedly
affected by weed competition, and for for a whole season, if possible. weakened and much easier to fork out.
most people a weed-free garden is more
attractive than one left to its natural
development. Weeds can be divided into PERENNIAL WEEDS (Taraxacum officinale), stinging nettle
two groups for the purposes of control: Potentially most troublesome weeds are (Urtica dioica), creeping buttercup
perennial weeds and annual weeds. those perennials that increase primarily (Ranunculus repens), ground elder
by vegetative means, such as spreading (Aegopodium podagraria), couch grass
HOW WEEDS AFFECT CROPS roots or runners or rooting stem tips, (Agropyron repens), brambles (Rubus
By far the worst effects of weeds lie in rather than by seed production. These species), and horsetail (Equisetum species).
competition. Weeds absorb water and weeds are of particular concern on A new site in which such weeds are
nutrients from the soil, depriving crop uncropped sites where they have become well established can be daunting, but
plants and so restricting their growth. well established; they are also potentially it is essential to clear out any of these
They compete for light, and vigorous troublesome where they spring up inhabitants and destroy early any small
weed growth can seriously shade young among newly sown or planted fruit colonies within already cultivated plots.
developing plants. They also compete and vegetable crops and are then very
for space, which may result in restricted difficult to eradicate without disturbing MECHANICAL CONTROL
or stunted growth of cultivated plants. the crop. Notorious perennials are curly Nonwoody perennials can be
Weeds can also affect pest and disease dock (Rumex species), dandelions controlled by long-term covering
incidence (see Plant Problems, pp.246– with heavy-gauge black film plastic
264). Some weeds may harbor pests or other durable, light-excluding
such as eelworm and diseases such as material such as old carpet. To be
clubroot of brassicas or rusts, these most effective it will need to be in
being found in weed plants closely place for at least a whole growing
related to cultivated crop species. Dense season, so forward planning is essential.
weed growth may become soaked by Lift the cover occasionally and carefully
rain, reducing air movement and dig out any struggling weeds.
increasing humidity around plants, The more usual method is to cultivate
providing ideal conditions for diseases the ground with a shovel or fork. Break
such as botrytis (see p.252), which affects open the ground to a spit depth, and
the fruits of strawberries. shake or pick out by hand tuberous or
Heavy weed growth looks unsightly woody roots or underground runners.
and can make harvesting more difficult; This is best done on hot days, leaving
pulling vegetables that are surrounded by weeds exposed for a while to be
nettle growth can be painful. Another desiccated and killed; then dispose of
effect worth noting, although of very them off-site. It is unlikely that one
Forking out perennial weeds
limited importance, is that some weeds Established perennial weeds may bave deep
session will clear the land, because many
may exude chemical substances at root tap roots or spreading roots, like these nettles. of the weeds will regenerate from even
level that have the effect of restricting Make sure to loosen and tease out as much the smallest fragment, so be prepared to
the growth of nonrelated plants. of the root as possible. repeat the task.

Using a mechanical rotary cultivator to the range is narrowed due to legal

chop up the existing ground cover is less restrictions on manufacture.
advisable. It is effective only with many There is no real risk to personal safety if
repeat operations, because underground the instructions are followed to the letter,
weed parts are chopped into pieces, but valued plants are vulnerable to drift
each of which will regenerate. Worst of or careless use of weedkiller. Important
all, it can destroy the soil structure and rules are: keep a marked watering can
produce an impermeable soil pan (see or sprayer solely for weedkiller; choose
p.16) at the depth of the spinning blades. the appropriate material; mix and apply
The persistence of perennial weeds it with great care, preferably on a still
varies. Curly dock, dandelions, and day—a dribble bar (see p.53) can be
creeping buttercup soon succumb useful; and place physical barriers around
to careful cultivation, but couch grass any crop plants in the immediate area.
and stinging nettles require careful The chemical glyphosate is highly
and repeated lifting. Worst of all are effective; it will be absorbed into actively Planting through a plastic sheet mulch
horsetails, which may be very deep- growing plants. There are also chemicals Avoid weeding by laying a sheet mulch (here
rooted and impossible to eradicate. The specifically for perennial grasses and landscape fabric) over the bed and secure at
the sides by pushing into a slit trench. Cut
armed stems of brambles are formidable, hormone weedkillers for persistent weeds
crosses in the sheet and plant through them.
but they can be removed with like brambles and bindweed (Convolvulus
methodical use of pruners and a shovel. arvensis). The latter can be painted on to By and large annuals are more readily
Bulbous perennials, such as a few aerial parts of plants. Inspect the shelves controlled than perennials. The group
Oxalis species or ramsons (Allium ursinum), of a well-stocked garden center and includes chickweed (Stellaria media),
call for meticulous lifting or constant spend a while making a careful selection. groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), annual
removal of leaves to weaken the plant. Bear in mind that many perennial weeds meadow grass (Poa annua), goosefoot
Fortunately, these attractive weeds are are also prolific seeders, including curly (Chenopodium album), hairy bittercress
less competitive than many, but in high dock and dandelion. (Cardamine hirsuta), speedwell (Veronica
density they can still smother other plants. species), and annual nettle (Urtica urens).
ANNUAL WEEDS These weeds reproduce through the
USING WEEDKILLERS Annual weeds complete their life cycle prolific production of seeds, making
Chemical weedkillers can be a great help in one season; there may even be more up a large part of the estimated 100,000
in preparing new ground, in controlling than one life cycle per season. There are seeds in each square yard (square meter)
persistent or deeply established perennial a few significant biennial weed plants, of soil. Many seeds are lost to the
weeds, and where weeds invade from which make growth in one season and predations of birds and soil-inhabiting
adjoining land. Their use is a matter of flower in the following one, and these creatures, while others fail to develop
imposed as well as personal choice, since may be regarded as annuals. after germination. Cultivating will
destroy many, but moves dormant seeds
Spraying weeds with weedkiller to conditions favorable to germination.
Destroy all flowering weeds before
they have chance to set seed. Regular
hoeing is the most effective means of
controlling annuals, since severed parts
do not regenerate. Hoe as soon as the
crop rows can be identified, and repeat
frequently. Work shallowly to avoid
bringing more seeds to the surface
and to minimize soil moisture loss.
It is most important to hoe between
crop rows.
Hand weeding is a quite satisfying
pastime in the control of annual weeds.
A flame gun can be used on pathways,
but it is a specialized tool rather than
Herbicides such as those containing Over two weeks the treated weeds an essential. A valuable technique for
1 glyphosate are an effective aid for 2 progressively die back and are more suppressing seeding weeds is the stale
destroying perennial weeds. Make sure not readily removed. Glyphosate does not seedbed practice of allowing a flush of
to use them on a windy day; the spray may persist in the soil, so you can plant very weeds to grow on a prepared bed, and
drift onto valued plants and kill them. soon after the weeds are cleared. then destroying them by shallow hoeing
or with a flame gun before sowing.

Keeping your garden healthy

Neglected crops of fruit and vegetables predators; other pests feed on a range of
may fail due to factors such as weather plants. Plants also emit scents that attract
(see pp.10–13), nutrition (see pp.14–17), predators or parasites of their attackers. In
weeds (see pp.49–50), lack of water (see nature, diversity in a plant community
pp.53–54), and from pests and diseases minimizes the effects of pests and
(see Plant Problems, pp.246–264). diseases; in a kitchen garden, we tend to
Animals, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and grow blocks of a single crop, advertising
other organisms can destroy, disfigure, its existence and increasing the chances
or debilitate crops, wasting the time, of attack. Keeping the area weed-free
effort, money, and garden space devoted also reduces the habitat for beneficial
to them. It is vital to be aware of what predators and parasites.
problems may occur with each crop,
and think ahead about how to combat GROWING HEALTHY PLANTS
them. Above all, inspect crops regularly Weak or weed-choked crop plants will
and closely, so that you can deal with be more vulnerable to attack by disease,
problems before they become serious. so prepare and maintain your garden Keeping equipment clean
well. Accumulated plant litter perpetuates Dirty equipment and containers can harbor
NATURAL STRATEGIES diseases, as does infected wood, such as diseases and minute pests. Clean your tools
regularly and wash all containers between
Plants have remarkable mechanisms for cankers (see p.253), left in fruit trees and
uses, scrubbing them out with a stiff brush
repelling pests. Some produce chemicals bushes. Practice good garden hygiene. and horticultural disinfectant.
that discourage feeding by their scent or Plant problems are encouraged by
taste. Some insects, such as the caterpillars waterlogging and drought, so prepare nitrogen-rich fertilizers (see pp.20–21)
(see p.253) of the cabbage white butterfly, and manage the soil well (see pp.37–40). are applied, can be far more susceptible
can tolerate chemicals produced by Plants with unbalanced nutrient levels, to aphid attack (see p.251) or botrytis
brassicas and find a niche as specific especially where large amounts of disease (see p.252). Liquid conditioners,
including those made from plant
Mechanical barriers and deterrents extracts such as comfrey or seaweed (see
p.21) keep crops in good health and may
stimulate the plants’ natural defenses.
Plants repeatedly grown on the same
site are likely to suffer from a buildup
of pests, such as potato cyst nematode
(see p.260) or onion white rot (see
p.258). Rotation (see p.31) is therefore
a good practice. A basic knowledge of
life cycles assists in knowing how to
prevent diseases from carrying over
in the soil from season to season.
Buy only healthy stock. Clubroot
▲ Bird scarers of brassicas (see p.254) can easily be
A plastic bird of prey suspended on a line imported on purchased plants. Always
from a cane bobs and twists in the breeze look for certificated strawberries and
to scare off birds. Scarecrows may need to
be moved regularly to remain effective.
other fruit plants. Remember also that
there are degrees of resistance available
▲ Using a cage in vegetable and fruit cultivars. We have
Protect crops from birds with a cage of nylon
apples resistant to scab (see p.251), carrots
netting, supported on metal or wooden
posts. You can make one yourself or buy a
less prone to carrot fly (see p.253), and
kit like this one, here protecting winter Savoy parsnips resistant to canker (see p.258).
cabbages and Brussels sprouts.
▶ Netting on cabbages Plants can be effectively protected from
Low-level netting can be attached to birds (see p.252), rabbits (see p.260),
homemade structures made from canes and deer by netting or individual tree
to exclude bird pests. Fine-mesh netting
will also protect the crop from egg-laying
guards. Many insect pests can also be
insects, such as cabbage white butterflies. controlled by mechanical means: on
a garden scale it is possible to remove

Natural allies in the garden

It is worth thinking of ways to wherever it is
encourage the activities of practicable to do
natural predators in and so. Bear in mind the
around the kitchen garden. well-being of friendly wildlife
This can be as simple as at all times, especially when
choosing to use hedges, which applying any chemical
provide cover for hedgehogs, treatments that might
rather than fencing, or harm them.
incorporating a pond Hoverfly Hedgehog
for frogs and toads.
Useful insects such
as hoverflies need a
range of flowering plants
on which to feed. Reserve
areas of uncultivated
land on the margins of the
kitchen garden for the food
and cover of useful creatures
Frog Ladybug larva eating blackfly Lacewing

caterpillars (see p.253) or slugs and to avoid the effects of a pest by planting the range of such pest and disease
snails (see p.262) by hand, or to squeeze practices, for example, by not sowing control measures makes it clear that
clusters of aphids on shoot tips. carrots until late spring, when carrot the choice is much wider than simply
Cabbage root f ly (see p.253) can be f lies are less active. resorting to chemical sprays.
deterred by placing small mats or rings
around the base of individual plants; USING PREDATORS CHEMICAL WEAPONS
carrot f lies can be prevented from Besides the natural predation by birds, It is possible to maintain an armory
damaging carrots by surrounding the small animals, and insects (see above), of pesticides to eradicate or protect
area with a low level protective barrier. it is possible to introduce parasites against pests and diseases. Because of
Horticultural f leece (see p.48) can be or predators artificially. This is most increased regulation on the use of these
used for the same purposes. Apples effective under the protection of a substances, the range of treatments that
can be protected from winter moth greenhouse or solarium, where the is available has become much reduced,
caterpillar (see p.264) by putting sticky atmosphere can be controlled, and a and the use of alternative control
tree bands around tree trunks, and successful example is the use of Encarsia methods has now become essential.
sticky traps impregnated with attractant wasps to parasitize the young stages of It should be remembered that,
chemicals are available to reduce whitefly (see p.264). For outdoor use, unlike the commercial producer,
infestations of codling moth (see p.254) parasitic nematodes are available for the the gardener usually has no need for
or plum fruit moth (see p.259). Peach treatment of slugs, vine weevil grubs, maximum crop yield or unblemished
trees that are provided with winter leatherjackets, and chafer grubs. All of produce. Many pest- or disease-
covers are less susceptible to peach leaf these biological controls require careful induced defects can be cut out of
curl disease (see p.259). It is also possible understanding and management, but harvested fruit and vegetables.
Chemical treatments are expensive in
Biological controls Whitefly control
These pest controls Encarsia wasps both purchase price and the time taken
take many forms, in tube ready in applying them, and need to be applied
for release at defined times for effectiveness.
from predators to
traps or parasites. While quite safe for humans if applied
Biological controls strictly according to the instructions,
are released into the chemical substances may have harmful
environment (usually
in the greenhouse),
Flying insect control effects on natural pest predators or
Brightly colored sticky other friendly insects like bees. Regard
or watered into the Winter moth control
traps lure insects such
soil or compost as as aphids
Sticky band wraps spraying and dusting as a last resort and
around tree trunk and
appropriate. Some other methods as the first line of attack
traps wingless females
must be applied at or defense. The reasonable approach
a particular time is to try to keep pests and diseases at
or temperature to Vine weevil control
an acceptably low level; attempting
be effective. Pathogenic nematodes
are watered onto soil to eliminate them altogether is
around affected plants impractical and rarely vital.

Watering and irrigation

Good growth and yields depend on
continuous adequate supplies of water.
Watering can attachments
This is much inf luenced by the soil An oval, flat rose with the face upward
type and condition (see pp.14–16). produces a fine spray for watering seedlings
Clay soils hold more water than sandy or damping down foliage. Face downward,
ones, because there are more spaces it provides a fine drenching flow. A round,
in the soil to hold it, but plants are conical rose with the face downward will
able to extract water from sandy soils give a drenching spray of greater volume
more easily, because the spaces are for watering established plants or settling
larger. The water-holding capacity of in robust transplants.
any soil is improved by the addition
of organic matter (see pp.22–23), and Small holes give
water retention by the use of mulches fine spray
Dribble bar
(see pp.41–42). A dribble bar attachment is very useful for
The best source of water is rain, but watering crops or applying liquid feed. It
Large Oval rose
due to seasonal f luctuations in rainfall holes give provides an even, steady spray, ensuring
and high temperatures in summer, soils fast flow Round good coverage of the crop.
often become dry during periods of
crucial plant growth, and added water
from stored sources or the water main
is needed. Many garden centers stock a around roots. As a very general guide WATERING CANS
good choice of watering and irrigation to application rate, whether by watering The most common way of watering is
equipment for this purpose. can, spray gun, or sprinkler, aim at not with a plastic or galvanized watering
less than 21 ⁄2 gallons per square yard can. Models with a long spout are most
WATERING CROPS (10 liters per square meter). useful, and they can be equipped with
Water thoroughly, so that the amount A good way of ensuring that water various interchangable roses, which
applied is absorbed down to a useful benefits the crop is to make mini- are normally made of brass (see above).
depth. This can be achieved by gentle reservoirs around widely spaced plants Round roses have large holes, ideal
and repeated applications of a fine, or along planted rows such as peas and for settling in newly planted crops or
rainlike spray or continuous droplets beans: pull the soil into shallow walls to heavy watering of established crops
applied around the base of plants. High- form basins or troughs. Similarly useful on a well-structured soil. Oval roses
pressure or rapid, swamping applications are plastic pots—or cut-down plastic with smaller holes deliver a fine spray
lead to the water running off, resulting bottles—sunk up to their rims close of water onto tender plants or newly
in waste and in erosion of the soil to individual plants such as tomatoes. sown areas.
Large droplets can be gently applied
with a dribble bar fitted to the spout
of the watering can (see above). This is
most usually used for applying liquid
feed, or weedkiller for which a separate,
marked can and bar will be needed.


A handheld spray gun attached to
▲ Rotating sprinkler
Sprinklers are fixed to the end of
a hose supply can provide the same
a hose to water one area at a time. distribution effects as a watering can.
The simplest types have fixed Spray guns may or may not have a
heads; the rotating types often solid lance (see left) to which the head
cover a slightly larger area, but is fitted. The f low and pattern of
their spray may be coarser. water can be adjusted by turning
▶ Hose attachment controls at the spray head, and with
A spray-gun attachment on a rigid some models the f low can be locked
lance fitted to the end of a hose on manually.
allows you to reach crops without
stepping on beds. Because the
Low-level sprinklers, fed from a
lance can be maneuvered between hose attachment, can also be used (see
plants, water can be delivered far left). Some models have heads that
more efficiently close to the soil. move under water pressure to distribute

the f low, but for the kitchen garden

the cheaper models made with a push-
in spike are adequate.
Sprinklers have the advantage of
watering unattended—but it is essential
to check them frequently to ensure
that the pressure and distribution
of f low are not causing f looding.
Even sprinkers with moving heads
can distribute water unevenly, so
do check regularly and move them
when necessary.


A range of low-level watering systems
made from plastic or rubber are available.
They are an excellent choice for effective
distribution in the kitchen garden,
ensuring that water is delivered close to
the plants, in readily absorbed quantities Drip hose used among strawberry plants
and with a minimum of wastage. This irrigation system uses a perforated hose directly near the roots, avoiding wasteful
The simplest form is a thin-walled connected to a faucet. The hose can be laid evaporation. The system can be controlled
close to the crops, with the water dripping out either manually or with a timer.
plastic tube, which lies flat and is
connected to a water supply. It emits
thin arching sprays of water from the pipe along its entire length and station where appropriate, to ensure
pin holes 12–20in (30–50cm) apart then flushing it through with a strong that no plants are deprived because
(see right). Other useful types are soaker flow of water should clear any buildup. of blocked outlets; dig down with a
hoses, which are small-diameter tubes. Thick-walled rigid plastic pipe systems trowel near plants to ensure that water
These may be made from heavy-gauge of 1 ⁄2 –1in (1–2.5cm) diameter are has penetrated to a useful depth. Fit
flexible plastic, and manufactured by available for somewhat more permanent a timed switching device to the main
stitching the edges in a continuous placement, and these come with supply line for maximum efficiency.
line: water seeps from the stitched different distribution heads. Some have
seam to provide a band of water along mini-sprinkler attachments at regular USING WATER WISELY
a crop row. A variation on this is intervals. Others, called drip hoses, Whatever watering and irrigation
small-bore tubing of 1 ⁄2 –1in (1–2.5cm) have short, flexible, drip lines of a systems you use, remember that water
diameter formed from porous rubber, smaller bore pierced into the feeder is a valuable resource: use it effectively
or sometimes plastic, from which line, with each drip supported on a and economically. Priorities for
water weeps in small droplets. Both small plastic pin holder; metal or plastic irrigation are newly established plants
of these flexible systems work with trickle nozzles form another system, and all fruits that are beginning to
very low water pressure. They are and both of these can deliver water swell, such as strawberries, raspberries,
prone to blockage over time, however, right to the base of individual plants. peas, and beans, as well as leafy summer
so regular maintenance is advisable; Check the output of all of these vegetables such as lettuce, and bulking
squeezing, rolling, or otherwise flexing irrigation systems regularly, at each potato tubers. Water at the start or end
of a day; in the middle of the day, much
will be wasted in evaporation. Collect
rainwater wherever possible; rain barrels
are soon emptied, but are worthwhile.
Household waste water, or gray
water, usually contains residues that
are best not used on edible crops, and
should be reserved for watering woody
ornamental plants. Keep an eye on the
weather and the state of the soil, so that
Soaker hose Minisprinkler on hose you can predict when plants are likely
Hoses made from reconstituted These small attachments can be strategically
to be stressed due to inadequate water,
rubber ooze water droplets along placed close to particular plants to direct the
their entire length to provide a water to where it is most needed. They are and top off supplies before your crops
steady supply. Wind them among available in a variety of spray patterns, show the obvious visual symptom,
plants for even distribution. watering to one or both sides of the hose. which is wilting.

Tools and equipment

A set of tools is necessary from the Stainless steel is worth the expense, CHOOSING A RANGE OF TOOLS
start in preparing and maintaining a since it is both strong and durable, and A few basic tools are essential, especially
kitchen garden. It is worth investing handles of ashwood or aluminum are a shovel, fork, hoe, trowel, hand fork,
in the best-quality tools that you can the best choice. When selecting new and pruners. There are many variations
afford; they will repay the expense or secondhand tools make sure that on all of these implements.
and last a lifetime if they are properly the heads and handles are securely A lesser-known but recommended
used and cared for. A good-quality joined to the shafts. Test the weight tool is the arrow-headed hand
tool should be well-designed, strong, of the tool and be sure that it feels cultivator, which is very effective for
and, if appropriate, lightweight; such comfortable to hold. Try out a range breaking down roughly structured
quality is guaranteed in well-known of sizes and designs to find a model soil after digging or overwintering.
branded products. that feels right for you. It is also useful for loosening a

Shovels and forks Rakes

These are essential tools for digging, trenching, Rakes are needed for making seedbeds,
and skimming weeds (see pp.37–40) and especially in leveling and preparing tilth.
for planting and moving soil. The handles They are also useful for pulling off litter,
of standard shovels and forks are about 2ft tamping seed rows after sowing, and
(60cm) long, although longer ones are available pressing out seed drills on soft ground.
to suit individual needs.

▼ Choosing a shovel
A standard digging shovel has a 11 x 8in
(28 x 20cm) blade; a border or lady’s shovel,
with a blade usually of 9 x 6in (23 x 15cm),
is lighter to use and is especially helpful for Metal prongs ideal
for preparing a tilth
digging in confined spaces. There are other Tines are usually
specialized shovels for specific tasks. square in section

Standard shovel Border shovel Head of border ▶ Metal rake

fork is shorter Choose a metal rake
and narrower with a head 12–15in
(30–38cm) wide and
prongs 2½in (6cm)
long, spaced about
1in (2.5cm) apart.
The handle should be
Handles may about 5ft (1.5m) long.
be of wood
or metal

Digging fork Border fork

▲ Choosing a fork
A standard fork has a head of four tines,
or prongs, each 12in (30cm) long; there
is also a border or lady’s version, which is
ideal for working between perennial plants.
▼ Wooden rake head of
Narrow metal
Look for a head
strips make ▼ Handle grips for shovels and forks wooden
digging more
about 30in (75cm) rake is
Handle grips may be shaped in one of
comfortable wide, holding best for
several ways; a D- or Y-shaped grip is clearing
wooden peg teeth
found to be comfortable by most gardeners. and
3in (8cm) long, and
fixed to a handle leveling
up to 6ft (2m) long,
to allow for wide,
sweeping strokes
in various directions.

T-shaped Y-shaped D-shaped


compacted surface between fruit seed sowers make gardening tasks easier necessary for day-to-day maintenance.
plantings, and on paths. Also worth but are not essential. Tools made from carbon steel will rust
considering at an early stage is a if they are left damp, however, so these
spading or potato fork; this has f lat MAINTAINING YOUR TOOLS should also be wiped over with an oily
tines, which come in various widths, Whatever tools you buy, it is vital to rag after use. Always store tools in a
and is particularly suitable for digging maintain them properly, keeping them dry place: never leave them outside.
heavy-textured soils. clean, rust-free, and, where appropriate, All tools with cutting edges, such
Other, more specialized tools can be properly sharpened. If you neglect this, as pruners and hoes, will need regular
added as the kitchen garden develops the tools will be harder to use and less sharpening with an oilstone or steel
and as your preference and budget will efficient, and will have a shorter life. to give the best possible performance.
allow: loppers and saws, for example, After using a tool, clean off all dirt, If tools are not used over the winter,
are really only needed in the cultivation plant matter, or other debris promptly. clean them very thoroughly and oil
of fruit trees. Tools such as dibbers and For stainless-steel tools, this is all that is them well before putting them away.

Cultivators and hoes Planting tools

Cultivators are excellent tools for breaking down newly dug There are two essential tools for planting: the trowel and the hand
ground and working in top-dressings. The push hoe is used fork. The trowel is ideal for making planting holes and firming
to slice off weeds with a push-pull action and must be kept soil around transplants, such as module-raised vegetables and
sharp; conversely, the draw hoe is used in a chopping strawberry plants. Forks are necessary for hand weeding and for
motion, which entails walking forward on the hoed loosening soil along rows and around plants.
ground. A draw hoe can also be used for
marking out drills or earthing up crops. An Trowels and hand forks
The trowel has a scoop-shaped, tapered
onion hoe is most suitable for cultivating
blade about 6in (15cm) long, attached
along vegetable rows and for thinning.
to a short, rounded handle. Forks
have 3 or 4 prongs and a
similar handle. There are
Types of cultivating implement long-handled versions of
A cultivator usually has 3 or 5 prongs; both tools available.
it is possible to buy models with
interchangeable heads. A push
hoe has a flat, oblong blade, while
a draw hoe has a blade mounted
Lid can be
at a right angle to the handle; an rotated to
onion hoe is a smaller, handheld adjust size of
version of the draw hoe. opening

Trowel Narrow trowel Fork

Cultivator with
five-pronged head Seed sowers
Narrow three-
These release one seed at a time,
pronged head and so make it easier to make thin
or spaced sowings. The outlet can
be adjusted to suit small- to large-
sized seeds.
draw hoe

Tray dibbers are pointed, pencil-like tools of wood,
metal, or plastic, used to make planting holes
or for pricking out seedlings at
the propagating stage. Larger
planting dibbers are used
to sow bean seeds or to
transplant vegetable plants
in open ground.
Push, Dutch, planting
or scuffle hoe Onion hoe Plastic tray Metal tray dibber
dibber dibber

Cutting tools
Pruners and loppers may be anvil or act more like scissors, and make a cleaner ▼ Pruning saws
parrot-bill types. Anvil types have a single cut without crushing. Saws are required Folding saws are easily carried around, but a
sharp blade that cuts against a flat anvil, for pruning large branches, and knives for Grecian saw, with a curved blade and teeth
and can cut thick wood; parrot-bill types a range of essential tasks. set for use in a single pulling action, makes
cutting easier and should be the first choice.

▼ Pruners
Pruners should be strong and able to cut Look for Blade folds into
comfortable handle for safe
woody stems up to 1/2 in (1.5cm) thick. Look
cushioned grips carrying
for hardened steel blades with reasonably
long handles and a comfortable grip, Folding saw
replaceable parts, and a simple safety catch.

Blade closes
down onto
Grecian saw
flat anvil

Anvil pruners
▼ Knives
Blade slices Curved handle
A good multipurpose knife has a straight
against bar gives an easier
grip for more
blade 3 1/2in (9cm) long; a budding knife has
effective action a fine blade and relatively long handle to
make precise cuts. Sharpen with an oilstone,
then keep an edge with a diamond steel.

Parrot-bill pruners ◀ Loppers

Loppers are suitable for reaching into fruit
Handles may trees and bushes and exerting powerful Budding knife
be fixed, or
leverage; they can be used on branches
telescopic for
of up to about 11/2in (4cm) diameter.
greater reach

Pocket diamond steel

Watering and spraying Measuring tools

Watering cans will be essential for Some measuring and marking tools are
maintaining plants both under protection essential for spacing crops properly.
and outdoors, and they need to have Hand pump A folding measure is easily portable,
pressure spray
detachable roses to deliver coarse or fine but you can make your own measuring
droplets. Long-necked watering cans are stick by marking out a length of light
ideal, but there is a wide choice of other lumber at 6in (15cm) intervals. Marker
sturdy cans. It is vital to have separate line is used in sowing and planting
and clearly labeled cans or sprayers for outdoors, pegged taut at either end.
applying weedkillers, to avoid accidents. Brightly colored string is easily seen.

measuring rod

Trigger on nozzle
controls spray

Marker line
Useful capacity is
2 1/2 gallons (10 liters)

Long neck gives

well-balanced can
measuring stick
High-quality metal watering can
The range of vegetables that can be grown in
any garden is enormous, and there are many
factors that may influence your choice. Certain
basic principles and techniques—for example,
sowing seed—are common to the majority of
vegetable crops, involving skills that are easy and
satisfying to master. In fact, for some gardeners
the vegetable plot is the only area in which they
practice raising and nurturing their plants from
tiny seeds to maturity.
The crops in this section have been arranged
in conventional groupings—the onion family,
for example, or salad plants. The members of
each group share a number of characteristics,
such as soil preferences or vulnerability to certain
problems, that make it convenient to grow them
together. This also makes it easier to follow a
crop rotation, vital for healthy plants and good
harvests. Even within the groups, the wealth and
variety of produce to be had—leaves, stems,
and roots, flower buds, and fruits—will provide
good food, fresh or from storage, in every season.

Vegetable seed
Most vegetables are grown from seed, inferior plants—and is more expensive with the expected characteristics of
of which there are two basic kinds. than open-pollinated seed. Both types the named cultivar. The expertise and
The first is open-pollinated seed, which, may be bought untreated, or with reputation of established seed merchants
whether bought or home-saved, is various treatments to ease sowing or usually ensures good quality and
produced naturally and derived from aid germination (see chart, below). reliability. Buying seed is convenient
a mix of parent lines—although good and packets usually carry helpful advice.
open-pollinated seed from a reliable SHOULD I BUY OR SAVE SEEDS? Many gardeners also like to save seed
seed merchant will have been subject Packaged vegetable seeds, widely from the garden, to keep costs down
to careful selection of breeding material. available in great variety, are subject and for the satisfaction involved in
The second is F1 hybrid seed, which is to legal requirements on “trueness” raising their own plants. There are two
produced by crossing two inbred, stable (where the offspring plant conforms main problems, however, with amateur
parent lines; the resulting plants are more to a described type) and viability—a seed-saving: extracting and storing the
uniform and vigorous. This type can guarantee, in practice, that a statutory seeds in such a way as to keep them
only be bought—seed saved from F1 minimum percentage of the seed will viable, and maintaining trueness to
hybrids will produce variable and often germinate and produce healthy seedlings type: any vegetables allowed to set seed
in the open garden are likely to be
TYPES OF VEGETABLE SEED cross-pollinated—fertilized by pollen
Natural/untreated seeds have been saved, cleaned, and not
from different cultivars—and their
coated in any way. They may be home-saved, conventionally offspring will therefore show variation.
produced for sale, organic, or heritage seeds. Organic seed is An additional problem in cool climates
produced on land that has been certified as free from chemicals is that it may be difficult to ripen
and added fertilizers.
home-saved seed sufficiently.
Natural (parsnip)

Treated seeds have been coated with fungicides or insecticides HERITAGE SEED
or soaked in hot water in order to produce disease-free seedlings, or, Seed merchants are only allowed to
for ease of handling, pelleted in a clay coating that disintegrates sell vegetable cultivars that appear on
in the soil. Chemical coatings will not rub off and are usually brightly
colored. Wear latex gloves when sowing these and wash your hands approved official lists. These inevitably
afterward. They should be sown soon after purchase. tend to feature only those cultivars that
Coated (cauliflower)
are commercially viable to produce, and
Primed seeds (usually of carrots and onions) have been specially so many older cultivars suitable for the
treated to initiate germination and then dried again; they must
be sown within two months of purchase. Since the seed has amateur garden have disappeared from
already started to germinate, it is more reliable than conventional retailers’ catalogs. Organizations have
seed for use early in the season when soil conditions are not ideal. been set up to conserve such cultivars
Primed (carrot) both for interest and to maintain the
Multigerm seeds (usually of beets and chard) consist of rough gene pool. Since they cannot legally
clusters of seeds, rather than individual ones, each of which may sell the seed, they may operate as seed
produce a clump of seedlings. These may be thinned or left to “libraries,” where a joining fee enables
grow into a cluster of baby vegetables as in the multiblock sowing
technique (see p.65). Monogerm preparations that produce only the member to “borrow” seed. Contact
Multigerm (beets) a single plant of these vegetables per seed are also available. details appear in gardening magazines.
There are many fine traditional cultivars
Precision-treated seeds are selected to have a high germination worth seeking out in this way.
rate and vigor, and often graded so that all the seeds are of equal,
larger size to produce better, more uniform plants. If treated with
fungicide and insecticide, they may be brightly colored to warn CHOOSING VEGETABLE SEED
of the presence of chemicals. These seeds are expensive, so sow Many factors may influence the type
Precision-treated seeds in plugs or modules to reduce the need for thinning and wastage.
of seed that you buy. Organically raised
Pregerminated seeds can sometimes be obtained by mail order; seed may be of particular interest to you,
this is useful for seeds that the amateur finds difficult to germinate: for example. The various seed treatments
cucumber and melon seeds, for example, which require high
available (see chart, left) can help in the
temperatures for germination. You can also help some seeds,
such as peas or beans, to pregerminate by soaking them for a control of particular pests and diseases.
Pregerminated (pea) short time (up to 24 hours); this speeds up germination when sown. Pelleted seeds, being larger, are easier
Seed tapes are available for a limited range of vegetables to enable
to handle and sow, and are easier to
evenly spaced sowings. These biodegradable paper tapes have seeds see, enabling more accurate spacing and
embedded at regular spacings and can simply be laid at the bottom thus reducing the need for thinning,
of a seed drill (see p.66), enabling long rows of vegetables that will which saves money.
not need thinning to be sown very quickly and easily.
The cultivars you choose will largely
Tape (scallion)
be determined by what will succeed in

Drying pea and bean pods

In damp conditions, it is a good
Preparing seeds from pulpy fruits
idea to pull up whole stems
(here beans), with their pods
still attached, and hang them
upside down by their roots
in a dry, airy, frost-free
place. When dry,
crush the pods
and shake out
the seeds.

Scoop pulpy seeds (here of sweet

your region and by
personal preference. If you 1 melon) from very ripe fruits with a
spoon, and place in a household
2 Spread the seeds out on a layer of
paper towels in a shallow container,
and leave them to dry in a warm and airy
have little practical experience, look
strainer. Rinse them in running water, place for at least a week. When they have
for cultivars that have won award from
making sure that all the pulp is removed; dried out, store them in a cool, dry place
reputable organizations, such as the if left, it will hinder germination. for sowing in the following spring.
All American Selections Award. Look
around local and community gardens,
or ask local gardeners, to discover cultivars; otherwise unsuitable second year. Always allow the seeds,
cultivars that do particularly well in substitutions may be made. Well before or the fruits that contain them, such as
your area, or show good disease sowing, read all of the information tomatoes and sweet melons (above), to
resistance. But be adventurous, too: try on the packets. Be particularly careful ripen or mature fully before you collect
out different cultivars to compare with to sow at the recommended time, or them. Leave pea and French bean pods
your old favorites, and experiment you could face problems such as poor on the plants until they have dried and
with new introductions and novel germination, or bolting of mature plants just split, and then extract the seeds; in
plants such as differently colored corn. (see also individual crops, pp.74–135). damp weather, you can remove entire
stems and dry them out under cover
BUYING VEGETABLE SEED HOW TO SAVE SEED (see above left). With fava beans and
Seed can be purchased either from retail Choose only strong, healthy plants runner beans, grow one type of cultivar
outlets such as garden centers or by mail to save seed from. Remember that only in one location to reduce the risk
order from seed merchants. The latter you cannot save seed from F1 hybrids, of cross-pollination, and select the best
usually stock a wider range of cultivars. and that some crops, such as carrots, pods from which to collect the seeds.
If using a seed merchant, send your are biennial and will need to be
order in early to secure your chosen overwintered in order to flower in their STORING VEGETABLE SEED
Seed loses viability and vigor with
How to test seed for viability age, and this process is accelerated if
seed is kept in moist, warm conditions.
When seed has been stored long-term, Do not count seeds that have merely Some crops, such as parsley, carrots,
test its viability before sowing. Put 50 or swollen; all seeds swell when wet, whether and parsnips, are best sown fresh each
100 seeds on damp absorbent paper on viable or not. Sixty percent germination year. Seed of peas, beans, and brassicas
a saucer, and keep it moist and in a warm, (30 out of 50 seeds, for example) is the will last for several years if kept correctly.
dark place. The seeds should germinate minimum required for you to consider
Seed should be stored in a cool, dry,
within 2–3 weeks, producing roots and sowing that batch of seed, for when sown
dark place, at 34–41°F (1–5°C) with
first seed leaves. Count the seedlings and outside, the percentage will be lower. In
even moisture and temperature levels.
work out the percentage of germination. the examples shown here, using cabbage
Sheds and kitchen drawers are not
seed, one set (left) shows
60% viability and the
suitable. Unopened vacuum-packed
other (right) 100%.
seeds store best; reseal opened packets
The growth of the securely with tape, or tape home-saved
seedlings on seeds into small paper packets. Keep
the right is also packets in an airtight tin or jar,
more even and surrounded by silica gel to absorb any
vigorous, indicating moisture. If you open a packet to sow
that the seed will only some of the seeds, do not let the
High viability produce stronger, rest get damp before resealing. Before
Low viability healthier seedlings. sowing seed stored for more than a
year, test its viability (see left).

Sowing seed under cover

There are several advantages to starting TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS directly outside, provided that
crops by sowing seed under cover, in a Seed of many crops will germinate in conditions are favorable. Other crops
greenhouse or cold frame (see pp.43–48), an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, need continued warmth; peppers and
or in the house. You can control the although extra warmth will speed up eggplants, for example, need to be kept
environment—temperature, compost germination. However, seed of plants at 70°F (21°C) until planting. This can
moisture and air humidity, and nutrient indigenous to warm climates—for be achieved by maintaining bottom
supply—to provide optimum conditions example, tomatoes, cucumbers, heat, if convenient, but also by growing
for germination and for the seedlings eggplants, peppers, corn, and on the young plants in a warm room.
to establish. Seed of frost-tender zucchini—will only germinate at
plants can be germinated in favorable constant temperatures in the range, SEED-RAISING SYSTEMS
conditions, and the seedlings grown usually, of 59–75°F (15–24°C). Traditionally, most vegetable seed
on until all risk of frost outdoors is At this stage, the soil temperature sown under cover is sown into pots
past. Starting off hardier crops such as matters more than that of the air. or trays filled with seed compost.
lettuces, onions, and carrots in a cold The most energy-efficient way of Once the seeds germinate and the
greenhouse usually produces stronger raising soil temperature is to warm seedlings need more room to develop,
plants and better crops than from a it from below; hence the expression they are transplanted, spaced more
spring sowing outside. Seed can also bottom heat. Bottom heat can be widely apart, into larger trays or into
be sown earlier for a longer cropping provided by putting pots and trays on their own small pots. This is known
season. Even seed that will germinate a bed of grit or sand containing soil- as pricking out.
outdoors in very low temperatures, warming cables or on a heated blanket. The advantage of this system is that
like peas and fava beans, can benefit The heating system may be built into it minimizes the amount of space in a
from being sown under cover, where the base of a specialized propagator heated propagator needed at the first,
the risk of seed and seedlings rotting (see next page), the lid also helping to critical period during which the seeds
in cold, wet soil is reduced. retain heat and moisture in the air. germinate—especially useful with
If you have only a small garden, Once seeds have germinated and slow germinators such as celery and
you may not have room for the outdoor the seedlings are growing they generally parsley. It is also an easy way to sow fine
seedbed that some crops, such as require lower temperatures. Many seed. The disadvantage is that pricking
many brassicas, require. Young tray- hardy crops can, once hardened off out the delicate seedlings can cause root
raised brassica plants suffer less transplant (see p.65), be planted damage and a check to growth.
shock and resist some plant problems
better than seedlings raised in and modular strip
transplanted from open ground. 13mm
module tray
Half seed tray
Rigid modular insert

module tray

3in (9cm) pot

module tray

Standard 5in (13cm) pot

seed tray

Types of container
A variety of containers may be used
for sowing. Make sure that pots have
holes at the base for drainage. Modular
inserts and trays have a hole at the 5in (13cm) pan
bottom of each cell. Tube pots are
biodegradable, so can be planted Treated paper 37mm
without the need to disturb roots. tube pots module tray

To avoid this pricking-out stage, seed transplanting. When ready, the young
can be raised in trays—individual, self- plants can be pushed out from below.
contained cells within a tray—until
ready for planting out. This modular PROPAGATORS
method gives very good results. A propagator provides a warm and
Each seedling can grow without humid microclimate, aiding the rapid
competition, and is transplanted and successful germination of seeds. In
with its own well-established rootball, its simplest form, a propagator can be
minimizing any check to growth. The a sheet of glass or clear plastic, or even
disadvantages are that more compost plastic film or fleece, placed over a pot
is used, and that the trays take up or tray of seeds until they germinate.
more room in a propagator. To develop further, however, seedlings
If propagator space is at a premium, Seedlings in an unheated propagator need more headroom; specially built
you can sow seed into pots and trays Propagators keep seeds warm and moist and propagators consist of a molded plastic
and then prick out the seedlings into encourage them to germinate. Here, tomato tray with a boxlike, clear lid (see left),
and celery seedlings are developing well. Use
trays. This works particularly well for the vent in the lid to control condensation.
with vent holes to allow air to circulate.
seed of tomatoes and peppers, which Small unheated propagators are fine
can be sown in small pots in a heated Some plants, for example, corn, must for windowsills. Large, heated ones
propagator and then transplanted into be encouraged to form a long root are ideal for unheated greenhouses.
large-celled trays (see p.64). from an early stage. For these, long, The heating element should provide
narrow pots known as tube pots are a minimum compost temperature of
CONTAINERS ideal. If made from treated paper they 59°F (15°C). An adjustable thermostat
Any small pots can be used to sow seed; can be planted directly into the soil, regulates how much heat is generated.
the shallow pots known as pans are also as can compressed fiber pots. In severe weather, cover propagators
ideal for most crops. It is advisable to Trays are graded by the size and at night with bubble wrap.
choose plastic over terra-cotta; plastic number of their individual cells.
can be kept cleaner and makes it easier to Those with 13mm cells produce small SEED AND POTTING COMPOSTS
control soil moisture. If only a few plants plug plants that will quickly need to Proprietary composts tend to be a
are required, say 10–12, a 31/2in (9cm) be transplanted; they are ideal when more even product than homemade
pot will suffice. If sowing 30 or more, soil conditions will soon be good for mixes; they will also be free of pests
sow in 5in (13cm) pans, or in a tray. planting out. The large, 37mm cells are and diseases. It is important to use fresh
Large seed trays are known as standard suitable for plants with large seeds that composts every year; they undergo
or full trays; small ones as half trays. need time and space to develop before detrimental chemical changes in storage.

Broadcast sowing in a half seed tray

Fill the tray past the rim with a special
1 seed compost or a universal compost.
Moisten it with water if dry. Tap the tray
on a bench in order to settle the compost,
and then remove any excess by drawing a
piece of wood carefully across the surface.
Firm the compost to remove air
2 pockets using the base of another
tray or the straight edge of a board. With
peat-based composts, only minimum
1 2
firming is necessary, or you risk compaction.
Water the compost lightly, and leave until
any excess water has drained off.
Carefully scatter the seeds onto the
3 surface of the compost, directly from
the seed packet. The seeds should be
sown evenly and not too thickly, to avoid
overcrowded seedlings later.
Sift a fine layer of compost over the
4 seeds, and lightly firm it down. Keep
the compost moist, but not wet, to 3 4
encourage successful germination.

Broadcast sowing in pots

For just a few plants,
1 scatter the seeds (here
cabbage) thinly and evenly
in a 31/2in (9cm) pot of moist
seed compost. Sprinkle with
a layer of compost equal to the
seed depth, water, and label.
When 2 seed leaves have
2 developed, transplant
the seedlings into individual
modules of standard potting
compost, discarding any that Using vermiculite to cover seed
1 2 are damaged or diseased. Vermiculite can be used instead of compost
to cover some seed; it allows air to reach
the seeds, while keeping them moist.

Proprietary seed composts are usually water, containers, propagators, and other In the early stages, ensure the seedlings
soil-less, consisting of a sifted bulky items used must be scrupulously clean to are kept warm and moist. It is helpful
material such as peat or a peat substitute prevent contamination that might cause to stand seeded containers on water-
mixed with fine sand to ensure good disease, especially damping off (see also absorbent matting, obtainable from
drainage. Seed composts are low in Plant Problems, pp.246–264). Do not use garden centers. Avoid exposure to strong
nutrients, which germinating seeds do rainwater collected from downspouts. sun; a temporary covering of newspaper
not need. Multipurpose or home-mixed is a useful device. Plants on a windowsill
composts can be used, with added sand SOWING SEED IN POTS OR TRAYS will grow toward the light, so turn the
to open them up, but avoid products and Large seeds to be sown in pots or seed container regularly. Check regularly for
ingredients that are high in nutrients. trays can be pushed into the compost signs of disease, since this can rapidly
For transplanting seedlings into larger individually. Fine seed can be sown spread. Once the seed leaves have fully
containers, use a potting compost that broadcast—scattered randomly—and developed, prick out the seedlings.
contains a higher level of nutrients to then spaced out more evenly at the
help the young plants develop. Peat- pricking out stage. To sow fine seeds PRICKING OUT SEEDLINGS
and coir-based composts are widely in pots (see above) or trays (see p.63), Always prick out seedlings promptly,
available, lightweight, and convenient shake them straight from the packet, or they will become crowded and grow
to use; coir and other peat-free composts or sprinkle pinches from between weak and leggy. Water the seedlings,
need care with watering and feeding. finger and thumb. Cover thinly with and fill the new container with
Soil-based composts are more retentive sifted compost, sand, or vermiculite moistened potting compost. Hold each
of nutrients and easier to keep moist. (see above right), and lightly firm. seedling gently by a leaf; never touch
If you are an organic grower, materials The smaller the seeds, the lighter the the stalk or roots. Using a dibber or a
such as leaf mold and worm composts covering should be. Water lightly; pencil, lift out the seedlings in groups,
are good ingredients in potting mixes. at this stage you could water in a and separate them carefully so as not to
copper-based fungicide to protect damage the delicate root hairs. Discard
THE IMPORTANCE OF HYGIENE against damping off. any unhealthy-looking seedlings.
Conditions under cover—warmer, and Place the container in a propagator, Transplant them into fresh compost,
with still, humid air—increase the risk or cover with a sheet of glass or plastic either regularly spaced, 1–2in (2.5–5cm)
of disease, and plants are most vulnerable wrap. Remove covers as soon as apart, in a large seed tray, or one plant
at the seed and seedling stage. Composts, germination occurs to prevent disease. per tray cell (see left), with the seed
leaves just above the compost. To
Pricking out into trays
prevent scorching, keep the seedlings
To avoid too much damage to the
roots, as soon as the seed leaves are
out of full sun for a few days. Grow the
fully open (here celery), prick out the seedlings on and harden off (see facing
seedlings into module trays or small page) ready for planting outside.
pots. Gently ease out the seedlings
from the compost using a dibber or PRICKING OUT INTO INDIVIDUAL POTS
pencil. Hold each seedling by its This is ideal for frost-tender crops such
leaves, because the stems bruise
very easily. Dibble a hole in each cell
as tomatoes and peppers that are to be
and drop in a seedling. Then use the grown on in the greenhouse before
tip of the tool to push and gently firm being planted out in warm conditions,
compost around it. Water and label. because they have to be well spaced out

on the staging. Prick out each seedling

into a 4in (10cm) pot. Place the pots
Multiblock sowing
close together initially, and then move Fill a tray with moist
them apart as the plants develop and
their leaves begin to touch.
1 potting compost. Make a
slight depression in each cell
with your finger, and sow 3–5
SOWING DIRECTLY INTO TRAYS seeds in it. One module tray
Large seeds are easy to sow individually could be used for a mixture
in trays. Small seeds can be carefully of crops to avoid gluts. Cover
pushed off a piece of board, glass, or the seeds with a 1 ⁄4in (5mm)
paper, or lifted individually on a damp layer of grit, and water and
artist’s paintbrush. Fill the cells with label. Put the tray in a position
compost in the same way as described with good light.
When the seedlings
for pots and seed trays. Either sow one
seed per tray cell, just pushing it into the
1 2
2 have grown further and
developed 1–2 true leaves,
surface or, for seed of doubtful viability
carefully plant out each
(for example, old seed), sow three to a
group, without thinning, at
cell and thin to one strong seedling
an appropriate spacing for
once the seed leaves are fully developed.
the vegetable (here turnips).
Trays sown with hardy crops can Allow the unthinned plants
be placed in an unheated greenhouse
or cold frame. Cover the trays with
3 to grow on to form a group
of mature baby vegetables. This
fleece, plastic wrap, or glass to keep method enables you to grow
the seeds relatively warm and moist many plants in a small space,
until they have germinated, especially and is especially suitable for
if sowing early in the season when root, bulb, and stem vegetables.
temperatures are low. When the
seedlings start to emerge, uncover
them, and grow them on in good number of smaller, or baby, vegetables, planted out before they become leggy. It
light until large enough to plant out. and is suitable for turnips, beets, round is important to give them enough space
carrots, bulb onions and scallions, for the whole cluster to grow to maturity.
MULTIBLOCK SOWING chives, leeks, and parsley. Multiblock
This sowing technique (see above right), in seedlings should be raised in a FEEDING YOUNG PLANTS
which clusters of plants are grown rather greenhouse or a frame, where there is If young plants have to be left in
than individual ones, is very useful if you good overhead light that will reach all pots or trays for long periods because
have limited space. It produces a larger of the seedlings in the cluster, and be adverse weather conditions prevent
planting out, give them a liquid feed
GROWING SALAD SEEDLINGS (see p.21) to maintain health and vigor.
As soon as the plant’s roots fill the
You can grow mustard, rape, or cress (see eat in 7–10 days. Cress must be sown three
pot or tray cell, pot up into larger
p.106) in 3/4 –11/4in (2–3cm) of compost in days before mustard or rape to obtain a
small pots, baskets, or shallow pans. Scatter mixture for salad. Alternatively, line a saucer,
containers of potting or multipurpose
the seeds thickly on the surface and leave 5in (13cm) in diameter, with absorbent
compost, and feed regularly.
to germinate. Keep moist but not paper, add water to soak the paper, and
overly wet. This will produce a drain off any excess before sowing the seeds HARDENING OFF
mass of seedlings ready to thickly (see below). Cover with a plastic bag Young plants raised from seed under
to retain moisture, and place on a windowsill, cover need to be gradually acclimatized
at a maximum temperature of 59°F (15°C). to the outside temperature before they
are permanently planted out. This is
known as hardening off, and it should
take at least 10–14 days. Put the plants
in a cold frame, gradually increasing
the ventilation each day until the plants
are eventually completely uncovered.
Leave them for a few days close together
to protect each other; this helps them to
establish when finally planted out singly.
Scatter cress seeds thickly Cress seedlings ready to eat Less hardening off is needed if fleece or
cloches are to be used (see pp.46–48).

Sowing seed outdoors

Successful vegetable cropping from not be in a rush to sow before spring pp.74–135). For large areas of seedbed,
seed sown outdoors is dependent on a temperatures start to rise. The soil can if the soil is very lumpy or soft, carefully
satisfactory seedbed and the care with be warmed with covers or cloches to walk over the whole area evenly, but
which the sowing is carried out. The advance sowing dates (see pp.46–48). never do this when the soil is wet, or
seed is usually sown in rows known it will become compacted and airless.
as drills (see below). Most crops are sown PREPARING A SEEDBED For small areas, stand off the bed and
where they will be harvested. Some, In the fall before sowing, dig over use the back of a rake head to tamp
including leeks and cauliflowers, may be the site of the seedbed thoroughly, down lumps gently to break them up.
sown fairly closely spaced in a seedbed, incorporating organic matter (see pp.37–
and then transplanted (see p.70) when 40), and allow it to settle over winter, PRODUCING A FINE TILTH
the plants are large enough. Seedbeds when frost will help break up clods. If the soil is dry, water it before working
are less widely used since the advent of If the soil of the seedbed contains a it. Rake the seedbed until the texture
trays (see also pp.62–65), which make it high population of annual weed seeds, of the soil is quite crumbly and friable,
possible to raise sturdy plants under cover prepare it in advance: allow a flush of with small particles—this is known as
that transplant well after hardening off. weeds to develop, then hoe these off a fine tilth. Soils with a high organic
or spray them with a contact weedkiller. matter content are usually easier to work
WHEN TO SOW This removes at a stroke large numbers than others. It is essential to use long
The site where seed is to be sown must of weeds that would otherwise compete sweeps of the rake and to pull and push
always be well prepared in advance. The with seedling crops, and is known as the soil in different directions to ensure
soil should be moist enough for the seeds the stale seedbed technique. a level, even seedbed. Keep the rake
to take up water, and also sufficiently Cultivate the ground with a three- or handle low for the best results. The
warm for the crop being sown (see p.62 five-tined cultivator, and level it with a surface tilth should be deep enough
and individual crops, pp.74–135). Few crops wooden rake. Apply a base dressing of to draw out a drill without going into
germinate at low soil temperatures, so do fertilizer if appropriate (see individual crops, undisturbed soil.

Sowing seed in single drills

1 2 3 4
Stretch a marker line of For seeds in tape form,
1 strong cord over the seedbed
around stakes marking the
3 which are supplied ready-
spaced (here of scallion),
end of each drill line. Use simply cut a length of tape
the corner of a hoe to draw out to the length of the drill and
an even drill along the line to lay it along the bottom.
the depth required for the seed. For small seeds, such as
Stand on the line to keep it
taut and straight.
4 carrots, sow thinly along
a drill. Rub the seeds between
If the seeds are large, your fingers to scatter them
2 such as these parsnip
seeds, sow 3 of them per station
evenly, or use a seed sower.
Cover the drill promptly,
at the required interval, here
every 6in (15cm), using a
5 by raking the soil back
over it evenly, holding the rake
measuring stick to ensure the at 90° to the drill. You can also 5
stations are regularly spaced. use the back of the rake head.

Small seeds such as lettuce should be
Sowing in wet or dry conditions
sown thinly in regularly spaced, single
rows about 1ft (30cm) apart. Using a
garden line and a draw or swan-necked
hoe, pull out the drill (see facing page),
making sure that the line is as tight as
possible in order to get an even, straight
depression. It is most important to
achieve a uniform depth along the drill.
Sow pelleted seeds shallowly at a depth
of about twice their diameter, and keep
the soil moist to aid germination.
Sowing in wet conditions Sowing in dry conditions
Where a system of narrow beds
If the soil is wet, or very heavy and slow If the soil is particularly dry, first water
is being used (see pp.32–34), drills to drain, place a layer of sand in the base the drill well, and then sow the seed
can be made by drawing a hoe or of the drill before sowing any seed. This immediately. Cover over with dry soil; do
wide stake along the edge of a plank. will improve conditions for germination. not water again until the seedlings emerge.
Alternatively, it is possible to make
drills by pressing a premeasured length
of lumber into the tilth. WET OR DRY CONDITIONS Handheld seed sower
An adjustable marking tool (see p.68) You may not be able to wait for This useful device is designed
can be useful, saving walking up and ideal weather conditions before sowing. to release seeds gradually.
It can be set for the flow of
down. Draw out the first drill along a It is possible to compensate for too differently sized seed, from
fixed line, then draw the tool down this much or too little soil moisture by thin sowings of fine seed
drill to pull out subsequent ones. adding sand or watering drills before to space sowing of large
sowing (see above). Use a fine-rosed seed, as here with
WIDE DRILLS can to water, always before, not after pelleted seed.
Wide drills are suitable for sowing peas sowing, or the soil may become
(see below), and for broadcast sowing capped, or crusted.
strips of early carrots, radishes, and cut- nearer the surface. Check the seed
and-come-again seedling crops such as DEPTH OF SOWING packet for recommended sowing depths
spinach, cress, and some types of lettuce. The depth at which you should sow (see also individual crops, pp.74–135).
Such strips can be very close together, seeds varies according to their size.
making good use of land, although they Seedlings depend on their own reserves SOWING METHODS
are less easily weeded than single rows. for nutrients in the first few days after When sowing, try to choose a still day;
To make a wide drill, draw out a shallow germinating, until they pierce the soil great care will be needed if it is windy,
trench 6–8in (15–20cm) wide using a surface and reach the light. Then they especially with light seeds like parsnips.
line and a wide draw hoe (see below), or can start to make their own food. Large Sowing seed evenly takes plenty of
carefully shovel out the soil to the width seeds have more reserves than small practice. For all the methods described,
of a narrow shovel. Make sure that the ones, and can therefore be sown more practice first by sowing seed into a piece
depth of the drill is uniform. deeply. Very fine seed should be sown of guttering about 3ft (90cm) long and
adjusting the amounts until you achieve
Sowing in wide drills the correct density.
Seeds large enough to be handled
individually can be station or space
sown (see p.69) in drills at regular
intervals. Use a yardstick until you
are practiced and can judge the correct
spacing. A handheld plastic sower (see
above) with adjustable settings will help.
The sower must be shaken evenly and
steadily as you go.
For small, fine seed, sowing direct
Draw out a drill with the blade of Sow pea seeds in 2 rows along the from the packet works well with paper
1 a suitable hoe, flicking the soil to one
side as you go. Make the drill as deep
2 drill. Here, they are sown at 2in (5cm)
intervals in rows 4in (10cm) apart. Cover
or rigid-plastic packets, if they have a
clean-cut edge and a narrow opening.
as required for the crop (here 2in/5cm). over gently and protect from birds. Shake evenly, holding the packet nearly
horizontal to regulate the fall of seeds.

You can also sow small seeds from should be 12in (30cm) apart to allow
your palm. Hold a small quantity in light to produce good crops. Peas
and move your hand horizontally and may grow to 3ft (90cm), so allow
steadily over the prepared area, tapping 3ft (90cm) between rows. Carrot
it gently with your other hand so that and radish rows can be as close as
seeds drop off. This is a very good 4in (10cm) apart. Within the rows,
means of broadcast sowing. thin root crops so that the vegetables
Another method is to put some seed will be just touching when mature.
in the palm of one hand and take a few To calculate the space required
between first finger and thumb of the between rows of different crops, as
other hand, rubbing them together a general rule of thumb you can add
to disperse the seed. The thinner the the recommended row spacing for Adjustable marking tool
These have adjustable tines that can be set
sowing required, the fewer seeds should each crop together and divide the at different spacings. Useful tools for marking
be picked up at a time. total by two. For example, if growing out planting rows and stations, they can also
parsnips and peas in rows next to each be handy for marking out shallow seed drills.
COVERING SEED IN DRILLS other at the spacings given above, add
Once you have sown seed in drills, the row spacing for parsnips—12in to leave the strongest and best.
either use a rake to cover the seeds or (30cm)—to the row spacing of peas Pinching is better for carrots and
shuffle your feet along the drill with —3ft (90cm)—and halve it to give a onions because the soil is disturbed
your heels together. Gently rake the between-row spacing of 2ft (60cm). when the seedling is pulled out by
surface along the covered drill to ensure its roots, and the foliage bruised,
firmness. Never rake across the lines, THINNING SEEDLINGS causing odors that attract carrot and
as this will disturb the seeds and could Thinning—removing surplus onion f lies, which may then lay their
remove them from the drill. Cultivating seedlings—is essential to obtain a eggs in the loosened soil. Remove
carefully between drills with a cultivator satisfactory final spacing for each plant all thinnings, to avoid the risk of
will loosen any heavily compacted soil. to grow to maturity. These distances disease and of attracting pests.
vary with the crop. It should be carried
SPACING OF PLANTS out early, before competition for light STATION OR SPACE SOWING
Space is needed between rows of crops and water occurs and the plants become This method is used to conserve seeds
for air circulation, thinning, and for drawn. Because thinning disturbs the that are expensive, and to reduce the
weeding. The spacing of crops sown roots of plants growing close by, and amount of thinning required later.
directly outdoors, or planted out, is can attract pests, try to reduce the Large seeds such as spinach may be
determined by the ultimate height and necessity for thinning by sowing seeds sown 2in (5cm) apart and left to mature
spread of the crop. Parsnips grow to thinly or by station sowing (see below). in situ (in position). For squash, sow two
about 12in (30cm) high, and butterhead When the seedlings have reached or three seeds per station 30in (75cm)
lettuces up to 12in (30cm) wide, and the first true leaf stage, either pull or apart. For crops like corn, which must
therefore with both, the rows of plants pinch out weaker seedlings (see below) be grown in a block rather than a row,
mark out an area of a bed in a grid
How to thin seedlings pattern, using a marking tool (see above).
At each station where the rows cross,
sow three seeds. These should later
be thinned to one strong seedling.

Random broadcasting of seed is suitable
for growing patches of radishes, early
carrots, or turnips. It is also used for
cut-and-come-again seedling crops,
such as mustard and cress. Prepare the
seedbed and scatter the seed evenly
over the surface. Rake the seed into the
surface. The method is easy but there
can be a wide variation in size among
the seedlings, and sowing in drills
Pulling Pinching out
Once seedlings are large enough to handle, With some crops it is best to thin by pinching
better allows for hoeing and weeding.
gently pull them out to leave single, strong seedlings off between thumb and forefinger Crops suitable for broadcasting can just
specimens at the appropriate spacings. at ground level, to avoid disturbing the soil. as easily be sown in very closely spaced,
wide drills (see p.67).


Intersowing parsnip and radish seed
This means of space sowing is ideal
for crops with very large seeds, such
as fava, French, and runner beans,
corn, and squash. First, rake over the
seedbed to ensure that the soil is loose.
Then make a series of holes with a
dibber (see below right). Drop one or
more seeds into the bottom of each
hole and cover with soil.
For beans, a single seed per hole 1
is usual; for corn, three seeds; for
Station sow the parsnip seeds,
squash, two. Thin the seedlings (see
facing page) to one per site when they 1 3 to a station, every 4in (10cm).
Then sow radish seeds at 1in (2.5cm)
are large enough. It is wise to sow
some spares, to fill any gaps that may intervals in between the parsnip seeds.
appear due to poor germination. The radish seedlings will come up very
You can cover the sites of squash and quickly, indicating the line of the drill
to guide early hoeing of any weeds.
corn seeds with jamjars—individual
Harvest the radishes when ready
cloches—to keep the soil warm and
moist to encourage germination.
2 so that they do not crowd the parsnip
seedlings. Pinch out the parsnip seedlings 2
to thin them when they have 4 leaves.
Intersowing involves sowing seed of
two different vegetables in the same RATES OF GERMINATION of sowing. The ground rules for success:
drill. One crop is quick to mature The percentage of seed you sow that use quality seed and give careful
and therefore does not compete with will actually germinate depends on attention to all aspects of sowing it.
the other, which is slow-growing a variety of factors, not all of which
or slow to germinate. Parsnips and can be controlled by good gardening USING FLEECE FOR PROTECTION
radishes make a good combination practice. Natural germination rate Fleece or other sheet covers (see p.48),
for this method (see above right). The varies with crop groups: for example, tucked into the soil or held down at the
faster-growing radishes will show up brassicas generally have a germination edges with bricks, can help to warm
the line of the drill long before the rate of 90 percent, whereas with leeks the soil before sowing. After sowing,
parsnips emerge, enabling earlier it is usually no more than 70 percent. it encourages early establishment, and
hoeing for weed control, and they Large seeds are usually more viable keeps off birds and some insect pests.
are harvested before they represent than fine seeds, which are more prone Remove it before the seedlings grow
competition to the slower crop. to desiccation. In many cases, seed tall enough to be restricted.
sown soon after harvest performs
SUCCESSIONAL SOWINGS better than does stored seed. Parsnip
To avoid harvesting gluts and to ensure and parsley seed is naturally very slow
continuity of supplies, especially of to germinate compared with that of
salad vegetables, sow just a few seeds radish and turnip. Dormancy of seed is
at a time, following with a few more at affected by temperature—for instance,
regular intervals thereafter. This method French bean germination is inhibited
is suitable for lettuces, radishes, turnips, below 54°F (12°C) and lettuce above
beets, and salad onions. Sow the next 77°F (25°C).
batch when seedlings from the previous All these conditions may have an
one have just come up; for example, effect on how many plants you get
sow a few lettuce seeds every 10–14 compared with the amount of seed
days for a succession of crops. you sow, but given careful seed harvest
and storage they are unlikely to affect
CATCH CROPS greatly success in the garden provided
To save space, especially in a small they are understood. In practice, poor Station sowing large seed
Large seeds may be sown into individual holes
garden, plan to grow fast-maturing germination is more often due to made with a dibber. For fava beans, as here,
crops such as radishes or spinach before something being amiss in the condition make holes 2in (5cm) deep, 4in (10cm) apart
or between other crops, such as of the seedbed, such as moisture content, in rows 6in (15cm) apart, and drop the seeds
tomatoes, corn, and winter brassicas. temperature, and air, or in the method into them. Cover with soil, water, and label.

Planting out
Young vegetable plants that are raised buy transplants of vegetables is late
under cover to be planted out, or spring. This is ideal if you do not
raised in an outdoor seedbed and then have space to propagate crops yourself
transplanted to their final growing site, under cover, but beware of buying frost-
are known as transplants. tender plants such as tomatoes too early
The main point to remember when in the season if you do not have the
transplanting is to cause as little damage facilities to protect the young plants
to the young plant and its roots as until all danger of frost is past.
possible; handle them carefully and Young plants sold at garden centers
no more than is necessary, and never Plug seedlings are usually offered in large tray cells,
allow roots to dry out. Water the young Transplants ordered by mail often now arrive ready to be planted out with minimal
in these transparent molded plastic units.
plants well in advance so that they root disturbance. Choose stocky, healthy
Each has its own self-contained rootball, or
are turgid—plump with water—on plug. The leafy tops are held up and protected plants; if possible, check for a good
transplanting, to reduce the risk of from bruising by the plastic shell. Remove all root system. Plant them as soon as
wilting. Do not take transplants out packaging from them immediately on arrival, possible; they will keep in a sheltered
of containers or lift them from seedbeds and pot up or plant out as soon as possible. shady spot, if watered, for a few days.
until the planting site is ready—forked Brassicas are often sold bare-root in
over, with all weeds removed, and a mild, dull day to plant out. Seedlings bundles, and these need planting, or
raked level. should be well-established, with four heeling in (see below), immediately.
to six true leaves and a good root system. Smaller seedlings known as plug
WHEN TO PLANT OUT CROPS Do not allow them to become tall and plants can be purchased from nurseries
Young plants of some crops, like the drawn; if necessary, pot on the plants and by mail order (see above left). If you
sweet peppers shown opposite, are until conditions are right. cannot plant these immediately on
raised or bought in to be grown to The soil should be moist but not arrival, you will need to pot them.
maturity in pots, growing bags, or soil soggy, and relatively warm—for many
beds in greenhouses (see pp. 43–44), and crops there should be no further danger HEELING IN PLANTS
these can be planted in their permanent of frost. The young plants must also be If bad weather prevents you from
homes as soon as their rootballs fill the adequately hardened off (see p.65). planting bare-root plants right away,
container that they occupy. For specific planting times, refer to they should be heeled in temporarily
If planting transplants raised under individual crop entries (see pp.74–135). in a spare corner. Make a shallow hole
cover into beds outside, exactly when or trench, about 4in (10cm) deep, with
to plant out will be dictated by the BUYING IN TRANSPLANTS a hoe, and lay the plants up against one
development of the seedlings and Some crops, such as spring cabbages and side. Cover the plants up to their leaves
the weather outside, since it affects the hardy lettuces, are available as young in soil, firm, and water. Keep the plants
condition of the soil. Ideally, choose plants in the fall, but the main time to watered until transplanting time.

Transplanting seedlings from a seedbed

Water the entire row thoroughly to Mark out planting stations (here,
1 make the young plants (here cabbages)
easy to lift without damage and to retain
2 18in/45cm) in a prepared bed. Make
a planting hole for each transplant and
Planting out seedlings raised under cover
soil around the roots. Hold them by their water each hole well. Hold the plant at Young tray-raised lettuces are here planted at
leaves, not stems. Put them in a bucket the correct depth and firm by pushing the equidistant spacing, following a grid marked
with a little water to prevent wilting. dibber sideways toward the roots. out across the bed surface. Hold tray-raised
plants by the rootball, not the leaves.

Do not delay replanting. Holding

Interplanting alliums with corn each plant by its leaves, make a hole
In spring, plant 3 rows of deep enough for it to be planted to
1 fast-growing alliums (here,
cold-treated garlic cloves,
just below its first leaves. Set the plant
in the hole, holding it upright while
shallot sets, and bunching you fill and firm in gently around the
onions) along a well-prepared roots. Water in and label the plants.
bed covered with black
plastic, laid down for weed SPACING
control. Run a soaker hose When raising transplants at home,
beneath it for irrigation. Use a keep the seed packets so that you have
dibber to punch holes through the information on spacing that they
the plastic at the appropriate carry when you need it. Advice on
1 2 spacings to plant each bulb. crop spacings is also given in the A–Z
In early summer, set out
2 3 rows of young corn
plants in staggered rows
listings of individual crops later in this
section (see pp.74–135).
Distance between plants will also vary
between the alliums. Use a
according to whether you are planting
bulb planter or trowel to make
in a conventional row arrangement or
holes in the plastic large
using equidistant or block spacing, as, for
enough to accommodate
the transplants’ rootballs.
example, in a system of 4ft (1.2m) wide
beds (see pp.32–34) where there is no
As summer progresses,
3 the alliums will mature.
As it ripens, harvest each
need to walk between rows of crops.

3 crop to leave more space INTERCROPPING

for the maturing corn. Provided that you get the timing right,
you can plant transplants in the space
between rows of maturing crops, ready
TRANSPLANTING SEEDLINGS for transplanting. To minimize wilting to grow and fill the space left when those
GROWN IN TRAYS OR CONTAINERS after replanting, choose a dull, damp crops are harvested. This intercropping
Before planting out (see below right), day, or transplant in the evening, and is an efficient use of space. You can also
water plants well. Knock plants out water the seedlings thoroughly before use the space between slow-growing
of pots by tapping the rim on a hard lifting. Loosen the soil around the transplants, such as brassicas, to sow catch
surface until the rootball becomes free. seedlings with a trowel or small hand crops (see also p.69) of fast-growing crops
Remove plants from trays either by fork. Lift the plants and carefully such as salads to harvest before the slower
squeezing the base of the cell gently, or tease them apart, if necessary, trying crops fill out the plot.
by poking them up and out through the to keep the roots intact (see far left). Transplants are also useful in potager
drainage hole with a dibber or similar Select evenly sized plants, and discard or edible landscape gardening, where
tool. If necessary, to prevent damage any that are bent, damaged, weak, vegetable plants are grown among
to roots, cut the cells off the plants. or showing signs of disease. Put the established ornamental plants; they will
Plant out carefully into prepared plants in a plastic bag to prevent them grow away more successfully than plants
soil with the surface of the rootball from drying out. raised from seed.
just below the soil surface. Firm around
Planting out
the plant, remove any dead foliage, Here young sweet
stake if necessary, water to settle the pepper transplants
plants in, and label. If the sun is hot have been raised
and strong, shade the young plants with in 31⁄2in (9cm) pots
sheets or cones of newspaper, or f leece for planting out in
draped lightly over them, and keep well a greenhouse bed.
Water the plants
watered. A moisture-conserving mulch
thoroughly a little
(see p.41) can be applied around sturdy time before removing
transplants such as brassicas and beans, the pot. Take out a
but do not let it touch stems. planting hole with
a trowel and plant
TRANSPLANTING OUTDOORS firmly with the top
of the rootball just
When seedlings raised in a drill or
below the planting
a seedbed outdoors reach a height bed surface.
of 4–5in (10–13cm), they are ready

Routine care
All vegetables need attention as
they grow to produce a good crop.
However, you can do much to anticipate
and prevent problems and extra work
with good planning and preparation.
A well-nurtured soil to which plenty
of organic matter is added every year,
for example, reduces the need for
extra watering and feeding during the
growing season. Regular, early attention
to routine tasks such as weeding can
lessen the incidence of some pest and
disease problems. For all the topics Hoe mulching
mentioned below, specific advice on Lessen the need for watering by hoeing regularly
the requirements of individual crops to keep the top 1⁄2in (1cm) of soil loose, creating
air spaces that reduce evaporation.
are given on pp.74–135. See also Plant
Problems (pp.246–264) for help with
diagnosing and controlling specific pest Providing supports
and disease problems. Make sure that supports are sturdy enough
for the weight and number of plants they are
to hold, and that the bases of poles and stakes
are firmly embedded in the soil.
Providing adequate supports for plants
that need it, and checking ties regularly, Propagation and transplanting are prepared, plants are less likely to go
can prevent unnecessary damage. Short, critical times for watering, but, once short of essential nutrients (see also p.17).
stout stakes are needed for winter established, plants outdoors usually Supplementary feeding may be necessary
brassicas; tomatoes and other fruiting need no more than one good watering on impoverished soil, however, or
vegetables can be supported with a week. Water heavily to ensure good desirable to boost yields. Since nitrogen
individual stakes or with stakes and penetration down to the roots. Frequent is constantly washed out of the soil,
twine (see p.109). Peas generally require light sprinklings are wasteful and less it is the nutrient most likely to need
only light support; vigorous climbing effective. Leafy crops usually need more replacing during the growing season,
beans (see pp.96–97) and cucurbits plentiful, regular watering than root through the addition of organic manures
(see p.115) need rows or wigwams of crops. Other vegetables may need more or high-nitrogen fertilizers. Fast-acting
stakes or poles braced against each water at critical stages of development; liquid feeds can be useful. High-nitrogen
other, or more robust frames or nets. for example, pod set in beans and feeds promote lush, leafy growth in
when tomato fruits are swelling. crops such as spinach, but are not
WATERING Fleece-covered crops (see p.48) dry advisable for root crops. High-potash
How much and how often you need out more slowly, but plants growing fertilizers, such as tomato feeds, are
to water (see also p.53–54) will depend in containers (see p.35–36) and under suitable for fruiting vegetables.
largely on weather conditions and also cover (see p.43–48) need more frequent Deficiencies of the minor nutrients
on the nature of your soil. The lighter watering than those in open ground. or trace elements are uncommon in
the soil (see p.14), the less water it can Use moisture-retentive composts, well-managed soil, but can be caused
hold, so plants in sandy soils need much and mulch containers, if possible, to by other cultural problems—drought,
more watering than those in heavy minimize evaporation. Water containers for example, can impede the availability
ones. A high organic content in the soil daily for best results. In hot weather, of calcium to plants. Details of symptoms
helps retain water. If crops are shaded growing bags can need watering three and remedies for the more common
for part of the day, this will also help times a day. Also, just as wind has a nutrient deficiencies can be found in
reduce water loss. Bear in mind that drying effect outdoors, overventilation Plant Problems (see pp.246–264).
the roots of nearby trees and shrubs, can have a similar effect indoors.
hedges, or other tall crops will take Damping down—sprinkling water on WEEDING
water from a wide area around them. the greenhouse floor—increases air Good weed control, ideally by light,
A mulch (see pp.41–42), whether humidity and discourages some pests. regular hoeing, lessens competition for
organic or inorganic, also conserves water and nutrients, and also removes
moisture. Hoe mulching (see above, right) FEEDING potential hosts for some garden pests
is a traditional way of creating a loose If you have fertile soil to which you and diseases. Both organic and inorganic
surface layer that protects the lower regularly add organic matter and mulches (see pp.41–42) are extremely
levels of soil against evaporation. general fertilizers when beds are effective means of suppressing weeds.

Winter storage
Some vegetables will keep fresh in a are very vulnerable to pest damage; hung in a net (see below) or stored on
refrigerator for up to a week; others once mature, crops are also best lifted wooden slatted racks. They keep best at
freeze well. Preserving and pickling and stored. Potatoes exposed to light an even temperature just above freezing.
also provides out-of-season supplies. produce poisonous alkaloids, indicated Store only good-quality, undamaged
There are other storage methods, by the greening of tubers, so must produce. Check all stored crops
however, that can extend the season be stored in complete darkness. Paper regularly and remove any that show
of availability of crops that are sacks (see below) are ideal; plastic bags signs of disease or deterioration. In
vulnerable to low temperatures, or will encourage condensation and rots. very cold conditions, cover with layers
where it is necessary to harvest all Onions, shallots, and garlic, once of sacking or newpaper for insulation.
of a crop to clear the ground. For well ripened and dried, can be stored
more detail on storage of individual in single layers in stacked slatted CLAMPING
crops, see pp.74–135. boxes, or strung up in braided ropes If you do not have space under cover,
(see below), or hung in nets or even this traditional outdoor storage method
STORING IN POSITION old nylon hose—anything that allows for root vegetables is effective, although
Parsnips, rutabagas, and carrots can be air to circulate freely around the bulbs. rodent pests can be a problem. A
left in the ground and lifted as required. Whole plants of peppers can also be clamp—basically, an insulated heap of
However, roots can be difficult to lift hung up for use as required, as can roots—can be made against an outside
when the ground is sodden or frozen, bean and pea plants to complete the wall or in an outbuilding or cellar. Make
especially on heavy soil. Hard frosts ripening of drying crops. Alternatively, an 8in (20cm) base layer of light, sandy
will also damage turnips and beets. dry off the pods in slatted boxes soil, or of sand. Stack the roots in a pile
Beds can be prevented from freezing before shelling and storing the beans with sloping sides, with the largest roots
hard by covering them with a 6in or peas in jars. at the base (maximum 2ft/60cm in
(15cm) blanket of straw or bracken, While leafy, loose-headed cabbages height for carrots). Blanket the entire
held down with horticultural fleece do not store well, the densely hearted pile with a 8in (20cm) layer of straw,
or netting, once the temperature winter and red cabbages can either be then a 6in (15cm) layer of soil.
falls below 40°F (5°C). Remove the
covering when the temperature rises to Storing vegetables over winter
avoid encouraging new shoot growth,
when the crop will start to deteriorate.
Pumpkins and squashes can be left
out on the ground after harvest, where
in favorable weather conditions the sun
will complete the hardening of the
skins that is essential for good keeping
properties. If the ground is wet, a plank
or straw placed under the fruits will
reduce the risk of rotting. Once the
weather deteriorates, bring the crop
under cover.
Storing potatoes Cabbages in net
BRINGING CROPS UNDER COVER Keep only undamaged potatoes in a Make sure cabbages are clean and dry,
A cool but frost-free, dry place, such as double-layered paper sack in a clean, and cut any damaged leaves cleanly
a cellar or shed, is perfect for storing dry place. Fold the top of the sack over away, before hanging them in a net bag
many crops after harvest. Some must loosely after access to exclude light. in a cool, dry place for the winter months.
not dry out if they are to stay in good ◀ Storing root vegetables
condition for eating; others must be Loosely pack root vegetables in
thoroughly dried, but in both cases a shallow wooden box and cover
with moist sand or peat substitute.
good ventilation is essential. Slatted
wooden shelves, trays, or racks are ideal, ▶ Braiding onions
allowing good air circulation. Do not To form a rope of onions, suspend
use plastic or cardboard boxes; they one from a string hung from a beam
or the ceiling, and then either use
increase humidity and encourage rots. the long necks of the onions, or a
Large, shallow, wooden boxes can second string, to secure successive
be used to store lifted root crops, bulbs above it, working from the
within layers of sand or peat substitute bottom upward.
(see right). Potatoes left in the ground

Visual index of vegetables

Use this index to locate details of individual vegetable crops.
Abelmoschus p.112 Allium cepa p.92 Allium cepa p.94 Allium cepa p.94 Allium fistulosum p.93
esculentus Aggregatum

Okra Bulb onion Shallot Scallion Green onion

Allium porrum p.93 Allium sativum p.92 Amaranthus species p.125 Apium graveolens p.121 Apium graveolens p.121
var. dulce var. dulce

Leek Garlic Amaranth Celery Leaf celery

Apium graveolens p.122 Asparagus officinalis p.133 Barbarea verna p.103 Beta vulgaris subsp. p.128 Beta vulgaris p.85
var. rapaceum cicla var. flavescens subsp. vulgaris

Celery root Asparagus American cress Chard, spinach beet Beets

Brassica juncea p.127 Brassica napus p.88 Brassica oleracea p.80 Brassica oleracea p.80 Brassica oleracea p.78
Napobrassica Group Acephala Group Botrytis Group Capitata Group

Mustard greens Rutabaga Kale, curly kale Cauliflower Cabbage

Brassica oleracea p.78 Brassica oleracea p.81 Brassica oleracea p.79 Brassica oleracea p.81 Brassica rapa p.88
Gemmifera Group Gongylodes Group Italica Group Italica Group Rapifera Group

Brussels sprouts Kohlrabi Calabrese broccoli Sprouting broccoli Turnip, turnip top
Brassica rapa p.126 Brassica rapa p.125 Brassica rapa var. p.106 Brassica rapa var. p.126 Brassica rapa var. p.105
var. alboglabra var. chinensis nipposinica pekinensis perviridis
Japanese mustard

Chinese broccoli,
Chinese kale Bok choy Mizuna greens Chinese cabbage
Capsicum annuum p.111 Cichorium endivia p.104 Cichorium p.103 Cucumis melo p.118 Cucumis sativus p.117

Sweet and Cucumber and

chile pepper Endive Chicory Sweet melon gherkin

Cucurbita maxima, p.118 Cucurbita pepo p.119 Cucurbita pepo p.119 Cynara p.134 Cynara scolymus p.133
C. moschata, C. pepo cardunculus

and winter
squash Zucchini Vegetable marrow Cardoon Artichoke
Daucus carota p.85 Eruca vesicaria p.103 Foeniculum p.122 Helianthus tuberosus p.135 Ipomoea batatas p.88
vulgare var.

Arugula Florence Jerusalem

Carrot fennel artichoke Sweet potato
Lactuca sativa p.105 Lycopersicon esculentum p.113 Mesembryanthemum p.105 Pastinaca sativa p.86 Petroselinum crispum p.86
crystallinum var. tuberosum

Lettuce Tomato Ice plant Parsnip Parsley root

Phaseolus coccineus p.100 Phaseolus lunatus p.99 Phaseolus vulgaris p.99 Physalis ixocarpa p.112 Pisum sativum p.99

Runner bean Lima, butter bean French, kidney bean Tomatillo Pea
Portulaca oleracea p.106 Raphanus sativa p.107 Rheum x hybridum p.135 Scorzonera hispanica p.88 Sinapis alba p.106

Purslane Radish Rhubarb Scorzonera Mustard

Solanum melongena p.112 Solanum tuberosum p.87 Spinacia oleracea p.128 Tetragonia p.127 Tragopogon porrifolius p.86

Potato Spinach spinach Oyster plant
Valerianella locusta p.104 OTHER VEGETABLES
Allium cepa .........................p.94 Brassica napus ...................p.106 Diplotaxis species .............p.103
Pickling onion subsp. oleifera Wild arugula
Salad rape
Allium cepa Proliferum .......p.94 Lepidium sativum ..............p.106
Group Brassica rapa .....................p.106 Cress
Tree, Egyptian onion Mibuna greens
Lotus tetragonolobus ............p.98
Corn salad, Allium fistulosum .................p.93 Brassica rapa subsp. ...........p.127 Asparagus pea
Japanese bunching perviridis
Montia perfoliata .............. p.107
Eggplant lamb’s lettuce onion Spinach mustard
Winter purslane
Vicia faba p.98 Zea mays p.111 Basella species ....................p.126 Bunias orientalis ................p.103
Pisum sativum ...................p.99
Ceylon, Malabar, Turkish arugula
Mangetout, Snow pea,
vine spinach Citrullus lanatus ................p.119 Sugar, snap pea
Brassica campestris subsp. ....p.127 Watermelon
Stachys affinis ...................p.134
chinesis var. utilis Crambe maritima ...............p.135 Chinese artichoke
Flowering greens, Sea kale
choy sum Vigna unguiculata ..............p.100
Cucurbita pepo ..................p.119 subsp. sesquipedalis
Brassica carinata ..................p.81
Fava bean Corn Texsel greens
Summer squash Asparagus, yardlong bean

Growing brassicas
The botanical family Brassicaceae yet moisture-retentive, and
is the largest in the vegetable garden, firm. Brassicas need to get a
including not only those members of good roothold, especially those These seedlings
the genus Brassica covered in these that must withstand winter are both ready to
pages, sometimes called the Western weather, so incorporate plenty of be transplanted—
brassicas—Brussels sprouts, cabbage, organic matter into light, sandy soils they have four true
calabrese broccoli, cauliflower, kale, (see pp.22–23). Prepare beds (see p.66) leaves in addition
kohlrabi, sprouting broccoli, and well in advance—for example, in the fall to their seed
leaves. Take care
texsel greens—but also leafy Oriental prior to spring planting or sowing—to when handling the
vegetables such as Japanese mustard allow the ground to firm up again. Do seedlings, especially
spinach and Mizuna greens (see Salads, not overwork the soil just before sowing if bare-root (left),
pp.101–107) and root crops such as or planting. Most brassicas sown or rather than pushed
rutabaga and radish (see pp.82–88). planted in spring and summer benefit out of a tray cell (right).
The brassicas in this section are cool- from a base dressing of a general fertilizer Roots can be easily
climate crops, many of them occupying (see pp.20–21). Do not add fertilizer
growing space for a long time; for these, when sowing or planting in fall—it
careful planning is needed as well as will encourage lush growth that will seasons. Within each
continued care. Many are attractive be vulnerable to frost damage. Instead, of these seasonal cropping
plants, several having striking cultivars top-dress overwintered crops such as periods there are cultivars that mature at
—kales with vividly colored leaf stems, spring cabbage with fertilizer in spring. slightly different times. F1 hybrids reach
for example, or the deep violet heads Although brassicas grow well on maturity simultaneously, ideal for the
of the cauliflower ‘Graffiti’. neutral to slightly acid soil, a higher commercial grower but usually not for
A minimum crop rotation of three pH, of 6.8 or above, is desirable because the gardener; open-pollinated cultivars
years (see p.31) is important for brassicas, it helps to discourage clubroot. If the (see also p.60) may be a better choice.
since they are susceptible to the persistent pH of your soil is below this level, apply
soil-borne disease clubroot (see box, facing lime to raise it (see also pp.18–19). If SOWING SEED
page). Pests such as cabbage root fly and you lime heavily, it is best not to follow Some brassicas are direct-sown where
caterpillars must also be controlled. brassicas with potatoes, because alkaline they are to crop in conventional drills.
conditions favor potato scab. These include the leafier crops such as
SITE AND SOIL kale and texsel greens, often grown
Although brassicas tolerate partial shade, CONTINUITY OF CROPPING as cut-and-come-again plants. Calabrese
choose a sunny site, if possible. Their Successional sowing (see p.69) is a simple broccoli and kohlrabi sown in summer
tough leaves stand up well to wind, means of extending supplies of spring should also always be sown direct,
but some shelter and, usually, staking cabbage, calabrese broccoli, and kohlrabi. since they do not transplant well in
is necessary for tall-stemmed crops such Some brassicas are divided into distinct warm weather. However, most brassicas,
as sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, groups for planting and cropping at especially longer-term crops that need
and some kales, to stop them from being different times of year; there are specific time to form substantial, dense heads,
blown over. Cabbage and cauliflower groups of cabbages and cauliflowers, for are usually raised either in seedbeds
plants are relatively stable. The best soil example, for spring, summer, fall, and or in pots or module trays under cover.
for most brassicas is fertile, well-drained winter, sown and planted in different They are then transplanted into their
final cropping positions, allowing the
Soil mounded up space meanwhile to be used for earlier
Drill gives shelter from by about 2in (5cm)
wind and directs once the plant
crops such as peas or early potatoes.
Earthing up water to roots has established Raising plants in trays not only saves
On very light, sandy space but also advances crops and helps
soils (left), draw a
to guard against clubroot: strong roots
drill 4in (10cm)
deep and plant into
undisturbed on transplanting help the
it. Once plants have plant to grow away quickly. Sow directly
grown clear of the soil into module trays, or sow in pots or
surface, gradually fill trays and prick out into trays (see p.64).
in the drill. On heavy Harden off and plant out once seedlings
clay soils (right) are growing strongly, their roots filling
where deep planting
would risk water-
their container.
logging, plant at soil Bare-root transplants are more
level; then earth up straightforward to raise because they
as the plants grow. Light sandy soil Heavy clay soil do not need protection or hardening

seedbed. Protect them with horticultural

netting or fleece (see p.51).

Adequate water is crucial for good
brassica crops. In dry spells, water
seedlings and new transplants daily
until well-established. Thereafter,
water well once or twice a week if
conditions are dry during the growing
season. Plants overwintering rarely
need extra water. One heavy watering,
especially around 10–20 days before
the crop is due to reach maturity,
is more beneficial than several light
ones. Mulching helps to conserve
Planting through landscape fabric Putting collars around seedlings moisture and suppress weeds.
Lay the sheet over the bed and secure the Prevent cabbage root flies from laying eggs at Garden hygiene (see p.51) and correct
edges. Make holes at each planting station the bases of seedling stems by using collars feeding appropriate to the individual
by cutting two cross slits about 1in (2.5cm) made from 6in (15cm) squares of carpet
crop (see pp.78–81) do much to help
long with a garden knife. Use a large dibber underlay. Cut a slit into the center of each
to make holes, drop the seedlings in, and firm. square to fit the collar around the plant. prevent diseases. Check plants regularly
for signs of disease, removing any dead
off. Such plants are also often more PROTECTING YOUNG PLANTS or dying leaves. Follow the advice below
robust, which can be an advantage. Place a collar of carpet underlay (see (see box) to reduce the risk of clubroot.
Once soil conditions in the seedbed above, right) or cardboard around the
are suitable for the crop, sow in drills base of brassica stems to deter cabbage HARVESTING AND STORING
(see pp.66–67), and transplant seedlings root fly. This very serious pest lays its Crops maturing in the warmer months
to the cropping site once it is vacant. eggs around the base of the plants; the are best harvested when ready and
Although the young plants must not resulting maggots feed on the roots. eaten fresh, but winter and spring crops
be left too long to become drawn A physical barrier prevents the females will stand well in the garden, provided
and leggy, there is less urgency in from reaching the base of the stems and that they are protected from pigeons,
moving them to their cropping site laying eggs there. For sturdy transplants, especially in hard weather when other
compared to seedlings in trays, which an alternative is to plant through food is scarce. Many brassicas grow
soon become root-bound. Bare-root landscape fabric (see above, left). away again after harvest, even in cold
transplants take longer to grow away Pigeons love young brassicas, either weather, to produce useful secondary
because of the greater planting check newly planted out or growing in a crops of sideshoots or leafy “tops.”
to growth, and require even more
careful attention than tray-raised CLUBROOT AND HOW TO PREVENT IT
plants until established.
Clubroot is a slime-mold disease that causes If your soil is infected with clubroot,
TRANSPLANTING SEEDLINGS brassica roots to develop gross swellings, remember that it is young brassica plants
Transplanting is best done on an which in turn decay to release disease spores that are most vulnerable.
into the soil. Infected plants become stunted, ■ Burn all affected material after digging
overcast, ideally showery day; in
discolored, and wilted, eventually dying. The it up complete with roots; never compost it.
warm summer weather, wait until
spores can remain active in the soil for up ■ Start all plants off in trays, in clean
the cool of the evening to minimize
to 20 years, so it is essential to use every compost, and grow larger, sturdier
overheating and wilting. Brassicas can
means possible in order to prevent infection. transplants than usual; they will be less
normally be planted to the same depth ■ Rotate crops (see p.31). Continuous vulnerable than small seedlings. A larger
at which they were previously growing. brassica cropping can lead to a buildup planting hole filled with clean soil also
Once both tray-raised and bare-root of clubroot in the soil. helps transplants establish in safety.
plants have established, they may be ■ Lime soil if necessary (see pp.18–19). ■ Foliar feeding (see p.21) can help
earthed up (by drawing up a little soil ■ Avoid importing clubroot on bought-in young plants to establish quickly and well
around each plant’s stem) to aid stability. plants by raising your own transplants. on infected sites.
On light soils, planting into a shallow ■ Control weeds. Some common weeds, ■ Choose fast-growing crops such as texsel

drill aids establishment before earthing such as shepherd’s purse, belong to the greens. They may reach maturity before
up in a similar fashion (see facing page). brassica family and can harbor clubroot. being affected.
The drill provides some protection to ■ Clean hoes and other tools to avoid ■ Avoid using the green manures fodder

young transplants and also helps retain bringing in disease from other garden areas. radish and mustard, which are brassicas.
water applied to the plants.

Brussels sprouts (2–3cm) in diameter for the sweetest taste;
snap them off with a downward motion.
At the same time, remove any yellow leaves
Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group and discard any loose or yellow sprouts. Whole
stems or sticks of sprouts keep well standing
SOW • • •
in a little water in a bucket in a cool place.
Later in the season, the leafy tops of the plants
HARVEST • • • • • • •
can also be picked as greens.
■ Common problems See p.77 for advice
These traditional winter vegetables can be picked on protecting young plants against cabbage
fresh from late summer to mid-spring; the plants root f ly (see also p.253) and birds (see also p.252).
are strong and can survive severe winters. Caterpillars (see p.253), especially those of the
Most modern cultivars are F1 hybrids (see p.60), cabbage white butterf ly, can cause extensive
producing uniform plants and compact sprouts. crop damage. Flea beetle (see p.255) may be
Plants grown to full height can produce 60–70 troublesome in dry weather and sheltered spots.
sprouts each; weight depends on the size they are Large colonies of mealy cabbage aphids (see
allowed to reach. The small buttons are excellent p.257) can quickly establish, causing distorted
for freezing. There is also a small crop of leafy foliage. Do not mistake them for whitef ly (see
tops. Sprouts are suitable for intercropping p.264); although this can be a conspicuous pest,
(see p.71), for example, with fast-growing salads. it rarely causes significant damage, although
■ Site and soil Brussels sprouts do well in in mild winters whitef ly can persist on brassicas
firm, fertile soils, with plenty of organic matter to affect other young plants in spring. Other
incorporated well in advance. Lime if necessary pests include cutworm (see p.254), leather jackets
(see p.18) to raise the soil pH to deter clubroot. (see p.257), and slugs and snails (see p.262).
Before sowing or planting, apply a base dressing In addition to clubroot (see pp.76–77, p.254),
of fertilizer (see pp.20–23), except on highly brassicas are susceptible to leaf diseases such
fertile soil—too much nitrogen produces loose, as downy mildew (see p.255), and powdery
leafy sprouts. mildew (see p.260). Bacterial leaf spot (see p.256)
■ Sowing and planting Sow under cover and white blister (see p.264) are becoming more
(see p.62) in late winter for an early crop in late widespread problems.
summer and early fall. For winter crops, sow Plants grown well and fed correctly rarely
from early to mid-spring, outdoors in a seedbed suffer nutrient deficiencies. Hollow stems
(see p.67) or under cover in trays (see p.64), may indicate boron deficiency (see p.252).
and transplant to the cropping site in early Poor seedling growth can be the result of
to midsummer. Close planting (less than 2ft/ molybdenum deficiency (see p.257).
60cm each way), for example, on narrow beds ■ Recommended cultivars
(see pp.32–33), will produce smaller sprouts of ‘Cronus’—hybrid, mid season variety, resistant
uniform maturity, while wider spacing will to clubroot.
yield larger sprouts to be picked in succession ‘Diablo’—hybrid, good f lavor, crops early.
over a longer period. Sowing different cultivars ‘Evesham Special’—old, traditional cultivar.
to mature at varying times will ensure a long ‘Falstaff ’—rosy sprouts are simply delicious,
cropping period. Keep seedlings and new with a mild, nutlike f lavor.
transplants well watered. Brassica collars (see p.77) ‘Nautic’—plants are vigorous and sturdy,
will protect young plants against cabbage root f ly. averaging 30in (75cm) tall.
‘Red Bull’—small red sprouts, color improves
SOWING DEPTH ⁄4in (2cm)
in cold weather.
PLANT SPACING 2ft (60cm)
‘Rubine’—a striking addition to any vegetable
ROW SPACING 2ft (60cm)
patch and a gourmet special for your table.
■ Routine care To produce small, evenly
sized sprouts that will mature simultaneously,
for example, for freezing, pinch out the growing Cabbage
tips of the plants when the lower sprouts are
⁄ 2 in (1cm) in diameter. To encourage the Brassica oleracea Capitata Group
sprouts to fill out, top-dress in midsummer By growing cultivar groups that mature in
with sulfate of ammonia at a rate of 1–2oz different seasons, cabbages can be harvested and
per sq yd (25–50g per sq m). Water after top- eaten fresh throughout the year. Spring cabbages
dressing. Once established, plants should grow are usually small, and may be either pointed
away without further watering unless there or round-headed. Early summer cabbages are
is a period of severe drought. Overwintering normally pointed or round, and late-summer
plants need supporting with stakes, especially or fall ones rounded or oval, and more compact.
on light, sandy soils. The leaves of some spring and fall cabbages may
■ Harvesting Starting from the bottom of also be eaten as greens, before they form a heart.
the plant, pick when the sprouts reach 3 ⁄4 –11 ⁄4in Winter cabbages include the Dutch white types,

10–14 days. Winter cabbages should be sown

in succession. Protect all seedlings and young Calabrese broccoli
SOW • transplants from cabbage root f ly (see p.77).
TRANSPLANT • • ■ Routine care Practice good weed control. Brassica oleracea Italica Group
HARVEST • • Keep young plants well watered, if necessary, SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
EARLY SUMMER CABBAGE until they are established, then water only SOW • • • • • • •
SOW • • in very dry weather. Earth up the stems of TRANSPLANT •
TRANSPLANT • • spring and winter cabbages during the winter, HARVEST • • • • • • •
HARVEST • • and remove dead leaves regularly. Top-dress
with a high-nitrogen fertilizer or organic Also known as American, Italian, or green
SOW • • • •
liquid feed before the leaves touch across sprouting broccoli, calabrese broccoli is a fast-
the rows, except in the case of fall-sown growing brassica that has become a very popular
HARVEST • • • • •
and planted crops; top-dress these in spring. vegetable. Calabrese broccoli grows up to
■ Harvesting For greens, harvest young 2ft (60cm) tall, and produces bluish-green
leaves as soon as they are large enough. heads, up to 6in (15cm) in diameter and
SOW • •
Cut spring and summer hearting cabbages 4–8oz (110–225g) in weight, in addition to
when the hearts are solid throughout. Stumps further, smaller heads borne on sideshoots that
HARVEST • • • • •
left in the ground may resprout to provide appear after the main head has been cut. It can
a small crop of greens, especially if a cross-cut be sown in fall for early crops, or in spring to
SOW • •
is made across the surface of the cut stem. crop in summer. Better heads are produced in
The hardier winter cabbages such as January cooler summers; in hot conditions the heads—
King types can be left to stand in the ground immature f lower buds—develop and run to
the January King purple-tinged types, and the for several months, to harvest as needed. seed quickly. Some cultivars resist this tendency
crinkly-leaved Savoy types, as well as some Cut white or red cabbages for storing before better. Calabrese broccoli freezes well.
hybrids between these. The Dutch whites there is any danger of hard frost, handling ■ Site and soil A fertile, well-drained,
are suitable for lifting and storing for later use, them carefully to avoid bruising. If stored moisture-retentive, firm soil (see p.76) is best,
as are some of the red cabbages, of which there in a net bag (see p.73), cabbages should keep but calabrese broccoli will grow well on less
are both summer and fall types. Yields vary for 6–8 weeks. fertile soils than other brassicas, so a base
according to the type of cabbage being grown ■ Common problems As for Brussels sprouts. dressing of fertilizer is not usually necessary.
(see Average crop yields, p.242). ■ Recommended cultivars Lime the soil if necessary to raise the pH and
■ Site and soil Cabbages prefer fertile, Spring greens and spring cabbage thus deter clubroot (see p.77).
well-drained, moisture-retentive, but firm ‘Dorado’—short-stemmed, attractive dark ■ Sowing and planting Early sowings can be
soil (see p.76). Apply a base dressing of a blue-green, uniform, spring hearting cabbage. made under cover, but calabrese broccoli does
general fertilizer (see pp.20–21) when sowing ‘Orient Express’—Chinese cabbage variety not transplant well in warm weather, resulting
or planting in spring and summer. Lime soil that matures in 45 days from seed. in premature production of tiny heads, so from
if necessary to raise the pH to deter clubroot ‘Ealiana’—heads average 2lb (800g); good f lavor. mid-spring onward it is best station-sown (see
(see also p.78). ‘First Early Market 218’—fast-growing, well- p.68) where it is to crop, and thinned to one plant
■ Sowing and planting Sow either in a filled heads, for greens or hearts. per site. Closer spacing encourages smaller shoots.
seedbed or in trays (see p.76) at the correct ‘Jersey Wakefield’—dense, cone-shaped head, For a spring crop, when other fresh vegetables
time of year for the type. To produce both with sweet f lavor; short-stemmed and hearting. are scarce, sow under cover in trays in mid-fall,
spring greens and cabbages in the same bed, ‘Gonzales’—crunchy and sweet, with a density and transplant in early winter to an unheated
space the plants 4in (10cm) apart in rows and rich bite; successional or summer sowing. greenhouse or cold frame (see pp.43–48).
12in (30cm) apart. Use two out of each three ‘Pyramid’—old, dark-leaved cultivar, pointed SOWING DEPTH 3
⁄4 in (2cm), three seeds per station
for greens, and leave the third to heart up. Sow heads; can also be grown for greens. SEED SPACING 12in (30cm)
summer cabbages in succession for a continuous Early summer cabbage ROW SPACING 18in (45cm)
crop. The earliest transplants raised under cover ‘Derby Day’—old favorite, round-headed.
should be hardened off carefully (see p.65), or ‘Greyhound’—fast-growing, pointed heads. ■ Routine care Keep evenly moist thoughout
they may be liable to bolt. ‘Famosa’—inner leaves are tender and delicious; the growing season, watering at a rate of about
Covering them with f leece after planting flavor that gets sweeter as winter approaches. 5 gallons per sq yd (20 liters per sq m) every week.
out will reduce this risk and advance crops by ‘Pyramid’—old-fashioned, dark-leaved, for After the main head has been harvested, apply a
⁄4in (2cm) overwintering or spring sowing. top-dressing of a nitrogenous fertilizer or organic
SPRING CABBAGE/SPRING GREENS Summer/fall cabbage liquid feed to encourage sideshoots to form.
ROW SPACING 12in (30cm) ‘Kilaxy’—white cabbage, suitable for storing, ■ Harvesting Cut the central head while
PLANT SPACING 10in (25cm) for hearted cabbages resistant to clubroot. it is still firm, and before any f lowers open.
6in (15cm) for greens ‘Stonehead’—hybrid, stands well. This stimulates the production of sideshoots.
EARLY SUMMER CABBAGE Winter cabbage ■ Common problems As for Brussels sprouts.
PLANT SPACING 15in (38cm) ‘Alcosa’—well-packed, interior leaves fill ■ Recommended cultivars
ROW SPACING 15in (38cm) in quickly, good for close plantings of ‘Fiesta’—hybrid, vigorous, heavy and prolonged
SUMMER/FALL CABBAGE mini cabbages. cropping.
PLANT SPACING 18in (45cm) ‘Danish Ballhead’—excellent all-arounder. ‘Green Magic’—good crop, many sideshoots,
ROW SPACING 18in (45cm) ‘Deadon’—vigorous, green purple heads. fine quality.
WINTER CABBAGE ‘Famosa’—early maturing, good leaf color. ‘Kabuki’—compact, early, can be closely spaced
PLANT SPACING 18in (45cm) ‘Wintessa’—reliable hybrid, stands well, for baby heads.
ROW SPACING 24in (60cm) dark, puckered leaves, very hardy. ‘Marathon’—quick maturing, large deep heads,
RED CABBAGE Red cabbage good for late and early sowings.
PLANT SPACING 9–15in (23–38cm) ‘Huzzaro’—strong, red storing cabbage. ‘Tendergreen’—small heads on edible stems,
ROW SPACING 18in (45cm) ‘Red Flare’—early sweet f lavor, little core. many sideshoots if central bud removed.

caulif lowers need to be planted firmly, and should Spring-heading cauliflower

Cauliflower be transplanted as young as possible, since they ‘Aalsmeer’—robust, very long-cropping.
suffer if their growth is checked. For mini ‘Longships’—hybrid, late spring to early summer.
Brassica oleracea Botrytis Group caulif lowers, sow in succession, or sow several ‘Lundy’—hybrid, early to mid-spring from early
SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER different cultivars, to ensure a prolonged summer sowing.
EARLY SUMMER CAULIFLOWER harvesting season. ‘Patriot’—good leaf protection, late spring.
SOW • • 3
‘Snow Crown’—its hybrid vigor and rapid
SOWING DEPTH ⁄4in (2cm)
growth make it one of the easiest to grow of
all early caulif lower varieties.
• •

ROW SPACING 24in (60cm)
Brassica oleracea Acephala Group
TRANSPLANT • • ROW SPACING 24in (60cm) SOW • • • •
SOW • ROW SPACING 28in (70cm)

MINI CAULIFLOWER Kale is the hardiest winter vegetable; fresh
HARVEST • • • •
SEED OR PLANT SPACING 6in (15cm) leaves and shoots can be harvested even in severe
ROW SPACING 6in (15cm) winters. As few as six plants picked regularly can
provide 4–5lb (1.8–2.25kg) of greens over the
■ Routine care It is essential to control weeds season. Modern curly kale cultivars are sweeter
and keep the soil moist throughout the growing and more tender than the older broad-leaved
HARVEST • • • •
period, or small, deformed heads will form types, of which only the young shoots are eaten.
prematurely. In summer, snap and fold in leaves Kale can grow to a height of 3ft (90cm), but
SOW • • • •
to protect the curd from strong sun. In winter, the dwarf types reach only about 1ft (30cm),
bunch and tie leaves together over the curd and are therefore more suitable for small gardens.
HARVEST • • • •
to protect it from frost. Top-dress (see p.76) All make ornamental plants for a winter garden.
The typical caulif lower has a cream or white spring-heading types in late winter or in Some kales can be grown as a cut-and-come-
curd, or head, but there are also green- and early spring to stimulate new growth. again crop of salad leaves (see p.102).
purple-headed cultivars. Caulif lowers make large ■ Harvesting Harvest curds while they are ■ Site and soil Kale grown as a winter crop
plants, and those that overwinter will occupy the still firm and dense; they are immature f lower needs well-drained, rich soil that will not
ground for almost a year. They are quite difficult buds and will open up and deteriorate in time. become waterlogged.
to grow because they need a lot of water, and Cut with enough leaf attached to protect the ■ Sowing and planting Sow either in a
this is not usually provided in sufficient quantity curd. Harvest mini caulif lowers promptly, since seedbed or in trays (see p.76). Transplant 6–8
by summer rainfall. Cultivars maturing before they readily deteriorate. weeks after sowing, planting them firmly.
midsummer are therefore the easiest to raise ■ Common problems As for Brussels Dwarf cultivars may be spaced closer together
successfully. At a conventional wide spacing, sprouts (see p.78). Downy mildew (see p.255) than tall ones. If growing a seedling salad crop,
only 5–6 caulif lowers can be grown in a 10ft is a particular problem with caulif lowers; they cut the seedlings when they are 2–3in (5–8cm)
(3m) row. Mini caulif lowers are produced by are also especially vulnerable to problems caused tall, or thin them to 3–4in (8–10cm) apart and
plants grown much closer together (up to 20 in by nutrient deficiencies, such as whiptail cut them when 6in (15cm) tall.
a 10ft/3m) row, taking 13–18 weeks to produce (see Molybdenum deficiency, p.257). Boron SOWING DEPTH 3
⁄4 in (2cm)
heads 11 ⁄2 –3in (4–8cm) in diameter. deficiency (see p.252) may cause brown rings PLANT SPACING 24in (60cm)
■ Site and soil To produce large, well-formed in the stalk. See also Frost damage, p.255. ROW SPACING 18in (45cm)
curds, caulif lowers need a fairly rich soil with ■ Recommended cultivars
plenty of nitrogen-rich fertilizer applied as a Summer cauliflower ■ Routine care Control weeds, and water
base dressing before planting (see p.76). ‘Avalanche’—closely plant for mini-heads. after planting, if necessary, until the plants are
■ Sowing and planting Sow early summer ‘Beauty’—hybrid, show variety, long season, well established. Thereafter, avoid overwatering,
caulif lowers outdoors under cloches or in a cold good for successional sowings. because this will produce lush, soft growth less
frame (see pp.45–47) in mid-fall, or in a heated ‘Nautilus’—hybrid, reliable and tolerant, able to survive the winter. If the crop shows
greenhouse or propagator in midwinter (see p.63). wide sowing and harvesting period. sign of yellowing in early fall, top-dress with
Harden off seedlings and transplant in early Fall cauliflower a nitrogenous fertilizer or organic liquid feed
spring, protecting with f leece (see p.65); this will ‘Belot’—robust late-fall cropping, high- (see pp.20–23) to maintain good color. Remove
advance early crops by 10–14 days. For summer quality curds. any yellow leaves.
types, sow in a seedbed in early and mid-spring ‘Cassius’—holds well in field for extended harvest. ■ Harvesting Harvest young leaves regularly
or in trays in mid-spring, transplanting in early ‘Graffiti’—deep violet. from all plants to encourage more growth.
summer. Water in well if the weather is dry. ‘Kestel’—snow white, late summer–fall. Remove any f lower shoots that appear. Continue
Fall types should be sown in trays in mid- to ‘Skywalker’—high-quality caulif lower, early, to harvest until the plants go to seed, when
late spring and transplanted in early summer, and crops before ‘Belot’. they will become bitter.
kept well watered until established. Winter- Winter-heading cauliflower ■ Common problems As for Brussels sprouts
and spring-heading caulif lowers are both sown ‘Deakin’—late fall to winter, protected heads. (see p.78). Whitef ly (see p.264) can be a problem,
in a seedbed in late spring, with no base dressing ‘Giant of Naples’—a vigorous grower; very good because it infests the edible parts. However,
applied, and then transplanted in late summer. leaf cover. leaf diseases do not normally occur if plants
They need a sheltered site and protection from ‘Triomphant’—mid- to late winter, but only are harvested regularly, and clubroot is less of
frost, which can damage the curds. All for mild regions. a problem than for other brassicas.

■ Recommended cultivars be left in the ground in winter, but in colder sideshoots will be produced; harvest these as they
‘Black Tuscany’—very dark straplike leaves, regions lift in fall and store in boxes (see p.73). are ready. Depending on the prevailing weather,
can be used as a cut-and-come-again crop. ■ Common problems As for Brussels sprouts you may be able to harvest for 6–8 weeks. As
‘Redbor’—curly, dark purple. (p.78). Some leaf damage can be tolerated as the weather warms up, the traditional winter
‘Red Russian’—purple-green, frilly leaves. leaves are not edible. Clubroot can be severe. cultivars deteriorate quickly.
‘Ripbor’—beautiful, curled green leaves. ■ Recommended cultivars ■ Common problems As for Brussels sprouts
‘Winterbor’—tall, tightly curled blue-green ‘Early Purple Vienna’—delicious cabbage- (see p.78), although sprouting broccoli is not
leaves. f lavored bulbs that grow above ground. usually affected by leaf diseases. As with other
‘Kolibri’—large, robust, purple, tolerant. winter brassicas, in mild years it may host
‘Korist’—onamental, pale green, compact. whitef ly to be carried over to affect other spring
Kohlrabi ‘Kongo’—sweet, very tender; enjoy raw or cooked. vegetables if not controlled. Pigeons will also
‘Winner’—vigorous, upright plant produces be attracted to the crop in winter; you may
Brassica oleracea Gongylodes Group bulbs that have a fresh, fruity taste. need to net when it is nearing maturity.
■ Recommended cultivars
‘Bordeaux’—crops in summer and fall, does not

• • • •
Sprouting broccoli need a period of cold.
HARVEST • • • • • • • •
‘Green Sprouting Calabrese Broccoli’—Italian
Brassica oleracea Italica Group early producing large heads of tender sprouts.
This often underrated, tasty brassica has an SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
‘Early Purple Sprouting’—frost-hardy, purple.
unusual-looking swollen stem that is eaten like SOW • • • • • •
‘Red Spear’—productive over long period, fair
a turnip, or shredded for use in salads. There TRANSPLANT • • • • • •
color, very hardy.
is a gap of 1–11 ⁄2 in (2.5–4cm) between the soil HARVEST • • • • • • • •
‘White Eye’—white, early sprouting.
and the base of the swollen stem; you can obtain ‘Santee’—sweet and tender, eat fresh or cooked.
about 1lb (500g) from four plants, depending on There are both purple and white forms of
how large the stems are allowed to grow. Young, sprouting broccoli, the purple ones being much
tender leaves are also useful as greens. Green and hardier and producing many more edible shoots. Texsel greens
purple cultivars are available. The green forms These crops are in the ground for a long time,
mature rapidly and are normally used for the taking up a lot of space, but give useful produce Brassica carinata
main summer crop. The purple types are slower from late winter to late spring, when other fresh SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
to mature and hardier, and more suitable for late garden vegetables are in short supply. Picked SOW • • • • • • •
harvests. Kohlrabi can also be grown as a catch regularly, 10 plants can yield around 7lb (3kg) HARVEST • • • • • • •
crop (see p.69), because it is fast-growing. over the season. In good, rich soils, plants can
■ Site and soil Kohlrabi needs less nitrogen grow to 3ft (90cm) across and up to 3ft (90cm) This relatively new, fairly hardy brassica has been
than other brassicas, and will thrive in a rich, light, tall, and are liable to become top-heavy. Some bred from Ethiopian mustard. Fast-growing,
sandy soil, although it will also grow in heavy soil. new cultivars, such as ‘Bordeaux’, do not need maturing in as little as seven weeks, it makes
It is essential to lime the soil, if necessary, to raise a cold spell to produce a crop; these can be sown a useful catch crop. Texsel greens have shiny
the pH and thus guard against clubroot (see p.77). over a long period for harvest in the same season. leaves, high in nutritional value and with a f lavor
■ Sowing and planting Kohlrabi can be sown ■ Site and soil This crop needs a fertile soil slightly reminiscent of spinach. Young leaves
direct, or raised under cover for an early start that is very well-drained in order to avoid winter are used for salads, and older plants for cooking.
up until around mid-spring; seedlings do not waterlogging. It also needs shelter from wind to The f lavor and texture is best in spring and
transplant well in warm weather. It is important reduce rocking. Lime soil if necessary (see p.18) fall. When grown as a cut-and-come-again
to transplant the seedlings before they exceed to raise the pH and deter clubroot. salad crop (see p.102), a 10ft (3m) row of texel
2in (5cm) in height, or they may bolt. Do not ■ Sowing and planting Sow traditional greens yields 13–20lb (6–9kg) over the season,
sow outside too early; plants sown when the cultivars in spring, either in trays or in a seedbed depending on the size of the leaves harvested.
temperature is below 50°F (10°C) also tend to (see pp.66–68), to transplant to their final site. There are no named cultivars of texsel greens.
bolt. Thin at an early stage to avoid unnecessary Sow the newer cultivars such as ‘Bordeaux’ from ■ Site and soil As for all brassicas, texsel
root disturbance to the plants that remain. late winter to midsummer and transplant a month greens prefer a fertile, well-drained soil, but,
Succession sow every two weeks for continuity. after sowing. because they crop so quickly, they often
⁄4in (2cm) SOWING DEPTH 3
⁄4in (2cm)
succeed even on clubroot-infected soils.
SEED SPACING 9in (23cm), 3 seeds per station PLANT SPACING 24in (60cm)
■ Sowing and planting Broadcast sow (see
ROW SPACING 12in (30cm) ROW SPACING 24in (60cm)
p.66) in succession every 2–3 weeks. Thin the
seedlings to 1in (2.5cm) apart. If growing them
■ Routine care It is essential to keep plants ■ Routine care Keep weed-free, and water as a seedling crop, there is no need to thin.
well watered throughout the growing period, in dry spells until established. Thereafter, avoid 1
SOWING DEPTH ⁄ 2in (1cm)
in order to avoid a check in growth that will overwatering, so that the plants become tough
SEED SPACING broadcast; thin to 1in (2.5cm)
lead to unpalatable, woody f lesh being produced. enough to withstand winter temperatures.
ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
Control weeds promptly. Plants must be securely supported with stakes
■ Harvesting When the stems are between (see p.72) to avoid windrock. Earth up stems ■ Routine care Keep evenly moist for steady
golf- and tennis-ball size, usually 7–8 weeks after to increase stability. growth and to prevent bolting.
sowing for summer sowings or 12–16 weeks for ■ Harvesting The new cultivars such as ■ Harvesting For salad crops, harvest the shoots
winter ones, cut off at the root and trim off the ‘Bordeaux’ should be ready to harvest 10–15 and leaves when young. Once they are mature,
outer leaves to 3 ⁄4in (2cm), leaving the central leaves weeks after transplanting throughout summer harvesting a few leaves from each plant rather
on the stem to help maintain its freshness. Newer and fall. Traditional spring-sown broccoli than picking them all from one or two will
cultivars grow rapidly, and can still be tender becomes ready to pick from late winter. When keep plants cropping steadily.
when larger. Eat summer crops as they become the f lowering shoots are about 6–8in (15–20cm) ■ Common problems As for Brussels sprouts
ready; after 1–2 weeks in hot weather the stems long, but before the f lower buds open, snap off (see p.78). Flea beetle (see p.255) may be a
start to deteriorate. In mild areas, kohlrabi can around 3–4in (8–10cm) of their length. New problem if the weather is dry during sowing.

Growing root crops

This group of vegetables encompasses Edible buds
beets, carrots, parsnips and the very Shoots and flower
similar parsley root, oyster plants, buds of oyster plants
may be cooked and
potatoes, scorzonera, nonhardy
eaten in the same
sweet potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips, way as asparagus.
all of which produce edible crops To obtain them, leave
below ground or at soil level. Potatoes a few plants in the
and sweet potatoes have underground ground over winter
tubers, whereas the others all have so that they can
produce flowering
swollen roots. Oyster plant and
shoots the following
scorzonera also have edible f lowering spring. The buds
shoots and buds (see right). Most store should be picked
well and make useful winter vegetables. just before opening,
Root crops are prone to several major together with about
soil-borne pests and diseases, and in 4in (10cm) of stem.
some cases this influences methods of
cultivation. Since root crops represent
a wide range of species, there are various
cultural requirements to be considered,
especially with regard to soil conditions.
To obtain the best results with each
crop it is important to think about its
requirements with respect to the pH, soils with a pH 6.5–7.5. Turnips and ROTATION
texture, and fertility of the soil. rutabagas thrive on slightly acid soil. It is essential to rotate root crops
Like other members of the brassica (see p.31) in order to reduce infestation
SOIL pH family, however, they are vulnerable by pests and especially disease
To grow a particular crop successfully, to the persistent soil-borne disease infections, to keep the soil nutrient
check the acidity level of your soil with clubroot (see p.254), which is less levels suitably balanced, and to keep
a testing kit to ascertain whether liming prevalent on neutral to alkaline soil weeds in check. A minimum of a
will be necessary (see pp.18–19). with a pH 7 or more. three-year rotation lessens the risk
Potatoes do best on a slightly acid of a buildup of pests such as root knot
soil of pH 5–6; on soils that are rich in SOIL FERTILITY nematodes (see p.261) and diseases
lime, the skin disease potato powdery It is important to take account of the such as parsnip canker (see p.258).
scab (see p.260) will thrive to attack nutrient requirements of each crop, Rotation helps to maintain fertility
many cultivars. which are various. Parsnips, oyster by permitting one crop to benefit from
Parsnips prefer slightly acid soils of plants, scorzonera, rutabagas, and turnips nutrient levels that were appropriate to
pH 6.5. Beets, carrots, oyster plants, have low nitrogen needs; those of carrot the previous crop—a classical example
and scorzonera have a broader range and beet are very low. Potatoes and is planning to grow nitrogen-hungry
of tolerance and will grow well on beets have high nitrogen requirements. brassicas after nitrogen-fixing legumes.
All root crops do best on soils with a Following legumes with root crops,
high content of organic matter, which which need less nitrogen, can result
is best incorporated into the soil six in their developing excessive foliage
months or more prior to cropping. (See growth at the expense of roots.
also individual crops, pp.85–88.) Rotation can also assist in controlling
weeds. For example, in the cultivation
SOIL TEXTURE of potatoes the ground is well dug
Crops with long roots that grow down and disturbed because the crop is
into the soil, such as carrots, parsnips, earthed up regularly—a process that
oyster plants, scorzonera, and some suppresses weed growth. The crop
beet types, do best on light, sandy soils also has a good canopy of leaves to
where the roots can penetrate easily, smother annual weeds. Subsequent
Using fleece to advance crops making vegetables of good shape and crops benefit by resulting reduction in
You can warm the soil and protect early crops
from frost by covering the bed with a double
length. All of the root crops, however, weed population, particularly because
layer of fleece (as here), or perforated plastic, can be grown on heavy soils, provided there is invariably no need for further
as soon as the seedlings emerge or just after that they are well-drained, deeply deep cultivation that would bring even
planting. Tuck the edges into a slit trench. cultivated, and free of stones. more weed seeds to the surface.

SHORT- OR LONG-TERM CROPS? fine tilth (see p.66) and a good depth of
If you have only limited growing soil in the seedbed so that the roots can
Pre-germinate potatoes
space, short-term crops of beets, penetrate unhindered. Improve heavy Seed potatoes are small tubers grown
carrots, early potatoes, and turnips soils by digging in plenty of well-rotted in areas of low virus infection, often
are helpful in allowing at least two organic matter. Some root crops prefer obtained by mail order. Sprouting aids
crops per year to be obtained from soil that has not been freshly dug (see early growth. As soon as tubers are
the same piece of land. Clearing individual crops, pp.85–88). obtained in midwinter, place them
crops quickly in this way also reduces In most cases, sowing is carried out upright in trays, with the most eyes
the likelihood of pests and diseases from early spring (see individual crops, or dormant sprouts—at the “rose”
building up in the area. Harvest pp.85–88). Large seeds, such as those end—uppermost, in a cool, frost-free,
light place. They will send out healthy,
crops as soon as they are ready, to of parsnips, are best station sown (see
short, green shoots (see below, right),
enjoy them at their best and to avoid p.68), whereas small seeds, such as
ideally 1 ⁄2in (12mm) long. Kept in a warm,
any deterioration through splitting those of carrots and turnips, should
dark place, shoots will be pale, weak,
and development of pests and diseases. be sown thinly in single drills (see p.66)
and become too long (see below, left).
Long-term crops such as parsnips and and thinned at the seedling stage (see
maincrop potatoes are suitable where p.68). Turnips and beets may be sown
space is not at a premium, but in order in successive batches (see p.69). Parsnips
to ensure good quality they must not be are suitable for intersowing with fast-
subjected to a check in growth through maturing salad crops such as radishes
lack of water. You should also be vigilant (see p.69). Early carrots and turnips may
for signs of pests or disease and take be used as catch crops for intercropping
appropriate action as soon as possible (see p.71) between long-term crops.
(see also Plant Problems, pp.246–264).
PLANTING TUBERS Weak, pale shoots Strong, dark shoots
SOWING Potatoes are normally raised by planting
Root vegetables are grown from seed, out small sprouted tubers, referred Planting through black plastic
with the exception of potatoes, which to as seed potatoes (see box, right) sheet mulch (see p.84) dispenses
may be grown from tubers (see below). directly in the ground. True potato with the need to earth up and also
Root crops are best sown directly seeds are unreliable, less convenient, suppresses weeds.
outdoors, where they are to crop to and unsuitable for garden use.
minimize disturbance to their edible Seed potatoes are usually planted ADVANCING AND PROTECTING CROPS
roots, but multiblock sowing (see p.65) in a deep drill or individual planting To harvest very early roots, protect
is possible. It is essential to produce a holes and earthed up as they grow. sown crops from the cold with f leece
(see facing page), perforated plastic,
Planting seed potatoes in a drill or cloches (see pp.46–48). Cut the
f leece about 12–16in (30–40cm)
wider and longer than the plot. With
a shovel, make a slit trench, about
half a spit deep, around the plot. Lay
the f leece with a margin of at least 6in
(15cm) on all sides. Push it into the
slit trench with the shovel and tread
the edges to secure it. Remove it as
soon as risk of frost is past and before
it restricts growth.


Where garden space is limited or
there are persistent problems with pests
or diseases, container growing is an
alternative method of cultivating early
beets, carrots, potatoes, and turnips.
Draw out a drill 3–6in (8–15cm) deep Push or pull the soil back gently over Pots should be at least 10in (25cm)
1 —sufficient to cover the shoots with
at least 1in (2.5cm) of soil. Press a tuber
2 the tubers with the back of a rake.
Lightly rake over the soil surface to level it,
deep and wide, filled with a mixture
of rotted compost or manure and good
with shoots uppermost into the soil every and mark the drill. Fertilizer can be added garden soil. Tubs, growing bags, and
12–15in (30–38cm) along the drill. along the drill before planting (see p.87). even windowboxes are other options.
Always keep containers well watered.


Carrot f ly (see p.253) can cause severe
Planting potatoes under plastic sheet mulch
damage to some root crops, especially Lay a sheet of black
carrots and parsnips. The adult females
f ly low along the ground, especially
1 plastic on the bed. Plant
tubers 6in (15cm) deep at
in sheltered or shady sites, until they usual spacings through slits
find a suitable crop of seedlings or cut in the sheet. Plant small
plants; they lay their eggs in the tubers 12in (30cm) apart.
soil, where larvae hatch out and bore Alternatively, cover a newly
into the roots. planted crop and cut slits as
There are no approved chemical the new shoots push up. In
treatments available to the amateur either case, pull developing
gardener, but some cultivars now have shoots through the slits.
To harvest tubers, pull
a degree of resistance to carrot f ly.
There are also several control strategies 2 back the sheet and
gather the new crop of
that can be put into action to avoid
infestation by this troublesome pest. tubers from the surface; a 1 2
few will need to be dug out.
Two generations of f lies usually
hatch out each season, and sowing
times can be planned so as to avoid —may also be successful in deterring HARVESTING AND STORING
the worst periods of activity. The first the carrot f ly. Sowing alternate rows To avoid encouraging carrot f ly,
hatching usually occurs in late spring, of onions and carrots is frequently harvest carrots and parsnips as soon
and the second in midsummer. To recommended to confuse both carrot as they are ready. If this pest is not a
avoid the first wave, sow from late f ly and onion f ly (see p.258), which problem, the roots may be left in the
spring, in a stale seedbed (see p.66) locate their preferred crop by its odor. ground until needed, as with beets,
or in a bed prepared well in advance The scent of thinnings attracts adult rutabagas, and turnips; cover with
in an open, sunny site. The second female f lies, so sow seed as thinly as straw or bracken if frosts are expected
wave should then be less of a problem, possible to avoid thinning altogether. (see p.73). Lift potatoes by early or
since the f lies will not have already Alternatively, thin the crop in the mid-fall; the later you leave them
become established and begun to evening, nipping off the seedlings at the greater the possible damage from
breed in your garden. Sometimes, ground level to avoid disturbing the slugs. Leave to dry outside for 2–3
a third hatching occurs in early fall, soil. Firm down the soil again after hours before storing. Lift scorzonera
so protect crops until winter. thinning, and after lifting carrot crops. and oyster plant as needed, and use
Erecting low physical barriers (see box, Remove any infested crops as soon as fresh. Sweet potatoes will need to
below) can be a highly effective means possible off site. Storing or composting be cured (see p.88). Most root crops
of protecting carrots from attack. infested crops will assist in maintaining are suitable for storing (see p.73). Store
Companion planting—planting the life cycle of the carrot f ly so it can only undamaged roots or tubers,
possibly beneficial plant combinations return the following year. which are least prone to rot.

Using barriers to exclude carrot flies

To prevent carrot fly from attacking and
devastating carrots and other susceptible
crops, erect a barrier, at least 2ft (60cm)
high, around the sown area before the
seedlings appear. The females fly very low,
so the barrier effectively stops them from
reaching the crop and laying their eggs. The
barrier may be made from waxed cardboard
stapled together at the corners (right), film
or rigid plastics, or fine woven mesh netting
(far right). Staple the netting or film plastic
to wooden posts driven into the soil at the
corners. Stretch strings between the four
corner posts on which to staple the netting
or film plastic. Insert stakes at intervals along
the sides to hold it in place. Ensure that the
material is buried securely all along the base. Waxed cardboard barrier Fine woven mesh barrier


up the beets and twisting off their tops about
Beets 1in (2.5cm) above the root. Roots can be
overwintered in position by covering them
Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris with a 6in (15cm) layer of straw or bracken.
■ Common problems Aphid (see p.252),
SOW • • • • •
cutworm (see p.254), damping off (p.254),
and fungal leaf spot (p.257) may all be
HARVEST • • • • •
troublesome, as well as occasional deficiencies
Beets are easy to grow and the swollen roots can of boron (p.252) and manganese (see p.257).
be harvested from early summer to fall. They ■ Recommended cultivars
can be stored or pickled for use in salads or steamed ‘Boltardy’—round, red, bolt-resistant.
as a sweet vegetable. Beets may be round, long, or ‘Burpees Golden’—yellow root, good f lavor;
oval in shape and come in a range of outer colors, tops can be steamed like spinach.
from purple or deep red to yellow or white. The ‘Chioggia’—sweet and tender with striking
inner flesh may be purple, red, yellow, white, or red and white internal rings.
even red with white rings. All the color forms are ‘Merlin’—green glossy tops.
similar in flavor. Most beet types are short-term ‘Pronto’—faster growing than most red beets.
crops, suitable for catch cropping (see p.69), and ‘Red Ace’—good red, well-shaped hybrid.
they are easier to cook and are sweeter-tasting
when harvested young; long-rooted types are
slower-growing, but well-flavored. The young Carrot
leaves may be eaten like spinach.
Beets may also be grown in containers (see Daucus carota
p.83). Early sowings may be prone to bolt and run
to seed, but resistant cultivars are usually available. SOW • • • • • • • •
Mature beets normally yields 30 roots, each
weighing 1–2lb (450g–1kg), per 10ft (3m) row.
HARVEST • • • • • • • •
■ Site and soil Beets need an open, sunny
site, with fertile, light, sandy soil, preferably By successional sowings, it is possible to lift fresh
one that has been manured in the previous roots of this popular vegetable from late spring
season. Long-rooted cultivars need a good through to early winter. The crop can also be
depth of soil. A pH of 6.5–7 is ideal. stored so that it is available into late winter.
■ Sowing For spring sowings under cover, Carrots are classified according to shape, maturity,
use a bolt-resistant cultivar. Make successional and size, although root shape and also color are
sowings direct outdoors (see p.69) every two inf luenced by soil type and growing conditions.
weeks in early and midsummer. Space sow The earliest crops are obtained with
seeds 2in (5cm) apart, then thin the seedlings Amsterdam-type cultivars: narrow, cylindrical,
for standard-sized beets. Leave unthinned for stump-ended roots with smooth skins and of
pickling beets about 2in (5cm) in diameter. small size, suitable for forcing. Nantes types
are of similar shape, but broader and longer;
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
PLANT SPACING Standard: 4in (10cm)
they are suitable for early crops and forcing
Pickling: 2in (5cm)
as Amsterdam types, but also for later crops.
ROW SPACING Standard: 9–12in (23–30cm)
Chantenay cultivars are short, broad and more
Pickling: 6in (15cm)
conical, and are suitable for maincrops for summer
and fall lifting. Berlicum types produce long, large
■ Routine care Protect early sowings from roots which are suitable for winter use, as are the
frosts, and seedlings from birds, with fleece long-season, tapering Autumn King types, which
(see pp.82–83) or cloches (see p.46). Keep the soil produce the longest roots of all.
moist, and when the roots start to swell after These types have been used as parents to breed
about 8–9 weeks water the plants well. In a dry new F1 hybrid cultivars with mixed characteristics
spell, use 2 gallons per sq yd (11 liters per sq m) and of high quality. Small, round-rooted, “baby”
at intervals of 2–3 weeks. Too frequent or light cultivars are also available and are suitable for
watering leads to a lot of leafy growth and no container raising where garden space is restricted.
roots. Light, sandy soils of high pH may be low All are available from garden centers and it is
in manganese and possibly boron (see p.17), so spray worth studying the packet information to choose
once or twice with a foliar, seaweed-based fertilizer cultivars for particular seasonal requirements.
(see p.22) that has a range of trace elements. ■ Site and soil The preferred pH range is
■ Harvesting and storing Start lifting roots 6.5–7.5. Carrots do best on light soils, and a
once they are about 2in (5cm) in diameter; relatively dry site produces a sweeter f lavor;
spring sowings will be ready in summer and heavy soils can carry satisfactory crops if they
summer ones in fall. Lift the beets as they are are not waterlogged or compacted. All benefit
needed; this thins out the crop, leaving other from well-rotted organic matter incorporated
roots to achieve a larger size. Harvest by pulling in the previous season. A low-nitrogen base

Imperator type
dressing should be added. Prepare a fine tilth
several weeks in advance and destroy any ‘Sugarsnax 54’—long roots, very sweet. Parsley root
germinated weeds just before sowing. Nantes type
■ Sowing Precision-treated seeds (see p.60) ‘Mokum’—enjoy as a baby carrot or full-size treat. Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum
give best results for early sowings; sow all ‘Nigel’—bright roots, good f lavor and texture, SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
seed thinly. For a spring crop, sow outdoors stores well. SOW • • •
in mid-fall or mid- to late winter under f leece, Round type HARVEST • • • • • • • • •
or in greenhouse beds. When thinning seedlings, ‘Parmex’—raise under glass or outdoors.
pinch them out to avoid the stronger odour Heritage cultivars Parsley root has roots similar in taste and
that results from pulling, which attracts carrot ‘Danvers’—Victorian, crops early summer appearance to parsnips, although smaller. The
f ly, or erect a barrier (see p.84). Early summer to mid-fall. plant has parsley-like leaves that remain green
liftings can be obtained by sowing under ‘James Scarlet’—good color and f lavor. during severe winters, and can be used instead
protection in early spring or outdoors from ‘New Red Intermediate’—good for exhibition of more tender herb parsley (see p.144). Root
mid-spring—as soon as the soil temperature and storage. yield is 61 ⁄ 2 lb per 10ft (3kg per 3m) row.
rises to at least 45°F (7.5°C), naturally or with ‘St. Valory’—maincrop, good for exhibition. ■ Site and soil As parsnip (see below).
the aid of glass cloche or plastic film coverings— ■ Sowing Sow thinly in rows and thin
to midsummer. Round, Amsterdam, and seedlings when they have two true leaves.
Nantes types are all suitable for early sowings. Oyster plant SOWING DEPTH 3
⁄4 in (2cm)
Sowing seed in modules is another way to SEED SPACING thin to 6–8in (15–20cm)
obtain early crops (see pp.62–63). Successional Tragopogon porrifolius ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
sowings outdoors in mid- and late spring of SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
Chantenay and Berlicum types crop from late SOW • • •
■ Routine care As for parsnip (see below).
summer. Short-season crops are less prone to HARVEST • • • • • •
■ Harvesting and storing As for parsnip
carrot f ly attack; sowings made in early spring (see below). Pick the leaves as required.
to early summer are likely to miss the most Oyster plant is a hardy biennial with long, thin, ■ Common problems As for parsnip (see below).
harmful hatches of the insect, although creamy white roots that are used as a winter ■ Recommended cultivar
timings vary by latitude. vegetable. It is sometimes called the oyster plant, ‘Hamburg Parsley’—very strong f lavor.
⁄2 – ⁄4in (1–2cm)
because of its taste. It is usually grown as an
annual, but crops can be overwintered in order
sow thinly; thin to 4in (10cm)
12in (30cm) in open garden
to produce the edible young shoots, known as Parsnip
6in (15cm) under cover
chards, and edible f lower buds (see p.82). Oyster
plant is a long-term crop, taking 6 to 10 months Pastinaca sativa
■ Routine care Keep weed-free by hand to mature, and the roots should be eaten fresh or
weeding until the leaf canopy suppresses any they may shrivel. Oyster plant normally yields SOW • •
competition. Water in dry spells, but do not about 3lb (1.5kg) of roots per 3m (10ft) row. HARVEST • • • • • • • • •
overwater carrots because this encourages leaf ■ Site and soil An open, sunny site with deep,
growth. Supplementary feeding should not light, stone-free soil, that has been manured for This long-term root crop is valuable for its
be necessary on well-prepared sites. a previous crop, is best (see p.82). The preferred hardiness and distinct f lavor. All types taste
■ Harvesting and storing Pull the first roots soil pH is 6.8. similar; the quicker the growth, the sweeter
when 1 ⁄2 – 5 ⁄8in (12–15mm) thick, remembering ■ Sowing Seed quickly deteriorates; sow fresh the taste. The roots can be 5–10in (13–25cm)
that the roots will grow continuously as the seed thinly in drills (see p.66) in spring. Thin long, and of various shapes—some long and
seasonal temperature rises. On heavier soils, once seedlings have two true leaves (see p.68). narrow, some bulbous—depending on cultivar
it is necessary to ease roots out of the ground 1
as well as soil and conditions. In shallow soils,
SOWING DEPTH ⁄ 2in (1cm)
with a fork. For winter use, roots can be left a cultivar with a shorter root is best. Parsnips
SEED SPACING sow thinly; thin to 4in (10cm)
in the ground; cover with a secure layer of yield about 9lb per 10ft (4kg per 3m) row.
ROW SPACING 6–12in (15–30cm)
straw or bracken when frost approaches. ■ Site and soil For best results, parsnips need
Alternatively, roots can be lifted and stored ■ Routine care Control weeds, and water an open, sunny site, and a deep, light, sandy
(see p.73). Roots left in the ground for long in dry spells at a rate of 3–5 gallons per 10sq ft soil, although good crops can be obtained from
periods are liable to sustain carrot f ly damage. (16–22 liters per sq m). Supplementary feeding heavy soils. The ideal pH is 6.5. Manure the
■ Common problems Carrot f ly (see p.253) is unnecessary. If chards and f lower buds are soil in the previous season. Parsnips have a low
is the most serious pest; aphids, especially root required, cut off the old leaves to 1in (2.5cm) nitrogen requirement.
aphids (see p.261) can be troublesome. Downy above ground level in fall and earth up the roots ■ Sowing Seed sown direct in mid- to late
and powdery mildews (see p.255, p.260) and with 5in (13cm) of soil. Alternatively, when spring is more likely to germinate than seed
violet root rot (see p.263) can cause problems. growth starts in spring, cover the tops of the sown earlier. Germination is slow.
■ Recommended cultivars leaves with a 5in (13cm) layer of straw or bracken. Sow thinly or station sow with 2–4 seeds per
Amsterdam type ■ Harvesting and storing Roots may be left station (see p.68). Use 4–6in (10–15cm) spacing
‘Adelaide’—cylindrical, smooth with blunt roots. in the ground all winter; lift them carefully when for medium-sized roots up to 2in (5cm) in
Autumn King type needed, from mid-fall to early spring, and use at diameter and a wider spacing for later, stored
‘Atomic red’—brilliant red and rich in lycopene. once to avoid shriveling. Cut chards in early spring roots. Parsnips can be intersown (see p.69) with
‘Healthmaster’—unusual deep reddish-orange when 6in (15cm) tall. Pick f lower buds in early radishes to mark the rows.
color is uniform throughout roots. spring before they open, with 4in (10cm) of stem. 3
SOWING DEPTH ⁄4 in (2cm)
‘Kingston’—hybrid, tender, good size. ■ Common problems Aside from white blister
SEED SPACING Medium: 4–6in (10–14cm)
Berlicum type (see p.264), there are no problems. Large: 8in (20cm)
‘Berlicum’—deep orange color, fine carrot f lavor. ■ Recommended cultivars ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
Chantenay type ‘Fiore Blu’—long, golden, f leshy roots, and
‘Chantenay Red Cored 2’—sweet-tasting “blue f lowers.” ■ Routine care Control weeds. Water only in
maincrop, good for storing. ‘Sandwich Island’—delicious, oysterlike taste. very dry conditions, at a rate of 2½ gallons per

10sq ft (11 liters per sq m) every 2–3 weeks. a range of “microplants,” grown by a specialized early types, water at the same rate only
If left too dry, the roots are liable to split after method known as micropropagation, are when the tubers are starting to swell,
watering. Most late-sown seeds need watering available. These are strong and virus-free, and are around the size of marbles; this
to aid germination. Feeding is not usually and can be grown in containers or outdoors; usually coincides with f lowering, but not
needed, but if growth is poor, apply a liquid plant out as for module-raised seedlings (see all cultivars f lower.
feed according to manufacturer’s instructions. p.70) when all risk of frost is past. Some can Do not water maincrop potatoes before
■ Harvesting and storing Parsnips are ready be eaten and some seed potatoes saved to plant the tubers reach marble size; then water,
for lifting from late summer but may be left for future cropping. using a sprinkler at the rates given above
in the soil until needed, although there may Maincrop potatoes normally yield around or through a seep hose (see p.54) until soaked
be a risk of carrot f ly (see p.84). Alternatively, 22lb per 10ft (10kg per 3m) row; earlies yield through. Maincrop potatoes prefer higher
lift and store in sand in boxes (see p.73). about 10b (4.5kg); container crops much less. nitrogen levels than earlies, so apply a
■ Common problems Aside from carrot f ly ■ Site and soil Potatoes prefer an open site, top-dressing of a nitrogenous fertilizer (see
(see p.84 and p.253), parsnip canker (see p.258) which must not be a frost pocket (see p.11), pp.20–23) when earthing up. In early fall,
can be a major problem if resistant cultivars and deep, fertile soil with a pH of 5–6. Rotate or earlier if signs of potato blight (see p.260)
are not used. Powdery mildew (see p.260) can crops (see p.31) and incorporate plenty of organic appear, cut down the dying top-growth
be a minor problem in dry weather as well as matter such as well-rotted manure in the fall to 2in (5cm) above soil level. This should
downy mildew in damp conditions (see p.255). before planting. Apply a general fertilizer be done around two weeks before harvest to
Violet root rot (see p.263) and celery leaf miner (see pp.20–23), either on the soil surface and help “set” the skins for better storing quality.
(see p.253) can also affect parsnip. worked into the soil shortly before planting, ■ Harvesting and storing Lift early potatoes
■ Recommended cultivars or spread along the sides of prepared drills at carefully with a fork as soon as they are ready,
‘All American’—plant produces long, excellent- the time of planting. often indicated by the plant f lowering. Check
quality parsnip. ■ Planting There are two methods of planting that tubers are ready by pulling aside the soil.
‘Cobham Improved Morrow’—vigorous seed tubers, either in a drill (see p.83) or in So long as they are healthy, leave maincrop
germination, canker-resistant, smooth skins individual holes. A black plastic sheet mulch plants until early to mid-fall to bulk up, but
even in heavier soils. can be laid before or immediately after planting remember that the longer they are left in the
‘Gladiator’—hybrid, sow early or late, very (see p.84). Where not covered, plants require ground, the more prone they are to slug damage.
vigorous, canker-resistant, good in exhibition. earthing up (see below); where covered, earthing Lift on a dry day, and leave the tubers on the
‘Javelin’—long-rooted hybrid, good up is not necessary because light is totally ground for 2–3 hours. Store in boxes, paper
for exhibition. excluded, so weeds cannot establish and there sacks, or even clamps (see p.73). When the area
‘Panache’—superb, sweet, nutty f lavor. is no risk of tubers greening. has been cleared, fork it over to ensure all small
To grow earlies in a container (see p.83), rest tubers have been removed, as these can carry
two pregerminated tubers on 4–5in (10–13cm) disease into the next year.
Potato of soil or compost in a large pot or tub that is ■ Common problems Pests that may cause
least 12in (30cm) deep. Cover the tubers with damage are cutworm (see p.254), slugs (see
Solanum tuberosum 4in (10cm) of soil or compost, water in, and p.262), potato cyst nematode (p.260), wire-
stand the container in a light, sheltered spot. worm (p.264), and seldom, but disastrously,
PLANT • • • Colorado potato beetle (p.254). Frost can
PLANTING DEPTH 3–6in (8–15cm)
HARVEST • • • • •
damage crops (see p.255). Potato blight (see
SEED POTATO SPACING Earlies: 12–15in (30–38cm)
p.260) thrives in warm, humid conditions and
Maincrop: 15in (38cm)
The potato is a staple vegetable that stores well and is not usually a problem for earlies. Other
ROW SPACING Earlies: 15–20in (38–50cm)
may be eaten all year round. Tubers vary in size, common diseases are potato common scab (see
Maincrop: 30in (75cm)
color, texture, and taste. Early types, often referred p.260), potato powdery scab (see p.260), potato
to as new potatoes, are small and are cooked ■ Routine care Protect early crops from frost black leg (see p.259) and potato viruses (see p.260).
whole for hot dishes and salads. Late-maturing (see pp.82–83). If the skins of the newly formed ■ Recommended cultivars
types have large tubers that can be cooked in tubers are exposed to light when they are Early
many ways. Potatoes are grouped according to pushed to the surface, they will become green ‘Adirondack Red’—high-yielding plants with
their season of lifting. “Earlies” mature in 100–110 and poisonous, and should not be eaten. To purple blooms.
days from planting to harvest, “second earlies” prevent this from happening, plantings that ‘Cranberry Red’—the best of the red-skin/red-
in 110–120 days, and “maincrops” in 125–140 have not been covered with a black plastic sheet f leshed potatoes.
days, depending on weather conditions. mulch should be earthed up, by drawing soil ‘Russet Norkotah’—the perfect potato for
Where space is limited, grow earlies, which around the stems with a draw hoe or shovel. small gardens.
can be closer spaced and occupy the ground This is best done when the stems are about ‘Winston’—waxy, cream f lesh, best baked.
for less time. Plants can be raised in containers 9in (23cm) tall; draw the soil up to about Second early
(see p.83) and placed under cover for extra, 4in (10cm) so as to leave sufficient foliage ‘All-Blue’—quite spectacular with its deep blue
early yields. Maincrops, ready at midsummer, for good growth. To make earthing up easier, skin and f lesh.
can be left in the soil until needed or stored. fork the soil between the rows beforehand. ‘La Ratte’—rich and chestnutty f lavor, long a
To thrive, potatoes need to grow where they It will be necessary to earth up in two stages, favorite of fine chefs.
are unchecked by frost or lack of moisture; excess especially for small, early plants that have ‘Red Norland’—fair storage cooking potato.
wet early in the season can produce leaf growth been protected against frost. ‘Rio Grande Russet’—exceptionally high yields,
at the expense of tubers. For plants in containers, add a 4in (10cm) stores well.
Potatoes are most conveniently grown from layer of soil or compost when the stems are Maincrop
seed potatoes that are sprouted, or pregerminated 6in (15cm) tall. Repeat until the plants have ‘Desirée’—good all-arounder, red skin and pale
(see p.83) before planting; use seed tubers raised grown to 2in (5cm) of the top of the pot. yellow, waxy f lesh.
in isolation and certified free of virus diseases. Keep early plants moist by giving them ‘Kennebec’—smooth with shallow eyes.
Some suppliers offer seed tubers. a good soaking of 3–4 gallons per 10sq ft Stores well.
For some cultivars that are old, rare, and (16–22 liters per sq m) every 10–14 days in ‘Purple Viking’—dark purple skin with red
sought after for their f lavor, color, and shape, dry spells. To get the best yield from very blotches and exceptionally pure white f lesh.

may repel carrot f lies, and can be planted near

Rutabaga susceptible crops. It yields about 3lb per 10ft Turnip, turnip tops
(1.5kg per 3m) row.
Brassica napus Napobrassica Group ■ Site and soil As for oyster plant (see above). Brassica campestris Rapifera Group
■ Sowing As for oyster plant (see above), and
SOW • •
also in late summer to grow on for a second TURNIP
HARVEST • • • •
season and harvest in the following fall. SOW • • • • • • •
⁄ 2in (1cm) HARVEST • • • • • • • •
Rutabaga is a winter-hardy root crop, TURNIP TOPS
SEED SPACING sow thinly; thin to 4in (10cm)
belonging to the brassica family (see pp.76–81), ROW SPACING 6–12in (15–30cm) SOW • • •
with similar cultivation needs. A long-season
crop, it takes 20–26 weeks to mature, and is ■ Routine care Control weeds, but do not
not easy to grow. The f lesh is normally yellow, disturb the roots or they may fork. Treat young Turnips belong to the brassica family (see
but skin color varies from purple to green. shoots and f lower buds as for oyster plant. pp.76–81). They are biennials, usually grown
The roots range in shape from thin and ■ Harvesting Take utmost care when lifting as annuals. The roots may be f lat, round,
narrow to the more popular bulbous, roots, as they are prone to bleed. If growth is or long; the f lesh is white or yellow. They
inf luenced by seed quality; newer cultivars poor in the first year, leave plants for another are best eaten fresh and young but can be
are more reliable. The sweet-tasting roots are year for bigger roots. Harvest young shoots stored as a winter vegetable. Turnips take
cooked as a winter vegetable. Rutabagas yield and f lower buds as for oyster plant (see above). 6–10 weeks to mature, and may be
13lb per 10ft (6kg per 3m) row, depending ■ Common problems As for oyster plant. intercropped (see p.71). They normally
on the stage of cutting. yield ten 1–11 ⁄ 2 lb (500–750g) roots per
■ Site and soil Rutabagas do best on an 10ft (3m) row. The young leaves, or turnip
open, sunny site, with light, fertile soil, low Sweet potato tops, can be used as spring greens, and make
in nitrogen, with a pH of at least 6.8, that suffers a good catch crop (see p.69).
neither from drought nor waterlogging and Ipomoea batatas ■ Site and soil Cool, moist conditions are
has been manured for a previous crop. preferred, with a soil high in nitrogen and
■ Sowing Sow direct in drills (see p.66) in a pH of at least 6.8. Turnips need plenty of
late spring or early summer and thin (see p.68). organic matter worked into the soil.
■ Sowing Sow thinly outdoors in succession
SEED SPACING sow thinly; thin to 9in (23cm)
(see p.69) every 2–3 weeks from late winter
ROW SPACING 15in (38cm)
The sweet potato is a tender perennial grown and thin (see p.68) seedlings. Protect very
as an annual for its sweet-tasting tubers, which early sowings (see pp.82–83). Late-spring or
■ Routine care Keep well watered and free are eaten cooked. The leaves may also be eaten summer sowings may not germinate in very
of weeds and pests. like spinach. In cooler regions, grow sweet hot, dry weather, unless the seedbed is moist
■ Harvesting and storing When roots are potatoes in a greenhouse; in mild climates and shaded. For turnip tops, sow as for turnips
4–6in (10–15cm) in diameter, in fall to they can be grown outdoors in sheltered in late summer, early fall, or early spring.
early winter, lift carefully and store (see p.73). sites. They normally yield 3lb per 10ft 3
SOWING DEPTH ⁄4 in (2cm)
■ Common problems Cabbage root f ly (1.5kg per 3m) row. SEED SPACING thin to 4–6in (10–15cm)
(see p.253), aphid (p.257), and f lea beetle (see Site and soil Sweet potatoes require highly ROW SPACING roots: 9–12in (23–30cm)
p.255) attack seedlings. Rutabagas are prone fertile, sandy soil with a high nitrogen level tops: 6in (15cm)
to clubroot (p.254), boron deficiency and a pH of 5.5–6.5. They must be grown
(see p.252), downy and powdery mildews in temperatures of 75–82°F (24–28°C) and ■ Routine care Control weeds and keep
(p.255, p.260), and weevil (p.263). prefer high humidity. the plants well watered. In dry periods,
■ Recommended cultivars ■ Sowing and planting Sow in early or water weekly at a rate of 2½ gallons per
‘Brora’—attractive reddish-purple shiny skin mid-spring indoors at a minimum of 75°F 10sq ft (11 liters per sq m). Supplementary
and cream base. (24°C). On sheltered, mild sites, transplant feeding is not necessary.
‘Joan’—smooth, round and uniform roots. into ridges outdoors, after hardening them ■ Harvesting Pull early roots when 11 ⁄ 2 –2in
‘Laurentian’—delicious yellow roots are great off. Otherwise, plant in late spring in a (4–5cm) in diameter and use fresh. Later crops
fried or baked, sweet and so tasty. greenhouse border or in growing bags. may be pulled until early winter and stored in
‘Marian’—resistant to mildew and clubroot, boxes or clamps (see p.73). When turnip tops
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
globe-shaped, with good f lavor. PLANTING DEPTH 2–3in (5–8cm) in ridge
are 5–6in (13–15cm) tall, cut them 1in (2.5cm)
PLANT SPACING 10–12in (25–30cm)
above ground level. If kept moist, further
cuttings will be possible but the leaves will
Scorzonera ROW/RIDGE SPACING 30in (75cm)
be tough if allowed to mature.
■ Routine care Keep well watered; feed ■ Common problems Cabbage root
Scorzonera hispanica with a general-purpose fertilizer (see pp.20–21) f ly (see p.253), cutworm (p.254), f lea
every 2–3 weeks until tubers have formed. beetle (p.255), aphid (p.257), turnip
SOW • • • •
■ Harvesting and storing Carefully lift gall weevil (p.263), wireworm (p.264),
HARVEST • • • • • •
tubers and cure in sun for 4–7 days. Store downy and powdery mildews (p.255, p.263)
(see p.73) at 50–59°F (10–15°C). Pick the may occur.
This is a hardy perennial similar to oyster leaves as required. ■ Recommended cultivars
plant, but with broader leaves and black- ■ Recommended cultivars ‘Golden Ball’—plant produces good quality
skinned roots. These are 8in (20cm) long ‘Beauregard’—golden f leshed tuber, supplied of yellow, globe-shaped turnips.
or more, and have an unusual f lavor. To as rooted cutting, or slip. ‘Oasis’—can be picked at any size with a
prevent bleeding, wash them just before ■ Common problems Aphids (see p.251), surprisingly sweet juicy f lavor similar to that
boiling them in salted water. Young shoots whitef ly (see p.264), and red spider mite of a melon.
and f lower buds are also edible. Scorzonera (see p.261) may be troublesome. ‘Tokyo Cross’—early, with fine f lavor.

Growing the onion family

The onion family includes all edible Seed or sets?
crops within the genus Allium—ranging In this bed, shallots
from bulb onions through garlic and have been grown
in two ways—from
shallots to leeks. Scallions are harvested seed and using sets,
for use when the bulbs are very small or bulbs. The seeds
and the white stems and leaves are (main picture) have
still tender. Green onions are evergreen germinated well and
perennials grown for their leaves, have produced a
which may be eaten in salads. Japanese good crop of large
shallots. The sets
bunching onions are a type of Green
(inset) have produced
onion. Most alliums have similar a healthy, but slightly
cultivation requirements, and with smaller crop in a
careful choice of cultivars and sowing much shorter time.
times you can harvest them almost
all year round. Some onions may also
be lifted and stored for winter use. Bulb
onions may be raised either from seed
or by planting “sets,” which are tiny requirements, but there are exceptions for a few months, which kills the
bulbs, with good food reserves, that (see individual crops, pp.92–94). Top-dress embryos that form flower stems.
have been specially produced. Leeks overwintered onions in spring.
need different treatment (see p.93) from SOWING SEED
other alliums, because they are grown WHY USE SETS? For onions maturing in the same year,
for their blanched stemlike shanks. There are advantages and disadvantages and for overwintering leeks, sow from
to raising onions from sets, or bulbs. midwinter to midsummer. To produce
SITE AND SOIL Sets are invariably more expensive large onions, sow seed under cover in
Members of the onion family need than seed and only a limited range midwinter at 50–60°F (10–16°C)
an open site in order to avoid the high of cultivars is available, although this in modules (see p.65) and transplant
humidity that can encourage diseases. is being extended. It is usually much into 3½in (9cm) pots; then harden
The soil must be fertile and well- easier to buy sets and plant them out off and plant out in mid-spring. For
drained, especially for early sowings than to grow from seed (see above), and smaller bulbs, sow in late winter under
and overwintered crops. Onions will many gardeners choose from among cover, without heat, in multiblocks
not tolerate soil acidity, and lime available sets in order to get good-sized of six per block or singly in smaller
dressing should be done where the pH mature onions. Sets are less prone to modules for planting out in mid-spring.
level is below 6.5 (see pp.18–19). To disease, easier to manage, and earlier Sow outdoors only when the soil
prevent buildup of soil pests or diseases, to mature. They will tolerate poorer temperature starts to rise and it begins
rotate onions around the garden on soils and are more likely to escape the to dry (see p.66); if the soil is too cold
at least a three-year cycle (see p.31). attention of onion fly and bean seed fly, or damp, germination will be slow
The ground should be dug a few which attack both seeds and seedlings. and poor. Sow from late winter to
months in advance, in fall for spring Plants grown from sets are more midsummer, depending on the crop
sowings, incorporating plenty of well- likely to bolt (produce a flower stem (see individual crops, pp.92–94). For
rotted organic matter; do not sow on early and go to seed prematurely). This crops maturing early in the following
freshly manured ground because the results in small, poor-quality crops. year, sow in late summer or early fall.
plants are likely to grow too “soft” To reduce the risk of bolting, choose When the seedlings are big enough,
and will be more susceptible to disease. smaller or heat-treated sets. The latter thin according to the desired size of
Alliums generally have low nitrogen have been stored at a high temperature the final bulb (see left).
Successional sowings (see p.69)
Thinning onions
Seedlings in drills
about every two weeks are required
should be thinned for salad onions such as scallions, which
according to the mature in about 10 weeks. They will
desired size of only stand for a couple of weeks. Wet
bulb—the closer the weather increases their susceptibility
spacing the smaller to downy mildew (see p.91).
the bulb. These
were thinned to 4in
(10cm), 2in (5cm), PLANTING
and 1in (2.5cm), For seedlings raised under cover or
respectively. in an outdoor seedbed, and for sets,

planting should be carried out from

late winter to mid-spring. For heat- Planting sets
treated sets, you should wait until When soil conditions are
mid-spring. Before planting, decide
on the final size of onion bulbs you
1 workable, lightly press each
of the sets into the bottom of a
want. All sizes are equally good in shallow drill. Space about 4in
cooking and salads, although small (10cm) apart, or less if you
onions ripen better and generally require smaller bulbs (see p.89).
Using your fingers, gently
last longer when lifted. Plant in rows
10–12in (25–30cm) apart. 2 bring the soil up around
the sets and firm it so that the
To produce a high yield of small
onions, plant 1in (2.5cm) apart; for tips can still be seen. Remove
medium-sized bulbs plant 2in (5cm) any dead leaves or stems.
Watering the sets is only
apart; and for larger bulbs space 4in
(10cm) apart. For very big onions, plant 1 2 necessary if the soil is very
dry when you are planting.
6in (15cm) apart in 12in (30cm) rows.
Wide spacing allows good air movement,
which reduces the likelihood of mildew soil. Where soil is heavy and wet, plant bundle on the soil, and cut the roots
(see below). To grow a good crop of the cloves in module trays (see below) back to about 1in (2.5cm) in length.
multiblock onions (see p.65), plant the in the fall, and place in a sheltered spot The leaves should be 6–8in
clusters 12in (30cm) apart each way. outdoors over winter. In this way they (15–20cm) long; if they are longer,
Use a trowel when transplanting experience low temperatures but are trim the tops to this length. Some
seed-raised seedlings (see pp.70–71) not at risk of becoming waterlogged. gardeners argue that trimming leeks
into their final positions in well- reduces yield, but if they are planted
prepared ground. For planting sets, PLANTING LEEKS untrimmed it is more difficult to get
rake the soil (see p.40) so that it is Leeks differ from onions in that the the plants into the bottom of the holes.
loose enough to push the sets into white stem, or shank, at the base of If the seedlings have been raised in
shallow drills without compacting the leaves is eaten. Although they are modules, gently push out the rootballs
the ground beneath the set. The sown initially as other seed, in seedbeds from below to remove them from the
roots, when they emerge, should or under cover, leeks are transplanted modules. Make a row of holes 6in
be able to penetrate the soil and not in a different way from other alliums (15cm) deep and 6in (15cm) apart with
push the set out of the ground. (for sowing methods and transplanting a dibber (see right). Drop one plant into
If a good tilth is made, the sets can times, see p.93). Each seedling is planted each hole, making sure it sits on the
be pushed into the soil without effort. quite deeply in a narrow hole, which bottom. Water in along the row using
After placing each set, cover it with produces a long, blanched stem without a fine-rosed can; fill the holes right to
soil and lightly firm the soil around it, having to earth up the plant. the top to settle in the plants. Ensure
leaving just the tip exposed (see above). If the seedlings have been raised in a that the heart tip of the plant is at or
If sets are planted any shallower than seedbed, carefully lift and separate them just above soil level; the seedling should
this, birds may take a dustbath in the after 8–10 weeks, when they are about not be completely buried.
area and pull them out of the ground. 8in (20cm) tall (see facing page). Discard After planting, water the young
Garlic cloves need experience of cold any diseased or damaged plants. Collect leeks daily, especially during dry spells,
to develop and are planted directly into a group of similar size together, lay the until the plants are established, which
usually takes about a week. You could
Planting garlic cloves in modules also protect them with f leece (see p.69)
for a few days to keep them moist. As
In the fall, prepare garlic
1 cloves by separating them
from the bulb. Do not use any
the plants expand, and with hoeing,
watering, and rainfall, the planting
holes will fill up completely.
that show signs of disease.
Remove the papery tunic, but
keep a piece of basal plate.
Garlic, shallots, scallions, and onion
Insert each clove into a
2 module-tray cell that is
partly filled with compost.
sets are suitable for intercropping
(see p.71) with taller, slower-maturing
Cover with compost and keep
vegetables such as corn.
in a cool place over winter. In
spring, transplant sprouted 2
cloves into their final positions. Allow the foliage to die down naturally
before lifting the bulbs; folding down

Planting out young leeks

In mid-spring for early leeks, or early
1 to midsummer for late leeks, lift
seedlings (here ‘Toledo’) from the seedbed
drill about eight weeks after sowing, when
they are of about pencil thickness. Water
the soil first if it is dry. Use a hand fork
to loosen the soil beneath the roots, then
gently pull the seedlings.
Select bundles of about 10 seedlings
1 2 2 of equal thickness and trim with a sharp
knife. Cut the roots to about 1in (2.5cm)
and the leaves to 6–8in (15–20cm).
Draw out a drill in the planting bed
3 and make planting holes with a large
dibber, here 6in (15cm) apart and deep.
Place one seedling into each hole, so that
the heart, or growing point, is at or only
just below the soil surface.
Water the seedlings well to settle

3 4
4 their roots. It is not necessary to fill
in the holes; this will occur naturally as
the leeks grow.

the leaves to help ripening can affect COMMON PROBLEMS late spring to late summer. When
storage quality. Any thick-necked Most crops in the onion family are sowing seed at these times, use dressed
bulbs should be used fresh, since they susceptible to the same problems. To seed, treat the drills, or cover the drills
will not store well. Lift carefully, so minimize the effects, grow some of the with fleece to keep out the flies until
as not to bruise the bulbs, and place cultivars that have inbred resistance, and the crop has germinated. Be careful,
them in a single layer on a drying rack use preventative measures such as crop however, since allium leaves will grow
made from chicken wire (see right), rotation (see p.31) and air circulation. through the fleece fabric, and they can
sacking, netting, or inverted wooden Onion white rot (see p.258) is a soil- then be damaged when the fleece is
slatted trays. This keeps them off the borne disease and can stay in the soil for removed. Onion thrips (see p.258) and
ground and allows plenty of air to 20 years or more—if your onions have stem and bulb nematode (see p.262)
f low around them. They will ripen it, stop growing them and remove can attack leeks, onions, and shallots.
best in full sun, but should be covered and destroy affected plants. A more
in rainy weather. Turn the bulbs expensive solution is to replace the
regularly to achieve even ripening. affected soil with clean soil. Be careful
Bulbs should not be stored until not to spread the disease around on
the green parts and the papery tools and footwear. Downy mildew
skins are “rustling” dry. When fully (see p.254) appears when wet, humid
dried, clean off any loose skins and conditions are causing soft growth,
braid the tops into ropes (see p.73) which increases the plants’ susceptibility
or hang the bulbs in bunches. to infection. Onions should be kept as
Alternatively, trim off the tops and dry and hard as possible, so only water
store in nets or in single layers in trays in very dry conditions. As soon as you
(see p.73). Do not store onions in the see the tips of the leaves becoming
dark, since this encourages sprouting. gray and dying back, remove infected
parts and burn them. Onion neck rot
BOLTING (see p.258) and fusarium, which rots the
Like some leafy salads, alliums are prone basal plates of the bulbs (see p.256), affect
to premature flowering, or bolting. overwintered crops. Viruses (see p.263)
Sowing later can protect them from are occasionally troublesome, especially
Drying shallots
exposure to cold soil and waterlogging, with garlic, so always buy certified stock Create a drying rack by attaching a piece
which may check growth and initiate to get the best yields. of chicken wire to four short posts to raise
bolting. Use heat-treated sets and bolt- Onion fly (see p.258) is a particular the wire off the ground. Place the bulbs on
resistant cultivars to avoid this problem. problem in dry soils, and is active from top, where air can circulate around them.


Bulb onion fall and dry them (see p.91). Store some bulbs for
winter use (see pp.73 and 91).
Allium cepa ■ Common problems See p.91 (for symptoms
and controls, see Plant Problems, pp.246–264).
■ Recommended cultivars
SOW/PLANT • • • • • • •
Heat-treated sets
‘Marshall’s Showmaster’—mild, sweet f lavor.
HARVEST • • • •
‘Red Baron’—red onion, plant mid-spring.
Bulb onions are either lifted at time of use or Untreated sets
stored for winter use. Small bulbs are usually ‘Ruby’—burgundy color and globed shape.
preferred. Most cultivars are yellow- or brown- ‘Santero’—resistant to downy mildew, brown skin.
skinned with white f lesh, but there are also ‘Walla Walla’—harvest early for mildest f lavor.
red-skinned ones, some of which have red-and- Seed
white striped layers inside. A long season of ‘Bedfordshire Champion’—brown skin.
growth is needed, and the final size of the bulb ‘Hylander’—resistant to downy mildew,
is determined by spacing (see pp.89–90). For late- vigorous.
summer crops, size is also governed by how much Overwintering
leaf the plant has developed by early summer, ‘Granex Yellow’—exceptionally sweet, mild onion.
when leaf growth stops and bulbs swell. A 10ft
(3m) row will yield 60 small, 30 large, or 15
very large onions, or 21 ⁄4 –61 ⁄ 2 lb (1–3kg). Onion Garlic
sets are suitable for intercropping (see p.71).
■ Site and soil Bulb onions require an open, Allium sativum
fertile, nonacid soil (see p.89). Good drainage
is needed, especially for an overwintered crop. PLANT • • • • • •
For late winter or spring sowings, use a cloche HARVEST • • • • •
(see p.46) to warm the soil beforehand.
■ Sowing and planting Overwintered crops Garlic has a strong f lavor and distinctive
are more susceptible to disease, and therefore aroma, and is used extensively. A range of
it is better to sow or plant in spring. For year- cultivars is available, some of which are virus-
round supplies of onions, sow seed or plant and nematode-free. Garlic also has medicinal
sets twice a year, first in midwinter to mid- properties and is often recommended for
spring, and again in fall. Treated seed is available use in a healthy diet. Each bulb consists of a
that protects against fungal diseases. From late number of individual cloves, which are used
winter, sow seed in multiblocks (see p.89); as in cooking. Even if the plants bolt, they will
soon as conditions are warm and dry enough still produce reasonable bulbs.
sow thinly outdoors in rows (see p.67), and thin To grow well, garlic requires a cold period
the seedlings according to the desired size (see of 1–2 months at 32–50°F (0–10°C), and is
p.89). In fall, sow seed of the hardy Japanese usually therefore planted in fall or winter.
overwintering cultivars in a seedbed to which Spring-planted garlic may not mature well,
a moderate amount of nitrogenous fertilizer (see especially in a poor summer. Expect a yield
p.72) has been added. Plant sets (see p.90) from of 17 bulbs per 10ft (3m) row. Garlic is also
late winter to early spring, and heat-treated ones suitable for intercropping (see p.71).
in mid-spring. Plant sets for overwintering from ■ Site and soil An open, sunny site and a
mid- to late fall. Some seedlings may be lost well-drained, light, alkaline soil are best (see
during the winter, so you can afford to plant p.89); heavy soils should be lightened with
or sow a little more closely. horticultural sharp sand. Give the soil a good
dressing of well-rotted organic matter. Avoid
SOWING DEPTH ⁄4in (2cm)
using fresh manure for the dressing.
PLANT/SET SPACING 1–4in (2.5–10cm) as desired
■ Planting From fall to early spring, split
ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
into cloves, ideally 1 ⁄ 2 in (1.5cm) in diameter,
■ Routine care Keep the crop well weeded, and plant upright either outdoors or in trays,
especially in the first month or so after sowing depending on the suitability of your soil (see
or planting. Water only until the plants are p.90). Ensure that the basal plate is facing
established; if spring-sown or planted onions downward. Planting 4in (10cm) deep on light
are watered after midsummer, they take longer to soils gives the best yields.
mature and may keep less well. Check regularly
PLANTING DEPTH 1–4in (2.5–10cm)
for signs of disease. Top-dress overwintering
CLOVE SPACING 7in (18cm)
crops in midwinter with a nitrogenous fertilizer
ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
(see p.20 and p.72), and thin in spring (see p.89).
■ Harvesting and storing Lift overwintered ■ Routine care Keep weed-free and moist
onions in early to midsummer. Harvest spring- throughout, to avoid any check in growth.
sown or planted onions in late summer to early Planting through a black plastic mulch (see p.42)

keeps the plants warm as well as retaining (in spring). Earlies are generally tall, with
moisture and suppressing weeds. Japanese long, white shanks and pale foliage. Later
■ Harvesting and storing Lift fall or winter- ones have darker foliage and shorter shanks.
planted bulbs in late spring or early summer, as
soon as the leaves start to yellow; if harvesting is
bunching onion From a 10ft (3m) row expect 81 ⁄ 2 –13lb (4–6kg)
of early leeks, or 61 ⁄ 2 –11lb (3–5kg) of late leeks.
delayed, bulbs may resprout, and rot more often Allium fistulosum ■ Site and soil Leeks do best on a deep,
in storage. Harvest spring-planted bulbs from SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
rich soil of a neutral or slightly acid pH (see
midsummer to early fall. Dry well (see p.91), SOW • • • • • • • • • •
p.89), preferably a light sandy loam. Incorporate
taking care to avoid bruising them. Store in a TRANSPLANT • • • plenty of organic matter before sowing or
dry place (see p.73) at 41–50°F (5–10°C); if HARVEST • • • • • • planting. With a high-nitrogen base dressing
stored correctly, bulbs keep for up to 10 months. (see pp.20–23), leeks produce a good fibrous
■ Common problems As for bulb onions Japanese bunching onions are selections root system, which improves soil structure and
(see p.91); rust is often damaging. For symptoms of green onions (see p.93). They are therefore contributes well in crop rotations.
and controls, see Plant Problems, pp.246–264. perennial but best grown as annuals; forms ■ Sowing and planting Sow in early to
■ Recommended cultivars vary from small salad onion types to large- mid-spring in an outdoor seedbed (see p.66)
‘Bogatyr’—one of the spiciest varieties around, leaved types like leeks. The clusters of at a minimum of 44°F (7°C). Alternatively,
and a challenge for the palate. stems, used in salads, are more pungent sow in trays in midwinter under cover (see
‘Purple Glazer’—royal purple tinged with shiny than scallions. They will stand without pp.62–63) at a temperature of 50°F (10°C),
gold or silver hues makes this an attractive garlic. winter protection in the open. Plants mature and harden off (see p.65) before transplanting.
‘Purple Moldovia’—purple bulbs with edible in two years, growing up to 2ft (60cm). To produce smaller leeks, sow in multiblocks
f lowering spikes. A 10ft (3m) row yields 250–300 salad onions, (see p.65) without heat in late winter.
‘Silver Rose’—rose-colored cloves, white bulbs. or 40–50 large ones. From mid-spring, when seedlings are
■ Site and soil Japanese bunching onions 8in (20cm) tall, transplant them (see pp.90–91)
will tolerate less fertile soil conditions than into their final positions, using a dibber to
Green onion most of the onion family (see p.89). make deep planting holes. Plant later leeks
■ Sowing and planting For salad use, wider apart in rows, to allow them space to
Allium fistulosum sow under cover (see p.64), from early fall grow larger. By carefully adjusting sowing
to late winter. Sow outside from mid-spring to times, you can crop the same cultivar earlier
SOW • • • •
midsummer; thin in stages to 3in (8cm) apart. or later than the usual period, but quality
HARVEST • • • • • • • • • • • •
For larger onions, at the outset sow 2–3 seeds may not be as good.
per clump in holes 3in (8cm) apart. Healthy
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
The Green onion, or ciboule, is a hollow-leaved, clumps can be divided.
SEED SPACING sow thinly
robust perennial that grows in clumps 12–18in SOWING DEPTH 3
⁄4in (2cm) TRANSPLANTING DEPTH 6in (15cm)
(30–45cm) tall. The base of the stem is thickened, PLANT SPACING 1in (2.5cm) for salad onions PLANT SPACING 6–8in (15–20cm)
but does not form a bulb. It is useful as a year- 3in (8cm) for large onions ROW SPACING 12–15in (30–38cm)
round alternative to scallions. The leaves, which ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
stay green all year, and tiny bulbs are eaten ■ Routine care Keep seedbeds and
cooked or raw, often in winter salads. In milder ■ Routine care Keep weed-free and moist. transplanted seedlings free of weeds during the
areas, it may be harvested for 2–3 years before ■ Harvesting Seedling leaves may be picked growing period. Once established, water only in
division of the clump in spring or fall (see below). after 10–14 weeks. In the second year, during very dry spells. Top-dress with a high-nitrogen
In areas with severe winters, however, it is better fall and winter, harvest the clusters by lifting fertilizer (see pp.20–23) in mid- to late summer,
to sow annually. Seed-raised plants are often the plant and splitting off the stems. or in late winter for late crops. If the leeks have
hardier than those created by division. ■ Common problems As for bulb onions not been planted in deep holes (see pp.90–91)
■ Site and soil Green onions have the same (see p.91). Downy mildew, and rarely rust, may draw soil up around the stems as far as possible
requirements as bulb onions (see p.92). be particularly troublesome. For symptoms and to aid the blanching process.
■ Sowing and planting Sow seeds in spring or controls, see Plant Problems, pp.246–264. ■ Harvesting Lift leeks as required from
late summer, and thin to 8in (20cm) apart. For ■ Recommended cultivars late summer onward. In late spring, you can
perennial plants, in spring lift the clump, divide ‘Ishikura’—strong in f lavor in comparison lift and heel them in until needed, if the same
it into several pieces, each with healthy leaves with scallions, and resistant to mildew. ground is intended for other planting. They
and root system, and replant 8in (20cm) apart. ‘Shimonita’—tubular “bulbless” salad onions, will stand for some time at maturity, as long
mild f lavor, strong-growing. as they are disease-free.
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
■ Common problems Leeks are affected by
SEED SPACING sow thinly; thin to 8in (20cm)
all allium-related disorders (see p.91). Fusarium
ROW SPACING 9in (23cm)
Leek (see p.256) affects leek roots, so they are best
■ Routine care Keep well weeded. raised in trays to give them a good start. Leek
■ Harvesting Plants sown in spring should Allium porrum rust (see p.257), cutworms (see p.254), onion f ly
be big enough to start harvesting by fall, and (see p.258), and onion thrips (see p.258) are also
those sown in late summer by the following SOW • • • •
significant problems.
spring. Cut single leaves as required, or pull TRANSPLANT • • • • •
■ Recommended cultivars
up part or all of the clump. HARVEST • • • • • • • • •
‘Blue Solaise’—true blue-green stalks turn bluer
■ Common problems Prey to the same problems still as weather cools.
as all onions (see p.91), but more tolerant of pests. Leeks are a hardy winter crop, grown for their ‘Longbow’—mid-fall to early spring.
■ Recommended cultivars blanched white stem bases, or shanks (see p.90), ‘Mammoth Blanch’—does not bolt if sown early,
‘Welsh Red’—native of Siberia, very hardy, which are harvested from late summer to the crops late summer to early fall.
retains foliage in winter. spring of the following year. Cultivars are ‘Oarsman’—late hybrid, long straight shank.
‘Welsh White’—native of Siberia, foliage dies available that mature early (in late summer ‘Upton’—mid-season variety that is highly
down in winter. and fall), mid-season (in winter), or late uniform and provides superb quality.

not usually required. For a spring supply

Pickling onion the following year, sow in late summer and
1in (2.5cm)
⁄4 in (2cm)
early fall. The seedlings should make good PLANTING DEPTH (SETS) so that just the tips are showing
Allium cepa growth before winter, otherwise frost may PLANT SPACING (SETS) 6–8in (15–20cm)


lift them out of the ground, especially if ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)

SOW • •
they are growing on light soils.
■ Routine care Keep weed-free. If conditions
SOWING DEPTH ⁄ 2 – 3 ⁄4 in (1–2cm)
are dry, water in sets and seedlings to give them
SEED SPACING ⁄ 2in (1cm)
These are bulb onion selections (see p.92), grown ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
a quick start and a firm rooting.
to produce large quantities of very small, tender ■ Harvesting and storing Lift in mid- to late
onions for pickling. Expect 21 ⁄4 –3lb (1–1.5kg) ■ Routine care Keep the plants watered summer when the tops have died down and dry
from a 10ft (3m) row. in dry weather to avoid any check in growth. as for bulb onions. Cleaned shallots can be stored
■ Site and soil They do best on a fertile, Drought can cause the plants to become in trays or bags in a frost-free place (see p.73).
well-drained, alkaline soil, like other alliums bulbous, especially ‘Lisbon’ types. In cold If the stock is healthy, save some sets for the
(see p.89), but will tolerate poorer, drier soils. areas, protect winter crops with a cloche following year—the best size for seed sets is
■ Sowing and planting Sow outdoors in (see p.46). 3
⁄4in (2cm) in diameter.
position in early to mid-spring. The best density ■ Harvesting Pull and use as required after ■ Common problems Shallots are prone to
is about 30 plants per 1 sq ft (30 sq cm). Sow in about two months. the usual onion problems (see p.91), especially
12in (30cm) rows, or in bands 9in (23cm) wide ■ Common problems Of the usual onion downy mildew. For symptoms and controls,
with 12in (30cm) between bands. aff lictions (see p.91), onion f ly can be seriously see Plant Problems, pp.246–264.
troublesome, especially in dry weather, as ■ Recommended cultivars
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
well as onion white rot and downy mildew. ‘French Gray’—the top choice of gourmet chefs.
SEED SPACING ⁄4in (5mm)
ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
For symptoms and controls, see Plant Problems, ‘Pikant’—strongly f lavored, medium-sized
pp.246–264. shallot, stores well, good skin color.
■ Routine care Thinning is not needed, ■ Recommended cultivars ‘Matador’—hybrid, heavy yield from seed,
since small bulbs are desired. Keep weed-free. Spring-sown good size and color.
■ Harvesting and storing The onions are ‘Laser’—hybrid, non-bulbing.
ready for harvesting when the foliage dies ‘White Lisbon’—very susceptible to downy
down, usually in late summer. Lift and dry mildew, but an old favorite. Tree or
as for bulb onions (see p.92) and store in a Fall-sown
cool, dry place (see p.73) until ready to pickle.
■ Common problems The usual onion pests
‘Guardsman’—coated for mildew protection.
‘Red Baron—impervious to weather changes
Egyptian onion
and diseases (see p.91) may be troublesome: or growing conditions; keeps its bright colors. Allium cepa Proliferum Group
see Plant Problems, pp.246–264. SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
■ Recommended cultivars
‘Brown Pickling’—golden brown skin. Shallot PLANT
• • •

• • •

‘Giant Zittau’—onions are medium-sized,

larger than those of other cultivars. Allium cepa Aggregatum Group This perennial onion grows up to 4ft (1.2m)
‘Paris Silver Skin’—pickles with white f lesh. within two years of planting. It produces
‘Purplette’—unusual, small purple bulbs SOW • • •
clusters of very small aerial bulbs instead
for pickling. TRANSPLANT •
of f lowers. The bulblets sprout while still
PLANT SETS • • • • • attached to the main plant, developing
shoots and further clusters of bulblets to
Scallion HARVEST • •
form a multilayered plant. The stems
This easily grown allium has a distinct f lavor, eventually drop down to the ground under
Allium cepa and can be used for both cooking and pickling. their own weight, where some of the bulblets
The most commonly grown types have firm take root and create new plants. Tree onions
SOW • • • • • • •
bulbs and yellow or red skins. Shallots are produce only low yields. The bulblets are
HARVEST • • • • • • •
usually planted as sets, and need a long harvested and used as a hot f lavoring in
growing season. Early in the season, offsets cooking, and are also pickled. No named
Scallions are immature bulb onions (A. cepa; can be pulled off and used raw in salads. cultivars are offered.
see p.92) grown for their small, white shanks Types with long, narrow bulbs are available, ■ Site and soil This allium needs a sunny
and tender, green stem and leaves. They are as are cultivars that can be raised from seed situation in fertile, well-drained, alkaline soil.
usually pulled when about 6in (15cm) tall and to produce single shallots. A 10ft (3m) row ■ Sowing and planting Plant single bulbs
eaten raw in salads. Most commonly grown produces 60–180 shallots. Shallots are suitable or clusters (see p.90), in spring and fall.
are the ‘Lisbon’ cultivars. Expect 250–300 for intercropping (see p.71).
PLANTING DEPTH with just the tip showing
per 10ft (3m) row. Scallions are suitable for ■ Site and soil A fertile, well-drained,
PLANT SPACING 10in (25cm)
intercropping (see p.71). nonacid soil is best (see p.89). For planting ROW SPACING 10in (25cm)
■ Site and soil Prepare as for bulb onions sets, the soil should be loose (see p.90).
(see p.92). Soil alkalinity of pH 6.8 or above ■ Sowing and planting Sow seed outdoors ■ Routine care The plants will reproduce
is needed to achieve best results. (see p.66) in mid- to late spring, thinning to readily (see above), so may need thinning out
■ Sowing and planting For a continual 3
⁄4 in (2cm). Sow under cover (see p.64) from if they start to crowd one another.
summer harvest, sow in position in single late winter and transplant in mid-spring, spacing ■ Harvesting Pick the aerial bulblets as they
rows every two weeks from early spring. the seedlings 2in (5cm) apart. Plant sets (see p.90) ripen in late summer, before they start to grow.
Higher yields could be obtained in closer in winter and early and mid-spring, as soon ■ Common problems This crop is prey to the
rows, but the plants will be more susceptible as the soil is workable. Small sets are less likely same problems as all onions (see p.91), but more
to downy mildew (see below). Thinning is to bolt than large ones. tolerant of pests.

Growing legumes
The vegetable legumes include beans
such as fava, French or kidney (see
Examples of French beans
right), Lima or butter, runner, and
yardlong or asparagus beans, as well as
shelling and edible-pod peas. Although
the young shoots may be used as green
vegetables, legumes are mainly grown
for their seeds and seedpods, which are
eaten fresh or dried. All legumes
are grown as annual crops. Some, such
as fava beans and peas, are robust crops
that resist frost and are well adapted
to cool climates. Others, for example, ‘Sprite’ ‘Irago’ ‘Borlotto di Fuoco’
French and runner beans, are half- (dwarf) ‘Purple Podded’ (dwarf) ‘Hunter’ (climbing)
hardy and poorly adapted to cool
weather; they thrive best in warm areas CHOOSING A SITE acceptable. Peas and beans are generally
from late spring until the fall frosts. Peas and beans are affected by similar hungry plants, demanding a rich soil.
pests and diseases (see pp.98–100), and For best results, organic matter should
NITROGEN “FIXING” should not be planted in the same soil be incorporated throughout the soil, but
All the legume family (Leguminosae) every year. They are best grown in a traditional trench can be sufficient (see
has nitrogen-fixing root nodules (see rotation (see p.31) as a group, usually below). Adding some extra organic matter
below), and consequently they need preceding brassicas, which will benefit will also improve the drainage and soil
much less nitrogenous fertilizer than from the nitrogen residues in the soil. structure, on heavy clay soils, for example,
many other vegetables. The process All legumes grow best in full sun, and and helps to retain soil moisture—which
of absorbing nitrogen from the air takes the less hardy types demand a warm, is very important at flowering time.
energy from peas and beans, so that sheltered position.
their yields are proportionately lower Although fava beans favor clay soil, THE NEED FOR LEGUME SUPPORTS
than those of other crops; therefore, you other legumes perform best on lighter Many peas and beans are tall-growing
will need to grow a reasonable number soil. A neutral to mildly alkaline soil and require some form of support.
of plants in order to obtain sufficient (pH 6.5–7) is ideal, although mildly acid Without this, they will sprawl, or get
pickings through the season. On the soils (not less than pH of 5.5) are usually f lattened by rain. The benefits of using
plus side, however, pea and bean crops
are comparatively rich in protein. Preparing a bean trench
Another benefit of nitrogen fixing in
peas and beans is that their foliage makes
a valuable addition to a compost heap.

Nitrogen-fixing nodules
All legumes store, or fix, nitrogen with the help 
of Rhizobium bacteria that live in nodules on
their roots. Root residues from legumes
are rich in nitrogen and therefore
they reduce the need for fertilizer.

Cluster of

Where organic matter is not abundant Scatter organic matter, such as

1 or the soil is especially poor, a
traditional bean trench will supply the
2 compost or rotted manure, over the
bottom of the trench and the dug-out soil.
nutrients legumes need. Mark out a Replace the soil and apply some pelleted
line and excavate a trench 3ft (90cm) poultry manure at a rate of 2 handfuls
wide and 2ft (60cm) deep. Fork over per yard (meter). Leave the soil to settle
the soil at the base to loosen it up. for at least 2 weeks before planting.

supports also include easier weeding,

watering, and pest control, less weather
Types of pea and bean support
damage, and more and better pods at
harvest time. The disadvantages are
the cost, effort, and inconvenience
of installing the supports.
Common support methods (see right)
include bamboo stakes and twine, stakes
and netting, and bushy sticks (peasticks).
All supports are most easily installed
before they are actually needed, and
this helps avoid damaging delicate
stems when trying to raise fallen crops.
Dwarf cultivars of French and runner
Rows of stakes Stakes and netting Peasticks
beans, peas, fava beans, and leafless Pairs of stakes 6–9in For double rows of peas, These are usually prunings
peas can grow without supports, but (15–23cm) apart tied suspend 12–24in (30–60cm) of hazel or birch, inserted
a string along each side of the row is together at the top form a of chicken wire, or plastic in the soil at 12in (30cm)
often helpful. Supports are also not good support for runner pea and bean netting, from intervals. As the crops grow,
required where climbing cultivars are beans. Secure the top with 4ft (1.2m) stakes placed the sticks form a natural-
made to branch by pinching out all another stake as a crossbar. at 4ft (1.2m) intervals. looking support system.
the leading growth when the plant
is 9in (23cm) tall, followed by further for these plants (see below). String the bean row. A stake positioned every
pinching to keep the plant bushy. or twine can be used instead of some 4ft (1.2m), with strings running from
of the stakes. Train one plant up each stake to stake, will hold up the heaviest
SUPPORTS FOR BEANS string or stake. Mesh supported by tall fava bean crop.
Climbing runner and French beans posts is also suitable for runner beans.
will twine around their supports as Fava beans are not natural climbers SUPPORTS FOR PEAS
they grow. Double rows or strong and should be supported by means of Peas climb by means of tendrils. Better
wigwams of bamboo stakes are ideal strings running between stakes along yields and easier picking come from
supporting peas with netting, sticks, or
stakes and string. These supports should
be put in place as soon as the seedlings
emerge. Rustic peasticks (see above) are
renewable forest products that make
good pea supports. Insert the sticks so
that a continuous “hedge” of twigs is
formed. Wire or plastic netting that
is supported by stakes is an effective
alternative. Peas need a continuous
run of netting, possibly with a string
on each side to restrain the crop.


Pea and bean seeds are large and fairly
expensive. Deep sowing—possibly using
a dibber (see p.69)—is needed for legume
seeds, but this often leads to seeds being
placed at a wet, cold, and airless soil level.
Wrinkled-seeded cultivars of peas as
well as runner and French bean seeds
are prone to rot in low soil temperatures.
Such seeds have to be sown when the soil
warms in mid-spring, or started under
cover (see pp.62–65). The seeds are very
Positioning legumes for optimum growth and yield attractive to mice, so sowing indoors, in
Many peas and beans are tall and need some left between them and adjacent crops. Here, a length of guttering (see facing page), or
support. Since they cast shade, a distance of at runner beans are grown on wigwams of stakes in containers under cloches also prevents
least half the full height of the crop should be about 3ft (90cm) away from marrow plants. that problem. To increase the chances

of success even further, soak the seed for

up to 24 hours before sowing, or try
Sowing pea seeds in a length of guttering
pregerminating the seeds in the same Three-quarters fill a length
way as for germination testing (see p.61).
Sow them when they have roots 1 ⁄4in
1 of plastic guttering with seed
compost and sow the seeds
(5mm) long, spacing them carefully and 2in (5cm) apart in 2 staggered
evenly in the drill, and discarding any rows. Fill with more compost,
that have no roots. water, and label. Keep in a
bright place under cover at
SOWING UNDER COVER a minimum of 50°F (10°C).
Sowing in trays (see p.65) is an Draw out a shallow drill
economical way of raising legumes under 2 outdoors to the depth of the
guttering, when the seedlings
cover. Another option is to sow three
seeds to a 2in (5cm) or 3in (8cm) pot. are 3in (8cm) tall. Slide the
Biodegradable pots are suitable for fava entire section of seedlings into
beans, which have tap roots that can be 1 2 the drill, firm well, and water.
easily damaged. Deep pots, such as tube
pots (see p.62) and root trainers (see p.108),
are ideal for the long tap roots of runner An effective way of deciding when to period greatly increases the intensity
beans. You should transplant the sow is to use the size of the preceding of flowering and setting of pods.
seedlings outdoors (see below, right) as soon seedlings as a rough guide (see individual At least 4 gallons per sq yd (22 liters
as the roots hold the compost together. crops, pp.98–100). of water per sq m) will be needed
Alternatively, the soil can be warmed, each week for a good crop.
and rain excluded, with cloches (see p.46) ROUTINE CARE
or some clear film plastic placed over the Legumes are grown in wide rows, and HARVESTING PEAS AND BEANS
soil about four weeks before sowing. In so are vulnerable to weeds. Mulching Garden legumes are unsurpassable in
warm, moist soil, seed germination is (see pp.41–42) reduces the need for f lavor and texture as long as they are
rapid. Cloche and fleece protection for weeding and hoeing, and keeps the soil consumed very soon after picking.
seedlings against cold, wind, rain, and moist. Use black plastic sheet mulches Picking them in the morning, while
birds is also useful in early to mid-spring. or organic mulches, but take care not the pods are cool, and keeping them
Peas and beans have a relatively short to cover plant stems with organic matter. in the refrigerator help to prolong
harvest period, but this can be extended Watering legumes is unnecessary their shelf life. Because these days
by using successional sowing (see p.69). before flowering, unless the plants wilt, commercially frozen legumes,
The plants grow faster in summer than because it promotes foliage growth at especially peas, taste nearly as good
in spring, so later sowings should be the expense of flowers. However, as home-grown ones, some gardeners
more frequently made than early ones. plentiful watering during the flowering prefer to concentrate on growing the
less common cultivars (see individual
crops, pp.98–100). To harvest dry peas
and beans, treat the pods in the same
way as for saving seed (see below).

Some legumes are self-pollinated, and,
therefore, their seed can be saved in the
knowledge that there is very little risk
of cross-pollination, and the resulting
plants will be true to type. To save the
seed of known self-pollinators, select
some early pods and mark them with
▲ Transplanting climbing beans colored yarn. Let the crop mature, and
With their support system already in place, gather the pods before they split
plant out young plants that were sown under and shed the seed. Alternatively, hang
cover as soon as they are large enough.
up immature pods to finish ripening.
Position one plant next to each stake.
Dry the pods in a cool place (see p.61)
◀ Pinching out growing tips
and shell them; leave the seeds to dry
When the plants reach the top of the stakes, out again, then store them in a dark,
pinch out their growing tips in order to cool, dry place. Correctly stored, they
stimulate the production of sideshoots. should last for several years.

Asparagus pea well-drained (see pp.14–16). The best yields are
usually achieved on relatively heavy soils, but
early crops do well on lighter soil if the plants
Lotus tetragonolobus are watered when in f lower.
■ Sowing and planting Successional sowing
SOW • •
in spring (see p.69) will give a constant crop
from late spring to midsummer; sow the next
batch when the preceding seedlings reach 3in
(8cm). Dwarf cultivars are best for late harvests.
This annual is grown for its small, f luted pods. You can sow outdoors in late winter if your
These have a fresh f lavor, although they crop soil is not waterlogged and the temperature is
lightly and soon become stringy: average yield at least 41ºF (5ºC). In well-drained, sheltered
is 1lb per 10ft (450g per 3m) row. This pea has gardens, fall sowing is possible, although the
feathery foliage and red-brown f lowers. crop may be lost in a severe winter. Alternatively,
■ Site and soil Use an open site in full sun, make fall and winter sowings under cover,
with light but rich soil. or winter ones indoors, transplanting in early
■ Sowing and planting Sow seed in mid- to mid-spring.
spring under cover (see pp.96–97), or in
SOWING DEPTH 3in (8cm)
late spring outdoors, as for peas (see facing page).
SEED SPACING 9in (23cm)
SOWING DEPTH 11 ⁄ 2in (4cm) deep in moist soils ROW SPACING 18in (45cm) between single rows
2in (5cm) in dry soils Double rows 9in (23cm) apart,
SEED SPACING 10–12in (25–30cm) 24in (60cm) between rows
ROW SPACING 15in (38cm) apart
■ Routine care Control weeds by hoeing,
■ Routine care No support needed, but sticks drawing a little soil around the base of the
and stakes keep it within bounds (see p.96). plants to support and protect them. Stake tall
■ Harvesting After two to three months, start cultivars with stakes and string (see p.96).
picking immature pods, 1–2in (2.5–5cm) long, When the lowest blossom has set, pinch out
and continue regularly throughout summer. the tops to promote earlier cropping and to
■ Common problems As for pea. Pigeons strip remove any blackf ly that may have appeared
off foliage in some areas, so you may need to on the top shoots. Watering during f lowering
provide protection. For symptoms and controls, in dry spells greatly increases the crop.
see Plant Problems, pp.246–264. ■ Harvesting Crops mature in three to four
months, although fall- and winter-sown crops
may take longer. Pick the pods regularly, before
Fava bean they have a chance to get too old—if the part
of the seed that attaches it to the pod is brown
Vicia faba or black, the pods are too old and the beans
will probably be tough. The beans mature
SOW • • • • • •
in succession, starting from the bottom of
the haulm, and several pickings can therefore
HARVEST • • • •
be taken from each crop.
■ Common problems Aphid (see p.252) often
Fava beans are delicious, easy to grow, and very sucks the plant sap, sometimes causing both
hardy. Although these annuals are usually grown leaves and stems to look soiled and stunted. Pea
for the immature, green or white seeds or beans, and bean weevil (see p.258) notches the leaves
young pods and even the shoot tips can be cooked of young plants, but is not very harmful. Bean
and eaten. White seeds are reputed to be better beetle (see p.251) and mice (see p.257) can damage
f lavored than green ones. Traditional Longpod the seeds. Chocolate spot (see p.254) is destructive
beans have eight seeds per pod, and Windsors, in wet seasons, especially for overwintered crops.
which have shorter, wider pods, have four large Rust (see p.261) may be a problem.
seeds per pod. Modern fava bean cultivars are ■ Recommended cultivars
intermediate in length between Longpods and ‘Express’—yields well for early plantings.
Windsors, and have shorter stems and small, ‘Extra Precoce Bianco’—long pod of bright
tender seeds. Fava bean yields average 61/2 lb per green color with 6 to 7 grains of sweet taste.
10ft (3kg per 3m) row. Dwarf cultivars, because ‘Jubilee Hysor’—Windsor, with excellent f lavor
they grow only to about 2ft (60cm)—which is and acceptable yield.
half the height of most fava bean cultivars—are ‘Statissa’—sets early harvests of savory, small-
especially suitable for growing in cloches, seeded favas.
containers, and small gardens. ‘Stereo’—small pods, mild f lavor, heavy crop.
■ Site and soil Any moderately fertile, well- ‘Windsor’—produces up to 3ft- (1m-) tall plants
drained soil is suitable. Fava beans have a long that are glossy green with 6-8in- (2.5-3cm-)
tap root, so the soil should be deeply dug and long pods.

■ Site and soil Lima beans need a well-

French bean SOWING DEPTH
2in (5cm)
2–4in (5–10cm) single row drained, moderately fertile soil that warms
6in (15cm) double row up quickly in spring, and a site in full sun
Phaseolus vulgaris ROW SPACING 18in (45cm) between single rows with protection from cold winds.
Double rows 9in (23cm) apart, ■ Sowing and planting Seeds need 64ºF
SOW • • • • 18in (45cm) between rows (18ºC) to germinate, so it is best to sow in
spring in a propagator (see p.63) and transplant
HARVEST • • • • • •
■ Routine care Mulching (see pp.41–42 and in early summer when they are 4–6in (10–15cm)
p.72) improves the growth of the plants and keeps tall. Alternatively, pregerminate them on damp
Heavy cropping, trouble-free French or their pods free from soiling. In the absence of absorbent paper (see p.61) before sowing in
kidney beans picked fresh from the garden are mulch, drawing soil around the plant bases to a position outdoors.
a revelation in f lavor. They ripen to “haricot depth of 3–4in (8–10cm) helps to support them
SOWING DEPTH 2in (5cm)
beans” that may be dried and stored for winter and suppress weeds. The numbers of pods and
SEED SPACING 6in (15cm)
use. Half-ripe beans are called “f lageolets” and their texture can be improved by watering the ROW SPACING Climbing beans: double rows
are shelled and eaten like peas. French beans have soil to keep it moist, from f lowering time onward. 12in (30cm) apart, 5ft (1.5m)
pods that are round or f lattened in cross-section. Protect early and late crops with cloches. between rows
What are sometimes called Kenya beans are also ■ Harvesting and storing Crops take two Dwarf beans: as for French bean
French beans. Although green beans are to three months to mature. Picking every
common, cultivars with yellow, purple, and two or three days encourages production of ■ Routine care Grow as for runner bean (see
red- or purple-f lecked pods are available, too, more beans and prevents any deterioration in p.100); they crop best in warm, sheltered sites,
making attractive and unusual plants for the quality that may occur once the seeds begin with f leece, cloche, or greenhouse protection.
ornamental vegetable garden. to swell. Pick in the early morning and store Minimum temperature needed is 68°F/20°C;
Most French beans are dwarf and make a in the refrigerator to retain freshness. Unlike reduce humidity and ventilate at f lowering time
low, bushy annual plant. Climbing French beans, older cultivars, modern ones are free from to encourage pollination.
however, can be grown up supports in the same strings on pods. Covering in mid-fall with ■ Harvesting When crops mature—in three to
way as runner beans (see p.96). Alternatively, cloches prolongs the harvest for a few weeks. four months—pick regularly, two or three times
create a wigwam with four to eight 8ft (2.5m) ■ Common problems Slugs (see p.262) and per week, so pods do not become overmature,
stakes and sow three seeds on the inside of each. aphid (see p.252) are the most common pests, which will suppress further f lowering, since the
Dwarf beans mature earlier than climbing but bean f ly (see p.252), birds (see p.252), mice pods will be using up vital energy.
ones and are especially valuable in cloches and (see p.257), root aphid (see p.261), and red ■ Common problems Lima beans usually
frames; but climbing beans may yield more spider mite (see p.261) may occur. French beans suffer the same problems as French beans (see
heavily and make better use of space in small may suffer from anthracnose (see p.251) and left). Greenhouse crops may also be prone to
gardens and greenhouses. The average yield of halo blight (see p.256), which are both serious, whitef ly (see p.264).
French beans is 10lb per 10ft (4.5kg per 3m) row. and increasingly rust (see p.261), but the most
French beans are self-pollinating, meaning common disease is foot and root rot (p.255);
that cultivars will come true to type from prevent it by using a different site each year. Pea
home-saved seed. ■ Recommended cultivars
■ Site and soil Both dwarf and climbing Climbing French bean Pisum sativum
types are sensitive to frost and cannot be grown ‘Borlotta Lingua di Fuoco’—red-f lecked green
outside before early summer or after mid-fall. pods, use fresh or dried.
SOW • • • • • • • • •
Sheltered warm sites are best, but cloche or ‘Helda’—f lavorful bean yields big, f lat-sided pods.
f leece protection (see pp.46–48) will help ‘Kentucky Wonder’—vigorous, rust-resistant,
HARVEST • • • • •
elsewhere. Light, fertile, and neutral soils and successful in all parts of the country.
are ideal, but any well-drained soil that has Dwarf French bean Annual garden peas include robust early peas,
had organic matter added is suitable. French ‘Allegria’—heavy, fine-quality crops. tiny, tasty petit pois, dwarf cultivars good for
beans may be grown in pots, which can be ‘Sonesta’—early-maturing, waxy yellow beans exposed, windy gardens, and tall cultivars that
started off in greenhouses to crop outdoors on compact plants. can be trained up supports to save space. The
from early summer onward. ‘Stanley’—tall plants; heavy crop over a best-quality peas have wrinkled seeds, but are
■ Sowing and planting French beans require long period. not as robust as round-seeded cultivars. Peas in
at least 54ºF (12ºC) to germinate. Sow under which the whole pod is eaten include mangetout
cover, one seed to a 3in (8cm) pot (see p.64), or snow peas, with thin pods, and sugar or snap
in mid-spring, and in cloches in late spring, Lima bean peas, with thick f leshy pods. For ornamental
or under cover at any time if your soil is cold kitchen gardens, cultivars that have colored
and wet. Plant out the seedlings when they are Phaseolus lunatus f lowers and pods are attractive. Peas are easy
3in (8cm) tall. Prewarming the soil with clear to grow and, when picked fresh, their f lavor
film plastic or cloches for several weeks prior is incomparably better than store-bought peas.
SOW • •
to transplanting can be beneficial. Modern developments include leaf less and semi-
Leaving room for picking access and inserting leaf less peas, where tendrils replace the normal
supports, if appropriate, plant 32–43 seeds per sq yd foliage. These are self-supporting and much less
(sq m), evenly spacing them in single or double Sometimes called butter beans, these tender vulnerable to bird damage. Modern peas have
rows. The latter provides better yields, and, if annuals or short-lived perennials are grown 2–3 pods at each f lowering node, compared to
they are the dwarf, bushy type, the plants will as dwarf bushes or as climbers. The beans are the single pod of older peas. Such modern peas
also suppress the weed growth between the rows. either used green, in the same way as runner are dwarf in habit and more easily supported, and
From late spring to midsummer, sow in beans, or dried. The sprouted seeds, often still yield as much as taller cultivars—an average
succession in open ground, as long as the soil called beansprouts, are also edible. Average yield being 61 ⁄ 2 lb per 10ft (3kg per 3m) row.
is moist, every two weeks for a continuous yield is 11 ⁄4 lb per 10ft (560g per 3m) row. ■ Site and soil Well-drained, neutral to
supply until fall. There are no cultivars currently available. alkaline soil that holds moisture is best. Good

soil structure is important and this can be ■ Recommended cultivars the tips of climbers stops them from climbing,
achieved by adding organic matter (see Pea and they can be grown as bushes. Problems
pp.22–23). Open sunny situations are ideal. ‘Caselode’—sweet tasting peas that are slow to with failed pollination are less severe with
■ Sowing and planting Late fall and winter turn starchy. pinched or dwarf crops.
sowings of peas raised in troughs or pots are ‘Dakota’—compact 22in (55cm) vines produce
SOWING DEPTH 2in (5cm)
more likely to succeed, especially if covered masses of 6–7in (15–18cm) pods.
SEED SPACING 6in (15cm)
by cloches, than seed sown directly into ‘Greensage’—semi-leaf less, needs little staking,
ROW SPACING Climbing beans: double rows
the soil, especially if it is cold and heavy— limited bird damage, sweet f lavor.
2ft (60cm) apart, 5ft (1.5m)
temperatures should be at least 41ºF (5ºC). Snow pea or mangetout
between rows
Birds and mice may also eat seeds sown ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’—tall. Tolerates poor soil
Dwarf beans: as for French bean
outdoors. Seeds may be sown in guttering to and bad weather. Large, delicious pods.
prevent this (see p.97). Peas sown after mid- Sugar or snap pea ■ Routine care Twist young shoots around
spring may succumb to powdery mildew. ‘Cascadia’—medium height, heavy crop over the stakes to help them start to climb. Pinch
In warm areas, fall sowings may succeed, a long period. out the growing tips (see p.97) when shoots
especially under cloches. Sow in succession, reach the top of supports to stop them becoming
when the preceding seedlings are 2in (5cm) tall. top-heavy. Watering is vital in dry weather
Peas can be sown in single drills or in Runner bean as soon as f lower buds appear. During f lowering,
double rows in a wide drill (see p.67) that are 1–2 gallons per sq yd (5–9 liters per sq m)
easy to hoe, or in beds with around 40 plants Phaseolus coccineus every 3–4 days is needed. Sometimes pods fail
per sq yd (m) for optimum yield. However, to form despite plentiful f lowering. Lack of
beds are difficult to harvest and keep weed- soil moisture is the usual cause and abundant
SOW • • • •
free. An alternative is to sow in three drills, irrigation the remedy. Cold, windy weather
5in (13cm) apart, with the seeds also spaced 5in may depress pollinator activity. Warm nights
HARVEST • • • •
(13cm) apart. Space each set of three rows at can lead to failure to set pods; the traditional
the same distance as the eventual height of the Runner beans are tender perennials, grown as remedy of spraying f lowers with water is usually
plants, as given on the packet. This way of annuals. Most are climbers growing up to 10ft ineffective—but may cool f lowers.
sowing gives you a good crop of plants that (3m) tall. Dwarf cultivars, ideal for early crops ■ Harvesting Crops mature in about three
are easy to harvest and hoe. in cloches and frames, are also available. Most months. Pick regularly, 2–3 times a week, to stop
SOWING DEPTH 11 ⁄2in (4cm) in moist soils
have red f lowers and red speckled seeds, but pods becoming over-mature, which will suppress
2in (5cm) in dry soils
white-f lowered, white-seeded cultivars are further f lowering. Similarly, remove any old pods.
SEED SPACING 2in (5cm) in single or double rows
widely grown. Unusual beans include black- Saving seed (see p.97) is usually worthwhile, but
5in (13cm) in triple rows seeded ones and those with bicolored f lowers. if more than one cultivar is grown nearby the
ROW SPACING Equal to plants’ eventual height The latter are valuable in ornamental kitchen seedlings may not come true to type.
gardens. Runner beans have a stronger f lavor ■ Common problems As for French beans
■ Routine care Many dwarf, especially leaf less, than French beans and give a heavier yield: (see p.99). Runner beans also suffer from poor
cultivars support themselves, but better yields 13lb per 10ft (6kg per 3m) row. setting (see p.259).
and easier picking come from using supports ■ Site and soil Runner beans are sensitive to ■ Recommended cultivars
(see p.96). Regular hoeing and weeding are frost, and need warm, sheltered conditions where ‘Summer Medley’—quality beans and a long
essential. Watering at f lowering time, and their insect pollinators will be most effective. picking period all summer.
again as the pods swell, greatly increases the Deep, fertile soil holding ample water is best. ‘Scarlet Emperor’—the taste of Scarlet Emperor
crop, but irrigation before this time merely Preparing a trench filled with organic matter (see is as sweet as a bean gets.
produces leaves, with little increase in harvest. p.95) is a traditional way of ensuring this, although ‘Starlight’—good pollination even in hot, dry
■ Harvesting and storing Unless sown in acceptable crops will result from ground prepared periods; heavy crop.
winter, early, dwarf cultivars mature in about by normal digging methods (see pp.37–40). ‘White Lady’—heavy crops of good f lavor
12 weeks, while higher-yielding main crop ■ Sowing and planting For successful and quality.
cultivars may take 14 weeks. Gather peas germination, the soil temperature should be
as soon as they are ready, to encourage the at least 54ºF (12ºC). Heavy, wet soils can
production of more pods. Pick peas shortly be prewarmed by covering them with clear Yardlong bean
before they are needed, and once picked film plastic or cloches for about four weeks
keep them cool, ideally in a refrigerator. before sowing. Alternatively, raise plants Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis
■ Common problems Pea moth (see p.258) in deep pots (see p.62) indoors from mid-spring,
gets into the pods spoiling the crop, and planting out in early summer. Protect young
SOW • •
is hard to control. Occasionally pea aphid plants with f leece or cloches to help them
and pea thrips and weevil (see p.258) attack. establish. The earliest crops come from dwarf
Pea and bean weevil (see p.258) may eat the cultivars grown under cloches or f leece,
foliage. Using mouse traps and protecting removing the covering at f lowering time to Yardlong or asparagus beans are highly tender,
seedbeds with f leece are the best counter- allow pollination to take place. A midsummer tropical plants, up to 12ft (4m) long, with pods
measures against, respectively, mice (see p.257) sowing will prolong the harvest into fall. that can be a yard (meter) long in optimum
and birds (see p.252). Foot and root rot (see Sow runner beans in double rows using conditions, where average yields are 11 ⁄4 lb per
p.255) is troublesome where soil is wet sturdy supports, such as 8ft (2.5m) long stakes 10ft (560g per 3m) row. In a warm site or under
and cold. Sowing indoors and transplanting (see p.96), ideally with one plant per stake. If unheated glass or f leece, yardlong beans can be
peas is the best remedy, but later sowings stakes are in short supply, strings may replace grown in the same way as Lima beans (see p.99).
are usually unaffected. Powdery mildew alternate stakes, or all of the stakes may be They will not tolerate cold soils and chilly nights.
(see p.260) is the worst disease, but usually replaced by nylon netting. Alternatively, Crops take 3–4 months to mature. Pick the pods
affects only late crops. Resistant cultivars use six to eight stakes to make a wigwam when 12–18in (30–45cm) long, before they
are available. Pea leaf and pod spot (see p.258) and grow one plant up each stake. Dwarf become woody. Seeds are not readily available
is serious but uncommon. cultivars need no supports. Pinching out in cool areas.

Growing salad crops

The crops described here are mainly
salad leaves, but radishes are included, as
they are grown mostly for use in salads.
Aside from the traditional lettuce, salad
leaves also include arugula, chicory, corn
salad, endive, ice plant, Japanese mustard
spinach, American cress, mibuna and
mizuna greens, mustard and cress, and
summer and winter purslane. Salad crops
are fast-growing—if sown in spring,
radishes will mature in four weeks, and
lettuces in 13 weeks. Salads can quickly
become coarse and hot-flavored, and run Salad crops under a floating mulch Bolting lettuces
to seed, however. Sowing small batches Horticultural fleece protects early crops from Leafy salads, especially nonhearting types
in succession (see p.69) helps to overcome frosts and also deters flying insects and birds. of lettuce, like these ‘Revolution’ cultivars,
Lay the fleece so that it floats lightly over the quickly bolt and run to seed in hot weather
this problem. Using several cultivars,
crops, and weigh it down at the sides. Check or if short of water. The leaves become bitter
or crops that take different amounts of the crop regularly, and loosen if necessary. and fit only for the compost heap.
time to reach maturity, also helps avoid
peaks and troughs in supply. form a fine tilth, or if they form a cap summer, leafy salads germinate better
Leafy salads need little in the way of after heavy rain so that seedlings cannot if sown in light shade, such as provided
feeding; a light application of nitrogen push through, raising leafy salads in by a fence or tree, and if protected from
fertilizer to the soil before sowing or modules under cover is preferable. extremes of dryness and heat. In hot
transplanting should be sufficient. Sowing leafy salads in modules (see weather, over 77°F (25°C), lettuce seed
p.65) also saves space and time. Sow may become dormant several hours
TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS 2–3 seeds per cell, later thinning to after sowing. Prevent this by sowing in
Leafy salad crops are quite sensitive the strongest seedling. Some lettuce the afternoon so that the critical period
to temperature, and this affects seed cultivars need light to germinate; when falls in the cool of the night. Watering
germination—they will not germinate germination rates are disappointing, try after sowing can also help.
if they are too cold, or even too hot. sowing on the surface in module trays,
They grow best in a temperature range keeping the seeds moist by putting the THINNING SEEDLINGS
of around 50–68°F (10–20°C). Low tray in a clear plastic bag or propagator Leafy salad crops grow quickly, making
temperatures of below 41°F (5°C) and away from direct sun. For radishes, sow timely thinning difficult. There are two
slow growth rates can lead to a coarse 4–5 seeds to a 3in (8cm) pot and plant ways to alleviate this problem. Remove
flavor and texture, and may prevent out the entire clump of seedlings (see surplus seedlings (see p.68) as soon as they
crops such as lettuces from developing below), to avoid damaging the roots. can be handled, in three stages: at the
proper hearts. The use of cold frames, Outdoors, cover early sowings with first stage, leave just a thumb’s width
cloches, and fleece (see pp.43–48) fleece or cloches (see pp.46–48) to avoid between seedlings; at the second stage,
alleviates this problem. Some salads, problems with low temperatures. In leave half of the intended final spacing;
endive and chicory, for example, flower finally, thin to the final spacing. You can
prematurely, or bolt, if exposed to use the thinnings in salads. Alternatively,
several weeks of low temperatures. try station sowing (see p.68), in which
These crops cannot be safely sown 3–5 seeds are sown together. Thin the
before midsummer unless bolt-resistant seedlings to two strong-growing ones;
cultivars are used. Some crops will also later, when they have developed into
bolt if exposed to high temperatures young plants, choose the healthier,
(see above right) as they mature. sturdier one and remove the other.


Because of the sensitivity of leafy salads For plants raised under cover, transplant
to temperature (see above), it is usually to their outdoor positions before they
easier to achieve even germination, become too large for the pot or module
especially with early sowings, by sowing Transplanting radish seedlings cell (see p.70). Bare-root transplants from
For successional batches of small radishes,
under cover (see p.64). If sown outdoors sprinkle a small quantity of seeds in 3in (8cm)
an outdoor seedbed work well only
(see p.68), germination will depend pots indoors at two-weekly intervals. When the as long as the seedlings are very small.
on the warmth and moistness of the roots bind the compost, plant out the entire When a newly sown row comes up and
seedbed. Where soils do not readily potful to grow on as a clump. there are gaps, fill these in with surplus

seedlings thinned out from better

populated parts of the row. Care must Forcing and blanching chicory
be taken with the tap roots of lettuces, In the fall, lift chicon
endive, and chicory when transplanting.
Radishes have delicate roots and should
1 types (see p.103) and
trim the leaves to 1 ⁄2in (1cm)
not be transplanted bare-root. Naturally, from the roots. Position upright
with transplanted seedlings there will be in a deep box on a layer of
a check in growth, and these plants will moist peat, or peat substitute.
mature later than the others. This can Cover with another 9in (23cm)
be an advantage, however, avoiding the of peat and firm this down. Put
problem of simultaneous maturation. the box in a warm, dark place.
Several weeks later,
INTERCROPPING AND CATCH 2 when they have grown
to 6–8in (15–20cm) in length,
Intercropping salad crops with longer- remove the chicons from
term vegetables (see pp.69 and 71) allows the box and cut them away
for a good return from a given space. 1 2 from the roots.
A checkerboard planting pattern uses
space best, but alternate rows are easier
to manage. Lettuces and other leafy EXTENDING THE SEASON tubs are best for headed salads, but
salads may be grown with Brussels Many salads, such as endive, chicory, summer radishes, leafy crops, and
sprouts and cauliflowers, for example, corn salad, and arugula, can tolerate cut-and-come-again leaves suit small
since they appreciate the same high- cold, and if protected (see pp.43–48) pots or growing bags—ones that
nitrogen soil conditions. Radishes and can be gathered from early fall to have already supported a cucumber
parsnips (see p.69) thrive on low levels winter. Chicory chicons may be forced or tomato crop are fine for salads,
of nitrogen. For details, see individual either indoors (see above) or outdoors since their depleted nutrient levels
crops (pp.103–107). (see p.103) for harvest in winter. Winter are sufficient for salad crops. Careful
Salads can also be used for a catch radishes and cut-and-come-again leaves watering will be required so as not
crop (see p.69). Grow early leafy salads (see below) may be harvested in winter. to let the compost dry out.
in an area set aside for purple sprouting In spring, overwintered lettuces,
broccoli and leeks to be planted out in arugula, and American cress will be SAVING SEEDS
late summer, for example. At the other ready. If overwintering crops, make Lettuces are self-pollinating, so
end of the season, peas, beans, and early sure you choose suitable cultivars and that home-saved seed will be true
potatoes harvested before midsummer sow at the correct time (see pp.103–107). to type, especially if other plants
leave space for a catch crop of endives, are positioned more than 25ft (8m)
radicchio, corn salad, or winter radishes. CONTAINER GROWING away. The seed from arugula, which
Spaces in ornamental beds can also be Salads can be grown in containers is a species and not a cultivar, will
used for catch crops of salads. if garden space is limited. Large also come true.

Growing cut-and-come-again salad crops

Most leafy salad crops can be grown to
produce several flushes of young, tender
leaves for eating. After one cut, the plants
regrow to create another crop. Two or three
harvests can be made from each sowing.
This method is suitable for crops sown
either in pots, modules, or a growing bag
(see right) or outdoors in a seedbed. To
cover the whole season, sow successionally
(see p.69). Leafy vegetables other than
salads can be treated in this way:

Plant seedlings of nonhearting salads After two weeks, the crops have already
Amaranth (see p.125) Kale (see p.80)
Swiss chard (see p.128) Spinach (see p.128) 1closely in a growing bag (here oriental
greens, American cress, and lettuces). After
2 begun to regrow from the stumps. In
another 1–2 weeks, a fresh crop of salad
Leaf celery (see p.122) Sorrel (see p.145)
Radish leaves (see p.106) 3–6 weeks, cut the leaves to 2in (5cm), leaving leaves may be harvested, and another one
a stump with enough side-buds to regrow. in another 3–6 weeks.


f lavors. They may also be cooked like spinach.
American cress The plants mature in 4–12 weeks, and yield the
equivalent of 9–10 bunches per 10ft (3m) row.
Barbarea verna Named cultivars are not offered.
■ Site and soil Any moderately fertile but
SOW • • • • •
moisture-retentive soil, preferably in a sheltered
and slightly shaded position, is suitable. Protect
HARVEST • • • • • • • • •
fall and winter crops with cloches, cold frames,
or even a f leece tunnel cloche (see pp.45–47).
American, land, or upland cress resembles ■ Sowing and planting Like radishes, arugula
watercress, with glossy green leaves and a soon runs to seed, and repeated sowings are
strong, peppery f lavor, but it may be grown necessary for a constant supply of edible leaves.
on dry land. American cress is robust, making Sow where the plants are to grow when seedlings
it a useful winter salad. Plants mature in 4–12 from the previous sowing have produced a
weeks, and yield 18–20 heads per 10ft (3m) couple of true leaves, anything from 4–21 days,
row. Named cultivars are not offered. depending on the weather. Early and late sowings
■ Site and soil Any moderately fertile but should be made under cover (see p.101). Arugula
very moisture-retentive soil, preferably in a may also be grown as a cut-and-come-again
sheltered and slightly shaded position, is suitable crop (see p.102).
for growing American cress. 1
SOWING DEPTH ⁄2in (1cm)
■ Sowing and planting Either sow in moist
PLANT SPACING 6in (15cm)
soil outdoors where the plants are to grow in
ROW SPACING 6in (15cm)
mid-spring to early summer, or raise seedlings
in trays (see p.101) in mid- to late summer for ■ Routine care Thin out the seedlings
planting out as soon as seedlings can be handled. (see p.101) and use the thinnings in salads.
American cress may be grown as a cut-and- Generous watering in dry spells is essential.
come-again crop (see p.102). ■ Harvesting Harvest arugula leaves as soon
as they are usable. Frequent cutting will promote
SOWING DEPTH ⁄ 2in (1cm)
tender new growth.
PLANT SPACING 6in (15cm)
■ Common problems Flea beetle, slugs, and
ROW SPACING 8in (20cm)
snails may cause minor damage. For symptoms
■ Routine care Thin out the seedlings (see and controls, see Plant Problems, p.255 and p.262.
p.101); use the thinnings in salads. Generous
watering in dry spells is vital to avoid coarse
texture and fiery f lavor, but top-dressing Chicory
with fertilizer is unnecessary. For fall and
winter crops, protection with cloches, cold Cichorium intybus
frames, or even a f leece tunnel cloche (see SEASON SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER
pp.46–48) improves quality and reliability. SOW • • • • • • • • •
■ Harvesting Harvest by picking choice leaves, TRANSPLANT •
leaving the lower part of the plant to resprout HARVEST • • • • • • • • •
for further harvests.
■ Common problems There are few problems Chicory, also known as Belgian endive, is
but aphids (see p.251), f lea beetle on seedlings relatively cold- and drought-resistant, and makes
(see p.255), and slugs and snails (see p.262) may a handsome plant in the ornamental vegetable
occasionally be troublesome. garden. When eaten raw in salads, the taste of
the leaves can be bitter, although sometimes
such bitterness is welcome. Chicory can also
Arugula be cooked. There are three types of chicory.
Witloof, or Belgian, chicory grows as a
Eruca vesicaria rosette of leaves forming a deep root, which
when harvested and trimmed can be forced in
a warm, dark place to produce white, compact,
SOW • • • • • •
leafy buds, or chicons (see p.102 and below), with
HARVEST • • • • • • • • • • •
the bitterness blanched out.
Arugula is a tangy member of the cabbage Red chicory, also known as radicchio, and
family, whose young leaves add a “roast chicken” sugarloaf chicory both form hearts, like those
f lavor to salads. It is a common ingredient of lettuces. The heart leaves are less bitter than
of supermarket salad packages, where it may the outer leaves, being naturally blanched or
sometimes be called erugala, rucola, or roquette. deprived of light. Red and sugarloaf chicory will
Wild (Diplotaxis species) and Turkish arugula normally yield 8–9 heads per 10ft (3m) row. A
(Bunias orientalis) are almost identical, with subtly proportion of plants always fails to produce good
different, more aromatic, but equally delicious, hearts; older cultivars are especially vulnerable.

■ Site and soil Chicory prefers an open, sunny ‘Witloof ’—good for forcing. broad-leaved endive is more reliable for late
site, but will tolerate light shade. It does well on ‘Zoom’—Witloof chicory, for forcing. crops. The bitterness can be reduced by
poor soils and needs little fertilizer, making it excluding light to whiten or blanch the
suitable for organic gardens. leaves (see below), making a refreshing late-
■ Sowing and planting Sow Witloof chicory, Corn salad summer or early-winter salad or cooked
in late spring and early summer for forcing vegetable, although sometimes unblanched
(see below) in fall. Sow red and sugarloaf chicories Valerianella locusta bitterness is appreciated in salads.
from mid-spring to late summer. Spring sowings Endives can withstand light frosts, and
may bolt (see p.101) due to cold and even bolt- SOW/PLANT • • • • • •
therefore remain usable into the fall. They
resistant cultivars are safest raised in trays in TRANSPLANT • •
mature over a period of 12 weeks, and will
warm conditions, then planted out beneath f leece HARVEST • • • • • • • • • • • •
require an additional two weeks to be
or cloches. To grow red and sugarloaf chicories as blanched. Plants should yield 9–10 heads
cut-and-come-again crops (see p.102), sow indoors Corn salad provides tasty salad leaves in rosettes per 10ft (3m) row.
in late winter, spring, and fall, or sow outdoors with a mild, earthy f lavor in fall and winter, ■ Site and soil Endives prefer an open,
from early summer to late summer. when lettuce crops have gone over. It can be sunny site and fertile, moisture-retentive
useful in summer salads as well. If sown before soil, with only low levels of nitrogen. Light
SOWING DEPTH ⁄2in (1cm)
midsummer, however, it is liable to run quickly shade is tolerable for midsummer crops.
PLANT SPACING 9in (23cm) for Witloof type
to seed. It is used in supermarket salad packs, ■ Sowing and planting Either sow in
1ft (30cm) for red, sugarloaf types
ROW SPACING 1ft (30cm)
often called lamb’s lettuce or mache. There are trays under cover in spring (see p.64) for
two types: a large-leaved form and a smaller, transplanting in early to midsummer, or
■ Routine care Witloof chicory produces darker-leaved form. Corn salad matures in 4–12 sow directly outdoors in early summer.
chicons from roots that are 11 ⁄ 2 –2in (3.5–5cm) weeks, and yields 18–20 plants per 10ft (3m) row. Early crops may be liable to bolt (see p.101),
in diameter. To force these in position outdoors, ■ Site and soil Any moderately fertile soil but bolt-resistant cultivars are available.
cut off the leaves in early fall, leaving a 2in in a sunny, open position is suitable. For fall Endives may also be grown as a cut-and-come-
(5cm) stub. Draw soil over the plants into and winter crops, protection with cloches, again crop (see p.102) under protection from
a 6in (15cm) ridge. The chicons will form cold frames, or even a f leece tunnel cloche spring to late summer.
under the soil, especially if cloches (see p.46) (see pp.46–48) improves quality and reliability. 1
SOWING DEPTH ⁄2in (1cm)
are used to provide extra warmth and rain ■ Sowing and planting Either sow in moist
PLANT SPACING 9in (23cm)
protection. However, better results are often soil where the plants are to grow, or raise ROW SPACING 12–14in (30–35cm)
achieved by forcing indoors (see p.102) at a seedlings in trays for planting out as soon as they
temperature of 50–64°F (10–18°C). Although can be handled (see p.101). Corn salad may also be ■ Routine care Using cloches or unheated
soil or a similar covering used to be required grown as a cut-and-come-again crop (see p.102). greenhouse protection (see pp.43–48) will
for well-shaped, compact chicons, modern 1
extend the harvest period into winter. Early
SOWING DEPTH ⁄ 2in (1cm)
cultivars (see below) need only darkness, such sowings may bolt (see p.101) if exposed to
PLANT SPACING 4in (10cm)
as that provided by an inverted bucket. It is a ROW SPACING 6in (15cm)
excess cold, of less than 15ºF (5ºC) for several
good idea to keep a stock of roots for forcing days early in life. Using bolt-resistant cultivars
in boxes of moist soil or sand until they are ■ Routine care Thin seedlings (see p.101), and (see below) and cloches or f leece coverings (see
needed. Some kinds of red chicory may also use the thinnings for salads. Watering in dry p.101) can help to counter this problem.
be forced to produce small chicons. spells is sometimes helpful, but top-dressings of ■ Harvesting When the heads reach full size,
Red and sugarloaf chicories need watering fertilizer are unnecessary. usually three months after sowing, blanch each
in dry spells and feeding with a nitrogen-rich ■ Harvesting After 4–12 weeks, harvest by one by covering the entire plant for about
fertilizer if growth f lags. For late supplies dig picking choice leaves or cutting the head from 10 days (or 20 days in cold weather), with an
up some of the plants and replant them in an the lower part of the plant, which may resprout inverted, lightproof container such as a bucket,
unheated greenhouse. Alternatively, protect for further harvests. or by laying an inverted dinner plate over the
them with straw or a tunnel cloche (see p.46). ■ Common problems Aphids, slugs, and snails central area. Rots can be damaging at this stage;
■ Harvesting Blanched chicons of Witloof are occasionally troublesome. For symptoms and covering the heads with a cloche can help to
chicory will be ready for eating about a month controls, see Plant Problems, p.251 and p.262. dry them out. Alternatively, use twine to tie
after being covered for forcing. The heads of ■ Recommended cultivars the head into a tight bunch in order to exclude
red and sugarloaf chicory should be gathered ‘Cavallo’—small-leaved, neat growth. light from the inner leaves. Use the heads as
after 2–3 months, when they are fully formed ‘Large Leafed English’—large-leaved. soon as they are blanched, since greenness and
and firm. Unlike those of lettuces, the heads ‘Verte de Cambrai’—small-leaved, vigorous. bitterness will soon return when they are
are long-lasting (2–8 weeks, depending on ‘Vit’—modern, small-leaved, earthy f lavor. exposed to light again.
the weather) and can be stored in a cool place ■ Common problems Slugs (see p.262),
until needed. After harvesting, the resulting aphids (see p.251), lettuce root aphid (see p.257),
stumps will often sprout another crop of usable Endive and caterpillars can damage foliage and roots.
leaves, about 2–6 weeks later. Tip burn (see p.263), associated with a lack
■ Common problems Slugs (see p.262), aphids Cichorium endivia of calcium, occurs mainly on dry, light soils.
(see p.251), lettuce root aphid (see p.257), and ■ Recommended cultivars
caterpillars can damage chicory foliage and roots. SOW • • • • •
‘Grobo’—broad-leaved, bolt-resistant.
Tip burn (see p.263) is a physiological disorder TRANSPLANT • •
‘Natacha’—prettiest and best-performing
associated with lack of calcium, and especially HARVEST • • • • • •
troublesome on very dry, light soils. ‘Tres Fine Maracichere’—heart of finely
■ Recommended cultivars Endive is similar to lettuce, although it has a cut, frilly leaves are mild, slighlty bitter,
‘Palla Rossa’—red chicory, an old favorite. bitter taste, and grows as a rosette. The leaves and delicious.
‘Pain de Sucre’—sugarloaf, hearted. may be curled (frisée type) or broad-leaved ‘Batavian Full Heart’—the slightly twisted
‘Rossa Di Verona’—red chicory, traditional (Batavian type). The former are extremely leaves have a sharper f lavor and more substance
cultivar, good f lavor, variable heads. attractive in gardens or salads, but the hardier than lettuce.

■ Sowing and planting Sow outdoors in available; these contain reliable cultivars and
Ice plant mid- to late summer or in trays (see p.64) are an inexpensive way of growing a variety
in late summer for transplanting. Thin the of lettuces and so staggering the harvest.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum seedlings (see p.101) to 4in (10cm) if you desire Unheated cloches, cold frames, and even
only small plants, and 18in (45cm) for large f leece (see pp.43–45) can be used to extend the
ones. Japanese mustard spinach may also be harvest period for this hardy annual, although
grown as a cut-and-come-again crop (see p.102). heated greenhouses are essential if you want
HARVEST • • • • • 1
to have a winter crop.
SOWING DEPTH ⁄ 2in (1cm)
From a spring sowing, mini-lettuces will
SEED SPACING 1in (2.5cm)
These trailing tender perennials have unusual, mature in 8–10 weeks, butterheads in 10–12
ROW SPACING 9in (23cm) for small plants
swollen, succulent leaves. The leaves and young weeks, crispheads and cos in 12–13 weeks,
18in (45cm) for large plants
stems have a tangy f lavor when eaten raw in and icebergs in 14 weeks. Mini-lettuces yield
salads or cooked in the same way as spinach. ■ Routine care Japanese mustard spinach 18–20 heads per 10ft (3m) row, butterheads
The plants mature in 4–12 weeks, yielding a will tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F (–12°C), 9–12 heads, cos 9–12 heads, and crispheads
10lb (4.5kg) crop per 10ft (3m) row. Named and is fairly drought-tolerant, so little attention and iceberg 8–9 heads.
cultivars are not offered. is required, but a few plants may be lifted and ■ Site and soil Open, sunny sites are best,
■ Site and soil Well-drained, fertile, moisture- grown under cover for a winter crop in case of but light shade is acceptable for midsummer
retentive soil and a sunny site are best. extreme temperatures. crops. Fertile, moisture-retentive soils are
■ Sowing and planting Sow under cover in ■ Harvesting Pick choice leaves as soon as needed for best-quality lettuces.
trays (see p.64), planting out when frost no longer they are ready. Regrowth will occur, giving ■ Sowing and planting Lettuces intended
threatens in early summer. New plants may be a prolonged harvest period. for an early-summer harvest can be sown under
raised later from soft-tip cuttings, taken from ■ Common problems Flea beetle (see p.255) cover (see p.101) from winter to early spring,
nonf lowering shoots and rooted in well-drained and slugs (see p.262) may cause minor damage. and planted out in spring. Lettuces for a summer
compost, for summer supplies. Ice plant may be Cabbage root f ly (see p.253), which can be harvest can be sown outdoors where they are to
grown as a cut-and-come-again crop (see p.102). very destructive, is best avoided by growing crop, from early spring onwards, in a continuous
under f leece or insect-proof mesh (see p.48). trickle. Thin the resulting seedlings (see p.101)
SOWING DEPTH ⁄4in (2cm)
As a member of the brassica family, this to the required spacing, using the thinnings in
SEED SPACING 6in (15cm)
ROW SPACING 1ft (30cm)
crop might also be affected by a range of salad leaves. Alternatively, to save time when
problems. These include birds, boron deficiency, thinning and to economize on seed, opt for
■ Routine care Thin seedlings (see p.68), and bolting, caterpillars, clubroot, cutworm, station sowing the seed (see p.101).
use the thinnings for salads. Watering in dry damping off, downy mildew, frost damage, Hardy cultivars can be sown outdoors in late
spells is sometimes helpful, but top-dressings leaf spot, aphid, leather jackets, molybdenum winter, or in mild areas in early fall, to crop in
of fertilizer are unnecessary. deficiency, whitef ly, and white blister. Grow the spring. Protecting the crop with cloches
■ Harvesting Pick tender young leaves and in the brassica part of the rotation (see p.31) and cold frames (see pp.45–47) will advance the
stems as soon as they are large enough. Regular to avoid clubroot and other soil-borne brassica harvest by about three weeks, greatly improve
harvesting encourages production of tender problems. For symptoms and controls, see Plant the quality, and make success more likely if the
regrowth. Pickings will stay fresh for several Problems, pp.246–264. weather is frosty or very wet. Fleece covering
days in a refrigerator. (see p.101) advances harvest by about two weeks.
■ Common problems Slugs are the only real Lettuce seedlings resent root disturbance
problem. For symptoms and controls, see Plant Lettuce when transplanted and may soon wilt, especially
Problems, p.262. in summer. Although they can be raised in seed
Lactuca sativa trays or open ground and transplanted as bare-
root plants, you will achieve better results by
Japanese mustard SEASON
• • •
• • • •
• •
sowing them in module trays (see p.101), and
transplanting as soon as they can be handled,

• • • • • • •
before they have six leaves. Position the base
of the leaves just above soil level. The depth of
Brassica rapa var. perviridis There are two types of lettuce: those that form the seedling is crucial—too deep and it may
hearts or heads, and those that do not. Large, rot off, too shallow and it will produce a poorly
SOW • •
heart-forming lettuces include the cabbagelike shaped lettuce. Water generously until the
butterheads, the crinkled crispheads, and transplants are well-established.
HARVEST • • • • • •
the cos types. Iceberg lettuces are crispheads Leafy lettuces, such as Salad Bowl types,
that develop for another two weeks, forming may also be grown as a cut-and-come-again
Japanese mustard spinach, or komatsuna, is extremely dense heads. They need large amounts crop (see p.102).
a diverse group of leafy brassicas with glossy of water and fertilizer, and are much more 1
SOWING DEPTH ⁄2in (1cm)
green foliage that may be eaten raw in fall demanding than other lettuces. Mini-lettuces MINI-LETTUCE
and winter salads or cooked in the same way are small-hearted cultivars that are well-suited PLANT SPACING 6in (15cm)
as spinach. They will grow into large, robust to home gardens. Nonhearting lettuces include ROW SPACING 9in (23cm)
plants if left to mature fully, but can be the Salad Bowl type and stem lettuces. Leaves BUTTERHEAD
harvested earlier, as small plants, if desired. of Salad Bowl lettuces can be repeatedly PLANT SPACING 10in (25cm)
This affects how they are grown (see below). harvested, but are less tasty than mini-lettuces. ROW SPACING 12in (30cm)
The plants mature in 4–12 weeks, and yield Stem lettuces are seldom grown today, but yield OTHER TYPES
6–9 heads per 10ft (3m) row. Named cultivars leaves and a succulent stem that can be eaten PLANT SPACING 14in (35cm)
are seldom offered. like celery. Lettuces tend to mature in a rush, ROW SPACING 15in (38cm)
■ Site and soil Open, sunny sites and fertile leading to gluts, and frequent sowings of small
soils are best, but light shade is acceptable for batches of seed are recommended to ensure ■ Routine care Water in dry spells, especially
midsummer crops. an even supply. Packets of mixed cultivars are in the two weeks before the hearts reach full

maturity. Feeding is not usually necessary in 4–5 days, and the seedlings can be cut after
on reasonably fertile soils but, if growth Mibuna greens 8–12 days. Cress takes about two days longer to
is particularly slow, top-dress occasionally germinate than mustard, and can be cut after
with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer (see p.20) at
the manufacturer’s recommended rate.
and Mizuna greens 10–14 days. Named cultivars of mustard and cress
are seldom offered. Mustard is often replaced by
■ Harvesting Begin to gather leaves from Brassica rapa and Brassica rapa var. rape (Brassica napus subsp. oleifera), which has a
leafy lettuces, and thinnings from hearting nipposinica stronger f lavor. Plain-leaved cress is usually sold;
lettuces, as soon as they are usable. When this grows better in winter than curled cress.
cutting leafy lettuces, leave 1in (2.5cm) of ■ Site and soil Warm (50–60ºF/10–16ºC), well-
SOW • • • • • •
the stem to resprout for later harvests. Cut lit windowsills, greenhouses, and conservatories
hearting lettuces as soon as the hearts are and, in the summer, cloches or cold frames (see
HARVEST • • • • • • •
mature, in order to prevent rotting and bolting pp.45–47) are best for growing mustard and cress.
(see p.101). Solid, sound hearts may be stored Mibuna and mizuna greens are types of Japanese Trays or pots filled with old potting or growing-
in a refrigerator for several days. Butterhead brassica with rosettes of attractive, glossy green bag compost provide ideal conditions. Outdoor
and nonhearting types of lettuce run to seed or red foliage and a succulent stem that can be crops need shelter and light shade, and they risk
much faster than crispheads or cos lettuce. eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach. The contamination from splashed soil.
■ Common problems Cutworms (see p.254) leaves have a mild mustard f lavor, even when ■ Sowing and planting Seeds must be fresh to
may eat the roots. Slugs and snails (see p.262), they are mature, and are good for winter harvests germinate quickly and evenly. Outdoor sowings
and aphids (see p.251) can damage foliage. and container cultivation. Mibuna greens have should only be made between late spring and late
Fungal rots, or botrytis (see p.252), and downy a stronger f lavor and straplike leaves, but are summer. Mustard should be sown two days after
mildew (see p.255) occur in wet weather, less hardy; mizuna greens have feathery leaves. cress where mixed crops are wanted. Crops can
especially in fall. Mildew and rotting leaves You can grow mibuna or mizuna greens as also be raised on a thick layer of moist kitchen
can usually be cut out at harvest, leaving small plants that will yield several harvests of towel (see p.65). Scatter the seeds lightly over a
sound heads. Lettuce root aphid (see p.257) young salad leaves. Pick the leaves when they fine level surface, gently press them in, lightly
is very damaging in some districts, but resistant are large enough and as required. Alternatively, water them with tepid water and cover with a
cultivars are available. There may be occasional leave them to mature into large plants, which damp cloth or a tile until germination has taken
damage to roots from leather jackets (see p.257) are better cooked. Plants will mature in 4–12 place. Mustard and cress may also be grown as
and wireworms (see p.264). Virus diseases weeks, and yield 6–9 heads per 10ft (3m) row. a cut-and-come-again crop (see p.102).
can be avoided by using good-quality seed, Named cultivars are seldom offered.
SOWING DEPTH on the surface
eliminating aphids, and avoiding repeated ■ Site and soil Open, sunny sites and fertile
SEED SPACING almost touching
cropping on the same piece of ground. Tip soils are preferred. ROW SPACING almost touching
burn (see p.263) is a physiological disorder ■ Sowing and planting Sow in late summer
associated with lack of calcium, and can be and early fall under cover (see p.101), in position ■ Routine care Keep soil or other growing
especially troublesome on dry, light soils. in early and midsummer, or indoors in mid- to medium moist.
■ Recommended cultivars late spring. Thin (see p.101) to 4in (10cm) apart ■ Harvesting Cut at the base of the stems with
Mini-lettuce for small plants and 18in (45cm) for large ones. scissors when the seedlings are 11 ⁄ 2 –2in (4–5cm)
‘Little Gem’—mini-cos, good texture and These greens may be grown as a cut-and-come- tall and the seed leaves or cotyledons are fully
f lavor, fast-growing, root aphid-resistant. again crop (see p.102). developed and green.
‘Little Leprechaun’—red ‘Little Gem’ type. 1
■ Common problems Damping off (see p.254),
SOWING DEPTH ⁄ 2in (1cm)
‘Pandero’—mini-cos, pretty, red, tasty. where seedling growth is slow or uneven, can
PLANT SPACING 4in (10cm) for small plants
‘Pinokkio’—‘Little Gem’ type, fast-growing. ruin the salads. Keeping them warmer and using
18in (45cm) for large plants
‘Tom Thumb’—mini-butterhead, sweet better-quality seeds can help. Gray mold (Botrytis
ROW SPACING 9in (23cm)
f lavor, very hardy, ideal for earliest crops. cinerea, p.252) can also be a problem in overly
Butterhead ■ Routine care Water in dry spells to keep damp conditions.
‘Buttercrunch’—heat-tolerant, slow to bolt. the soil moist. ■ Recommended cultivars
‘Diana’—large leafy heads, melting texture. ■ Harvesting For salads, pick choice young Mustard
‘Esmeralda’—large frame, broad disease leaves as soon as they are ready. Regrowth ‘White’—true mustard, stronger f lavor than
resistance. will occur 2–8 weeks later (depending on the salad rape.
Cos weather) for a prolonged harvest. Cut large Salad rape
‘Freckles’—glossy green, semi-savoy leaves plants when mature. ‘Broad-leaved Essex’—mild-f lavored alternative
with maroon splashes. ■ Common problems In common with other to true mustard.
‘Winter Density’—small cos, fall and crops from the brassica family, these greens Cress
spring sown. are prey to a range of problems, as for Japanese ‘Extra Double Curled’—curled leaves.
Crisphead and iceberg mustard spinach (see p.104). For symptoms and ‘Plain’—smooth leaves with stronger f lavor; said
‘Concept’—exceptionally sweet, heat-resistant. controls, see Plant Problems, pp.246–264. to grow well in winter.
‘Summertime’—delicious, crunchy lettuce ‘Polycress’—especially fast-growing.
grown in the heat of the summer.
‘Webbs Wonderful’—crisphead, sprawling. Mustard and cress Purslane
‘Black Seeded Simpson’—leafy Batavian type Sinapis alba and Lepidium sativum
with good f lavor. Portulaca oleracea
‘Emerald Oakleaf ’—compact, jewel-green,
curvaceous leaves, dense, buttery-hearted head. HARVEST • • • • • • • • • • • • SOW • • •
‘Lollo Rossa’—a favorite for its color.
HARVEST • • • •
‘Mottistone’—leafy Batavian type, red leaves. Mustard and cress are tasty, fast-growing salad
‘Red Salad Bowl’—reliable repeat-cropper. crops that are especially valuable between mid- There are green- and yellow-leaved forms of
‘Salad Bowl’—good for repeat crops. fall and mid-spring. Mustard seeds germinate this half-hardy, succulent, low-growing plant.

The leaves and stems are either eaten raw or Seedling leaves can be used as cut-and-come- radishes beneath a f leece or insect-proof fine
lightly cooked or steamed. The green forms again salads (see p.102), while immature seed woven mesh (see p.101), which also promotes
are more vigorous, but are less striking in pods of older plants are also edible. speedy growth and excellent quality. Grow
decorative mixed salads than the yellow form. ■ Site and soil Open, sunny sites are best, winter radishes in the brassica part of a
Both forms of purslane have a relatively mild but light shade is acceptable for midsummer rotation (see p.31) to avoid clubroot (see p.254)
f lavor and crunchy texture. Plants mature in crops. Fertile, moisture-retentive soils are and other soil-borne brassica problems.
4–12 weeks, and produce the equivalent of needed for good-quality summer radishes, ■ Recommended cultivars
20–24 bunches per 10ft (3m) row. Named but winter radishes are more tolerant. Summer radish
cultivars are not offered. ■ Sowing and planting Radishes grow ‘Cherry Belle’—fast-growing.
■ Site and soil Well-drained soil and a very quickly, soon maturing and becoming ‘French Breakfast 3’—good-quality roots.
sunny, sheltered site are preferred. fibrous and inedible, so that successional ‘Scarlet Globe’—reliable, old favorite.
■ Sowing and planting Sow successionally, sowings every two weeks are necessary for ‘Short Top Forcing’—very fast-growing,
sowing a new batch of seed when seedlings continuous cropping. Some small-leaved with small foliage; it is ideal for growing in
from the previous sowing have produced a cultivars have been specially bred for early cold frames and cloches.
couple of true leaves, for a constant supply cropping; sow these directly into trays (see Winter radish
of edible leaves. Early sowings should be p.64) or small pots, in mid- to late winter ‘Black Spanish Round’—very hardy, old
made under cover (see p.101). Purslane may for planting out in mid-spring. Make favorite, ideal for cold gardens.
also be grown as a cut-and-come-again crop follow-on sowings of normal cultivars in ‘Mantanghong’—red, hardy.
(see p.102). early spring under cloches, cold frames, or ‘Minowase’—white-skinned, long, Japanese-
even f leece tunnel cloches (see pp.46–47). type with delicate f lavor.
SOWING DEPTH ⁄2in (1cm)
Subsequent sowings of summer radishes ‘Munchen Bier’—good for edible pods.
PLANT SPACING 6in (15cm)
should be made outdoors.
ROW SPACING 6in (15cm)
One sowing of winter radish in mid- to
■ Routine care Thin out the seedlings when late summer provides for fall harvest and Winter purslane
large enough (see p.101) and use the thinnings winter storage. Plant out stored roots to
in salads. Generous watering in dry spells is f lower the following year and provide edible Montia perfoliata
essential to maintain healthy growth. pods. Earlier sowing of winter types results
■ Harvesting Pick the tender young leaves in bolting (see p.101), unless bolt-resistant SOW • • • • •
and stems as soon as they are large enough. cultivars can be found. Thin seedlings (see TRANSPLANT •
Regular gathering encourages the production p.101) of summer types to 1in (2.5cm) apart HARVEST • • • • • •
of fresh tender new growth, as long as some (double this for early covered crops), and
leaves are left on the plant after harvesting. winter types to 6–9in (15–23cm) apart. Keep This half-hardy plant, also known as miner’s
Remove any seedheads that develop. the crops well watered, but do not overwater lettuce or claytonia, has pale, succulent leaves
■ Common problems Slugs and snails may them—excessive moisture can encourage leaf that may be used, together with tender stems
occasionally be troublesome. For symptoms production at the expense of root growth. and f lowers, in salads. Winter purslane thrives
and controls, see Plant Problems, p.262. SOWING DEPTH 1
⁄ 2in (1cm)
in poor soils and dry conditions, and frequently
⁄ 2in (1cm) for summer radish
self seeds. It is easily controlled, however, and
unlikely to become a nuisance. Plants mature
9in (23cm) for winter radish
6in (15cm) for summer radish over a period of about 12 weeks, and yield the
12in (30cm) for winter radish equivalent of 20–24 bunches per 10ft (3m) row.
Raphanus sativa Named cultivars are not offered.
■ Routine care Adding organic matter ■ Site and soil Choose a well-drained,
before sowing (see p.68) will help maintain sunny site, and moderately fertile soil.
SOW • • • • • • • • •
soil moisture as well as providing adequate ■ Sowing and planting Sow in moist soil
nutrients. Water to keep the soil moist; in dry where the plants are to grow, or raise seedlings
HARVEST • • • • • • • • •
spells, this may mean watering every week. indoors in trays (see p.64) for planting out
There are two main types of this fast-growing, Radishes may also be used for intersowing when all risk of frost has passed. Winter purslane
crunchy, slightly hot root vegetable, which with parsnips (see p.69). may also be grown as a cut-and-come-again
is used mainly as a salad ingredient. Summer ■ Harvesting and storing Use summer crop (see p.102).
radishes are small, round, cylindrical, or radishes as soon as the roots are large enough 1
SOWING DEPTH ⁄2in (1cm)
pointed, and are used when no larger than and before they become “woolly.” Winter
PLANT SPACING 6in (15cm)
a walnut. Winter radishes are larger, and radishes may be left in the ground until they
ROW SPACING 9in (23cm)
turniplike. Summer radishes usually have are needed, and may then reach the same
red, pink, or white skins, but winter radishes size as turnips or rutabagas. They may be ■ Routine care Thin seedlings (see p.101),
may also have black, purple, yellow, or green damaged by frost, however; to avoid this, using the thinnings for salads. Regular
skins; all usually have white f lesh. Small lift in fall and store in the same way as other watering or top-dressing with fertilizer
roots are used raw as a salad ingredient, while root crops (see p.73). are unnecessary.
the larger roots can also be used raw, or can To produce edible pods, leave some roots ■ Harvesting When the plants are mature,
be cooked in the same way as turnips or to sprout and f lower, and gather the pods pick leaves, stems, and f lowers, leaving the
rutabagas. Oriental mooli radishes are grown while they are still green and crisp, before lower part of the plant in the ground. More
in the same way as winter radishes. Summer they get stringy. Radish leaves can also furnish leaves will be produced, giving several
radish plants take 2–8 weeks to mature, yielding useful greens in the same manner as turnip more harvests. Resprouting of new leaves
a crop of 100–120 radishes per 10ft (3m) row. tops (see p.88). may take from 2–6 weeks.
They can also be grown as a catch crop. In ■ Common problems Flea beetle (see p.255), ■ Common problems Aphids, slugs, and
the summer, maturation rates are more rapid. slugs and snails (see p.262) may cause minor snails may occasionally be troublesome. For
Winter radish matures in 8–10 weeks, with damage. Cabbage root f ly (see p.253) can be symptoms and controls, see Plant Problems,
a yield of 10 roots per 10ft (3m) row. very destructive, and is best avoided by growing p.251 and p.262.

Growing fruiting vegetables

Plants in this group of vegetables, soils will limit their growth. Try to
which are grown for their “fruits,” exploit any warm microclimates in your
range from perhaps the most popular garden, for example, by planting crops
kitchen-garden crop—tomatoes, vine next to a sunny wall (see right), in a
or bush types—to more exotic crops sheltered corner, or in a raised bed.
such as okra and tomatillo. Others that You can also help nature along
are well worth trying are eggplants, by prewarming the soil with a clear
sweet and chile peppers, and corn. plastic sheet mulch (see p.42) or a cloche
Fruiting vegetables are all half-hardy, covering from mid-spring, so that you
and need a long, hot summer in order can sow or plant out fruiting vegetables
for the fruits to ripen fully. For this earlier in the season and give them as
reason, they need to be sown quite much time as possible for growth.
early in the season, at a time when
many temperate regions are still too SOWING UNDER COVER
cold for them. This means that it is Many crops in this group, especially
essential in the early stages to provide eggplants, okra, peppers, and tomatillo, Using a microclimate
some form of protection, such as have small seeds that produce tiny, slow- When growing tender crops, such as this
cloches or f leece (see pp.46–48), if the growing seedlings needing an early start eggplant, outdoors in a temperate climate plant
them against a sheltered, sunny wall. The wall
plants are to produce a successful crop. in a greenhouse, a cold frame, or even a
absorbs heat and radiates it back onto the
windowsill from an early spring sowing. plant at night, raising the local temperature.
SITE AND SOIL The majority of fruiting vegetables bear
Well-drained, light soils that warm fruits over several weeks, eliminating the daytime, and 60°F (16°C) minimum
up quickly in the spring are best for the need for successional sowing. at night. Make sure that any windowsill
this group of vegetables. Sowing and Sow the seeds thinly in pots of you are using for seedlings does not
harvesting may need to be delayed multipurpose compost, adding sufficient become cooler than this temperature at
where the soil is predominantly clay vermiculite or sifted compost to cover any time during the night. Some crops,
and consequently slow to warm. the seeds (see p.64). Warm conditions, especially eggplant and okra, benefit
Adding organic matter (see pp.37–40) with a minimum temperature of from a polyethylene or fleece tent to
will improve the structure of the soil, 60°F (16°C), are needed for successful raise humidity; simply hang this over
speeding up both the drainage and germination, and this is best provided a wire hoop or short stakes pushed into
warming of the ground. Fruiting by a heated propagator (see p.63). the soil at the edge of the pot.
vegetables can be very deep-rooting, When seedlings emerge, transfer the When the seedlings are large
and shallow, waterlogged, or compacted pots to better-lit conditions, such as a enough to handle, prick them out
greenhouse or a sunny windowsill in (see p.64) into individual 3in (8cm)
the house. The seedlings will still require pots, large module trays, tube pots,
warmth of at least 64°F (18°C) during or biodegradeable pots (see p.62). The
latter are best for plants that resent root
disturbance. Feed the seedlings with a
balanced liquid fertilizer (see pp.22–23)
if growth appears pale, and especially if
the lower leaves start to turn yellow.
A limited range of eggplants,
cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes
are offered as grafted plants,
where individual cultivars have
Sides of each
been grafted onto disease-resistant
cell are grooved rootstocks. These plants are vigorous
to train roots and can be grown where soil-borne
problems occur. Seed of rootstocks
Root trainers is available, but the process is beyond
These containers snap together to form long the scope of most home gardeners.
Planting corn in a block cells—useful for plants that require deep
Corn relies on the wind for pollination, so rooting space, such as corn. They can be
plant out seedlings in a block of several short, opened out easily to remove and transplant SOWING OUTDOORS
staggered rows to increase the chances of the seedling plug without disturbing the roots. Corn has much larger seeds that grow
successful pollination occurring. Root trainers can be reused many times. quickly, and therefore they can be station

sown (see p.66) outdoors in milder areas

from mid-spring. For early crops, and
in colder districts, raise corn seedlings
under cover in tube pots (see p.62) or
biodegradable pots, at least 31 ⁄2in (9cm)
in diameter. These will hold the long
roots of corn seedlings in their entirety,
and there will be no danger of damaging
them at transplanting, which could result
in the plant becoming stunted.
For later crops or to extend the ◀ Sheet mulch ▲ Removing
growing season, corn can be sown To minimize weed tomato sideshoots
in succession (see p.69). Alternatively, growth around your When growing vine
you can grow a selection of cultivars crop (here corn) tomatoes, pinch
that crop at different times. and help conserve out with your finger
moisture, lay a black and thumb any side-
plastic sheet mulch shoots that appear
PLANTING OUT on the bed and plant in the angles between
The young plants should be ready for through it. the main stem and
transplanting into their final positions, any of the leaf stems.
either outdoors or in a greenhouse,
when the roots have fully filled the pot, the final site. Careful planting is to free some space in the greenhouse,
but before they become overcrowded, essential to prevent a check in growth, if desired, but cropping will take place
usually after about 18 weeks. Harden which would curtail the period of earlier if you wait until they are at
young plants off (see p.65) before cropping and the number of fruits f lowering stage before planting out.
planting outdoors, by placing them in produced. Covering with f leece (see
either a cold frame or beneath a double p.101) after planting, for two weeks, PLANTING CORN IN BLOCKS
layer of f leece for at least a week; in provides extra warmth and humidity Plant out corn seedlings that have been
these situations, temperature and when the plants are at their most grown under cover in tube pots when
humidity levels fall midway between delicate. You can transplant plants that the plants are 3in (8cm) tall. Because
those of the seedling pot and those of are not yet at f lowering stage, in order they are wind-pollinated, it is best
to plant them in blocks of at least
Providing support for fruiting crops 12 plants, no closer than 14in (34cm)
apart, in a series of short rows (see facing
Because of the weight of their fruits, some heavy crops you may need stronger page), rather than in single rows. This
fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes and supports such as sawn-timber stakes. gives the plants a much better chance
peppers, need supporting. Bamboo stakes The taller the crop, the more substantial
of being pollinated successfully, which
and twine are often adequate, but for very the support system should be (see below).
is necessary for the production of cobs.

Fruiting vegetables grow slowly and
can easily be smothered by weeds.
Plastic sheet and organic mulches
(see above and pp.41–42) will prevent
this from happening, and are especially
valuable inside cloches and cold frames
where weeding may be difficult. Before
planting, laying a sheet of black plastic,
or clear plastic over black, can warm
the soil as well as suppressing weeds.
You can plant through slits cut in the
plastic sheet mulch (see p.77). Mulching
prevents evaporation.
The f loppy habit of bush tomatoes
Supporting short crops Supporting tall crops leads to fruits lying on the ground,
When lower-growing crops such as peppers Taller-growing crops like vine tomatoes are
where they are prone to slugs and
(shown here) begin to form fruits, place 3–5 best trained up single bamboo stakes tied
bamboo stakes around each plant and tie in into a greenhouse structure for stability.
other problems. Mulching with straw
the stems with figure-eight loops of twine. Tie the plants to the stakes as they grow. or black plastic keeps the fruits clean
and free from slug damage or rots.

CONTAINER GROWING is insufficient. Inadequate or irregular Only remove leaves if they turn yellow
Most fruiting vegetables, excluding water is often the cause. Better watering or become diseased; otherwise, cropping
corn, grow well in pots of at least 10in usually prevents blossom end rot (for may be reduced. An exception to this
(25cm) in diameter, or three plants to controls, see p.252). rule is tomatoes (see p.113).
a growing bag. The best position for a If using containers, do not allow pots
container is against a warm, sunny wall ROUTINE CARE to dry out. Add a controlled-release
near the house, where the extra heat and The compact size of bush tomatoes fertilizer before planting or apply a
light speed cropping and boost flavor. allows them to be covered throughout balanced liquid fertilizer weekly if
Tomatoes are especially suitable for their growing period with cloches, cold growth slows (see pp.20–21).
growing in containers, and the bigger frames, or fleece (see pp.45–48). Cloches
the container, the easier they are to and cold frames exclude rain, preventing HARVESTING
manage. Large pots, 14in (35cm) in diseases that flourish in the humid Most fruiting vegetables are ready for
diameter, filled with compost from environment of the foliage. Fleece is harvesting in late summer. Regular
used growing bags, are suitable without less effective at reducing disease, but is picking encourages continuous fruit
being unwieldy. Growing-bag compost less likely to overheat in hot weather. production. Sever the fruits, with a piece
is specially formulated to suit tomatoes. Fruiting vegetables need fertile soil of stalk, using a sharp knife or pruners.
Unfortunately, growing bags contain in order to produce a succession of Harvesting can usually be prolonged
only a small volume of compost, which fruits. Before planting them, apply a into the fall by using a protective fleece
rapidly dries out. Avoid this problem general fertilizer (see pp.20–21) at a rate layer, held clear of the plants by hoops
by growing only two plants per bag of 1–2oz per sq yd (35–70g per sq m). of wire inserted into the soil (see p.47).
rather than three, or by planting in Alternatively, use 11 ⁄2 –3oz per sq yd The fruits of most fruiting vegetables
a pot with an open base, filled with (50–100g per sq m) of an organic food change color when they are ripe, but
similar compost, on the surface of a such as dried poultry manure with a it is more difficult to tell when the cobs
growing bag, to increase the volume of 5 percent nitrogen content (see pp.22– of corn are ready for harvesting, so you
compost available and to ease watering. 23); use double this amount for corn. will need to test them first. The cobs
Some bush tomatoes are extremely Water well in dry spells, at a rate of should also be broken off by hand
compact, growing no larger than 9in 4 gallons per sq yd (20 liters per sq m). rather than cut (see below).
(23cm) in both height and spread; where Adequate water supplies are especially
space in the garden is short, these may necessary during the f lowering period, SEED SAVING
be grown in hanging baskets. and as fruits swell. Saving seeds of fruiting vegetables
For tall crops, like vine tomatoes, pinch such as corn and peppers, which cross-
COMMON PROBLEMS out sideshoots (see p.109) to concentrate pollinate readily, or F1 hybrids, where
Peppers, including chiles, tomatoes, and the plant’s energy into fruiting. Tall crops progeny seldom come true to type, is
occasionally eggplants, suffer blackish, may need staking. For bushy peppers and not worth attempting. It is, however,
sunken patches at the flower or blossom eggplants, pinch out the growing tip to worth trying with the pulpy seeds of
end of their fruits when calcium supply encourage the production of sideshoots. ripe tomatoes (see p.61).

Harvesting cobs of corn

With corn, it is quite difficult to tell when
the cobs are ripe and therefore ready for
harvesting. Because of this, cobs are
often left on the plant for too long and
are overripe when eventually picked.
To ensure that you pick cobs when they
are at their most tender, test for ripeness
as soon as the tassels turn brown in late
summer. Peel back a little of the husk, and
insert a thumbnail or fingernail into one of
the kernels (see far left). If the juice that
comes out is milky, the cob is ripe; if the
juice is clear, the cob is not yet ripe.
Pick a ripe cob by pulling it sharply
downward with one hand—supporting the
rest of the plant with the other—until the
cob snaps off (see left). Only pick cobs just
before they are required; once they are
Testing for ripeness Picking a ripe cob harvested, the sweet flavor is rapidly lost.


1–11 ⁄ 2in (2.5–4cm)
14–18in (34–45cm)

Zea mays ROW SPACING 18–24in (45–60cm)

■ Routine care Watering is not required until

SOW • •
f lowering starts, when the soil should be kept
moist, or at least be given one thorough soak.
On windy sites, draw up soil around the bases
of the plants to give stability, or give support
Home-grown corn cobs cooked within minutes (see p.109). (See also Routine Care, p.110.)
of harvest taste superb. The kernels are usually ■ Harvesting Test for ripeness as soon as the
yellow, sometimes white or bicolored. Improved tassels begin to dry up and turn brown, and if
forms are regularly introduced (older cultivars ready break off the cobs (see p.110).
have poor growing characteristics and insipid ■ Common problems The seeds attract mice
f lavor). Only one or two cobs are borne per (see p.257). Corn smut (see p.254) and frit f lies (see
plant; normal yields are 6–9 cobs per sq yd (sq m). p.255) attack occasionally but seldom cause heavy
Uniquely for vegetables, corn is a grass with losses; crop rotation (see p.31) is the only control.
long leaves, the base of which encloses the stem, Poor pollinating conditions may lead to gaps in
and is pollinated by wind. Corn has architectural the rows of ripe kernels. Birds (see p.252), squirrels
qualities that make it valuable in ornamental (see p.262), and badgers (see p.251) may strip crops.
kitchen gardens. The male flowers at the top of the ■ Recommended cultivars
stem are called tassels. They shed pollen, carried on ‘Bodacious’—triple-sweet variety, cutting edge
the wind to the “silk,” which grows out of the cob in corn breeding technology.
containing rows of female flowers. The cob, or ‘Golden Jubilee’—one of the latest maturing
fruit, is enclosed in a sheath or husk of leafy bracts. varieties, excellent for late summer enjoyment.
Supersweet corn has largely replaced the less ‘Ovation’—midseason, supersweet yellow.
sugary standard and sugar-enhanced varieties, ‘Stowell’s Evergreen’—leading white corn variety.
and retains its very sweet flavor after picking. ‘Sugar Pearl Hybrid’—tightly packed kernels of
However, the less chewy, more tender Extra gleaming ivory on blocky ears.
Tendersweet, which is almost as sweet, is widely
grown. Synergistic corn, a new development,
combines the best of both, but few cultivars are Chile and
currently available. Baby corn is grown from
special varieties, or regular corn closely spaced.
Nearby agricultural corn can cross-pollinate
sweet pepper
corn, leading to less tasty cobs. Purple and other Capsicum annuum Longum Group
colored corn can also pollinate corn, leading to and C. annuum Grossum Group
less f lavorsome, parti-colored cobs.
■ Site and soil A warm, sunny, sheltered
SOW • •
site with light, warm, rich soil is vital (see p.108).
Cobs may not ripen in shade or windy sites.
HARVEST • • • •
■ Sowing and planting In cool areas, choose
early cultivars, sow them in a greenhouse at Home-grown sweet peppers have excellent
70–80ºF (20–27ºC), and plant out (see p.108) color, texture, and f lavor, including shapes
when about 3in (8cm) tall. Block planting (see and colors not usually available in supermarkets.
p.109) will increase the chances of successful Chile peppers are equally varied and have a
pollination, necessary for production of cobs. hot taste, contained mainly in the seeds and
If sowing outdoors, a soil temperature of at least veins, which is essential for certain cuisines;
50°F (10ºC) is essential, occurring in late spring some forms are intended for ornament, with
in milder areas. Help germination, and growth colored foliage. Modern F1 hybrids are robust
after planting, by prewarming the soil with enough to crop reliably in cool seasons and
cloches or clear plastic (see p.108). Sow 2–3 seeds gardens. Peppers are ideal for container and patio
per station (see p.108), using the wider spacing (see cultivation; they yield 6–10lb (2.75–4.5kg) per
below) where the soil is of poor quality. Thin to 10ft (3m) row in cloches or frames; outdoors,
one strong seedling after germination. Seedlings the yield will be lower.
grow best at temperatures of 68–86°F (20–30ºC). ■ Site and soil Any fertile, moisture-retentive
The harvest can be extended with a single soil suits peppers if it drains well and warms
sowing of early, midseason, and late cultivars quickly in spring. Light soils are best; prewarm
in mid-spring, providing up to three weeks of heavy soils with cloches or clear plastic film.
harvest. Alternatively, make three spring sowings Outdoors, a sunny, sheltered site is vital;
of the same cultivar at two-week intervals. In otherwise, cover with cloches or cold frames.
cold areas, only early cultivars and sowings are ■ Sowing and planting Sow indoors (see p.108)
likely to succeed. at 65–70ºF (18–21ºC). Optimum growing

temperatures for seedlings are 60°F (16°C) at usually grown under cover in temperate
night, 64°F (18ºC) by day. Prick out then plant regions. Yellow-, black, white-, red-, or Okra
out into borders, pots, or growing bags after purple-fruited cultivars are available, but
hardening off (see pp.108–109). for the kitchen it is best to grow F1 hybrid Abelmoschus esculentus
SOWING DEPTH sow thinly, with light covering
black-fruited cultivars. Eggplants yield
PLANT SPACING 15–18in (38–45cm)
61 ⁄ 2 –10lb (3–4.5kg) per 10ft (3m) row in SOW • •
ROW SPACING 24–36in (60–75cm)
cloches or frames; for outdoor crops, the TRANSPLANT • •
yield will be lower. They may be grown HARVEST • • •
■ Routine care Provide support for the plants in containers on a sunny patio.
as they develop (see p.109) or their stems can ■ Site and soil Outdoors, only the sunniest, Okra is a half-hardy annual related to cotton.
break under the weight of the crop. If growth most sheltered sites are suitable. Elsewhere, Its immature parts have a unique glutinous
is weak, remove the first f lowers and feed with cloches or cold frames are essential for texture, essential for some cuisines, and are
balanced liquid fertilizer weekly (see p.110). providing the extra warmth and especially used as a green vegetable. The dried pods can
Pinching out the growing tip is not needed on the humidity eggplants need. Soil should also be used as f lavoring. Okra yields 31 ⁄4lb
peppers, and delays cropping. (See Mulching, be fertile, well-drained, and moisture-retentive, (1.5kg) per 10ft (3m) row in cloches or frames;
p.109, and Routine Care, p.110.) as well as warming quickly in spring (see p.108). for outdoor crops, the yield will be lower.
■ Harvesting and storing Pick the first fruits ■ Sowing and planting Sow seed indoors ■ Site and soil A fertile, well-drained soil,
when they are green and the skin is smooth and at 70–86ºF (21–30ºC). The optimum growing under cold frames or cloches, in a sunny,
glossy, to encourage further cropping. Later fruits temperatures after germination are 60°F sheltered site, is essential to provide the extra
can be picked green or allowed to ripen to yellow, (16°C) at night, 64°F (18°C) by day. Prick warmth and especially humidity needed. Even
orange, or red. Red peppers have a sweeter, richer out into pots (see p.108) when they are so, success is not guaranteed.
flavor. Allowing fruits to ripen, however, reduces about 2in (5cm) tall. Biodegradable pots ■ Sowing and planting The seeds are very
cropping by about a quarter. Chile peppers may be are best. Plant out (see p.109) when the first hard, and a preliminary soaking in warm water
gathered green or allowed to ripen, and dried or f lowers appear. for two hours will speed germination. Sow
pickled for winter storage. Some ripen yellow SOWING DEPTH sow thinly, with light covering
indoors (see p.108) at a minimum temperature of
or white. Black, purple, and violet chiles ripen to PLANT SPACING 24–30in (60–75cm)
60ºF (16ºC). The optimum growing temperatures
red or purplish-black, depending on cultivar. Both ROW SPACING 30–36in (75–90cm)
for seedlings are 68–86ºF (20–30ºC). Prick out
stay in good condition on the plant until frosted. seedlings when they are large enough to handle
■ Common problems Aphids (see p.251), red ■ Routine care Pinch out the growing tip (see p.108), and plant them out (see p.109) when
spider mite (see p.261), and whitef ly (see p.264) when the plants are about 8in (20cm) tall, and they reach 3–4in (8 –10cm) tall.
are common in cloches and cold frames, but again later if necessary, to encourage bushy SOWING DEPTH sow thinly, with light covering
biological controls (see p.52) are very effective. plants, which are easier to support (see p.109). PLANT SPACING 16–24in (40–60cm)
Botrytis (see p.252) rots fruits in cool or wet Small, but numerous fruits result, unless fruits ROW SPACING 24–30in (60–75cm)
weather; speedy removal of diseased material are thinned to one per stem. Water regularly
reduces damage. To prevent soil-borne diseases, to keep the soil moist. To increase humidity ■ Routine care Pinch out strong growing
especially verticillium wilt (see p.263), grow and warmth, grow the plants beneath a tent of tips to encourage bushiness. Provide support.
on a fresh site or in growing bags every year. f leece within the greenhouse. When the fruits (See Mulching, p.109, and Routine Care, p.110.)
■ Recommended cultivars begin to set, feed with a high-potash fertilizer ■ Harvesting As soon as pods have formed,
Sweet pepper or organic tomato feed every 10–12 days. (See cut them off with a sharp knife. They quickly
‘Ariane’—orange fruits, fast-growing, heavy also Mulching, p.109). become stringy, so regular cutting is essential.
crop, attractive in salads. ■ Harvesting Gather fruits when they ■ Common problems Aphids (see p.251), red
‘Bellboy’—hybrid, traditional, red ripe fruits. develop their full color, but before they become spider mite (see p.261), and whitef ly (see p.264)
‘Gypsy’—old favorite, pale green, long, pointed overripe and pithy. Cut the stem 1in (2.5cm) are common in cloches and cold frames, but
fruits ripen bright red, heavy crop. above the calyx—the joint of the stem and biological controls (see p.52) are very effective.
‘Mavras’—black fruits. the fruit. Botrytis (see p.252) rots fruits in cool or wet
‘Redskin’—compact hybrid, green fruits ripen to ■ Common problems Aphids (see p.251), weather; speedy removal of diseased material
red, heavy cropper, good for patios or cloches. red spider mite (see p.261), and whitef ly reduces damage. To avoid soil-borne diseases,
Chile pepper (p.264) are common in cloches and cold especially verticillium wilt (see p.263), grow
‘Anaheim’—popular in Mexican cuisine, used in frames, but biological controls (see p.52) are on a fresh site or in growing bags every year.
sauces, soups, and casseroles. very effective against these pests. Botrytis (see ■ Recommended cultivars
‘Habanero’—very hot, small orange fruits. p.252) may rot fruits in cool or wet weather; ‘Clemson’s Spineless’—old favorite.
‘Hungarian Wax’—long-pointed, light green, speedy removal of diseased material reduces ‘Pure Luck’—vigorous, high yields.
mild and sweet, getting hotter as it matures. the risk. Soil-borne diseases, especially
‘Jalapeno’—hot, tapering green fruits ripen red. verticillium wilt (see p.263), are avoided by
‘Tabasco’—green fruits maturing to red, very hot. growing on a fresh site or in growing bags Tomatillo
every year.
■ Recommended cultivars Physalis ixocarpa
Eggplant ‘Black Beauty’—open-pollinated variety,
thriving in almost every part of the country. SOW • •
Solanum melongena ‘Bonica’—large dark fruits, tall, vigorous. TRANSPLANT • •
‘Giotto’—large dark fruits, resistant to HARVEST • • •
SOW • •
verticillium wilt.
‘Moneymaker’—outdoors in warm areas, The tomatillo, or Mexican husk tomato, is a frost-
HARVEST • • • •
or in cold frame or cloche, tasty purple tender, sprawling plant, growing to about 3ft
fruits. (1m). Its green fruits ripen to yellow, purple, or
Eggplants are very attractive, slightly spiny ‘Snowy’—small white fruits, good for red, or may stay green. They are used in Mexican
plants of tropical origin, and are therefore patio planting. cuisine and for preserves. The berry is enclosed in

a tight-fitting, papery calyx, through which the to grow, but other stems arise, also bearing sideshoots (see p.109). No more than 4–5 trusses
ripening berry sometimes bursts. Tomatillos yield f lowers, so that a short, bushy plant covered can be relied upon to ripen outdoors before fall
21 ⁄4 –41 ⁄2 lb (1–2kg) per plant. Named cultivars are in f lowers results. Bush cultivars crop very frosts, so when enough trusses have set fruit,
seldom offered. early and abundantly, and they are worth trying pinch out the terminal shoot, leaving two leaves
■ Site and soil As for peppers (see p.111). on greenhouse staging for the earliest crops. above the final truss.
■ Sowing and planting Sow seed in the They can be time-consuming to harvest, their Water all types well in dry spells, especially
greenhouse (see p.108) at a minimum of 60ºF fruits tend to be less tasty, and the range of container plants. Overfeeding or overwatering
(16ºC). Optimum growing temperatures for colors, shapes, and sizes is less than vine types. reduce f lavor and may lead to disease. If the
seedlings are 60°F (16°C) at night, 64°F (18ºC) There are also intermediate types, which leaves become pale and are shed, weekly feeding
by day. Plant out in late spring and early summer have a habit between the fully bushy and the with potassium-rich fertilizer, such as tomato
into beds, pots, or growing bags after hardening vine types. They usually require supporting, feed, until foliage color improves, boosts
off (see p.109). but removal of sideshoots is not carried out, plant health and cropping. Mulch with organic
the whole plant being loosely tied to the matter or grow plants through black plastic
SOWING DEPTH sow thinly, with light covering
support. Many of the unusual Mediterranean (see p.109). Removing leaves below the lowest
PLANT SPACING 18in (45cm)
and other less commonly grown cultivars ripening truss helps air circulation and reduces
ROW SPACING 36in (90cm)
have a semi-indeterminate habit, with some disease; keep leaves higher up or fruits will not
■ Routine care Tomatillos seldom require stems ending in f lowers and others trailing ripen or be poorly f lavored.
feeding or watering. Use three canes and loops without end. These unruly plants need careful ■ Harvesting Ideally, allow fruits to ripen
of twine to support them (see p.109). In frames judgment in curbing the straggling shoots on the vine, and pick them when they have
and cloches, pinch out the growing tips to make and preserving the f lowering ones. developed their full color and f lavor. At the
the plants more compact. Yields are very variable, with the most end of the season either pick remaining green
■ Harvesting Many fruits fall before ripe and f lavorsome cultivars and cherry tomatoes fruits and leave them in a warm place to ripen
can be left to ripen on the ground. Full color often cropping lightly, while heavy croppers or pull up the entire vine and hang it upside
indicates ripeness, and green cultivars are ripe are often dull in f lavor. Vine tomatoes yield down indoors. Cover bush types with cloches
when the fruit breaks through the husk. 4–9lb (1.8–4kg) per plant outdoors or 6–11lb to finish ripening. Where vine types can be
■ Common problems There are no significant (2.7–5kg) in an unheated greenhouse. Bush bent to ground level, similarly cover the vines.
problems with this crop. and semi-indeterminate tomatoes should yield ■ Common problems Outdoor tomatoes
9lb (4kg) per plant outdoors. share several diseases and soil pests with potatoes:
■ Site and soil Any fertile, nutrient-rich, blight (see p.260) can be serious and potato cyst
Tomato well-drained soil is suitable, if plenty of organic nematode (see p.260) and viruses (see p.263) also
matter has been incorporated in the top 12in occur. Damp may cause foot and root rots (see
Lycopersicon esculentum (30cm). If necessary, before planting add an p.255). Greenhouse tomatoes suffer mainly from
all-purpose fertilizer at a rate of 3oz per sq yd whitefly (see p.264) and occasionally from aphids
SOW • •
(105g per sq m) or pelleted poultry manure at (see p.251), caterpillars (see p.253), and red spider
4oz per sq yd (150g per sq m). mite (see p.261). In stagnant or damp conditions,
■ Sowing and planting Sow indoors no more botrytis will cause tomato ghost spot (see p.263)
HARVEST • • • •
than eight weeks before the last frost is expected. on fruits; high temperatures will exacerbate tomato
Tomatoes are short-lived, tender perennials Plants sown earlier will be too large to plant out blotchy ripening (see p.263). Magnesium deficiency
grown as annuals. Seed suppliers cater for the before the risk of frost has passed, and will need is occasionally a problem (see p.257). To avoid soil-
great popularity of tomatoes by supplying many cloche or cold frame protection. Sow thinly in borne diseases, use containers or growing bags.
different types. Cultivars have been developed pots of multipurpose compost, adding enough ■ Recommended cultivars
with fruits ranging from currant size, through vermiculite or sifted compost to cover the seeds Bush tomato
cherry and plum tomatoes, to the grapefruit- (see p.108). Alternatively, sow two seeds per pot, ‘Garden Pearl’—tumbling, small fruits, good
sized beefsteak types. Shapes are spherical, later selecting the strongest seedling. Warm for pots and hanging baskets.
oblong, elongated, or f lattened globes, and colors conditions (59–86ºF/15–30ºC) are needed for ‘Red Alert’—early, heavy cropping, sweet fruits.
include red, green, yellow, and purple. Another germination, best provided by a heated Cherry tomato
result of this popularity is that a fair range of propagator (see p.63). When seedlings emerge, ‘Gold nugget’—plants are loaded with round,
different types may be bought as ready-grown transfer pots to better-lit conditions, such as a golden fruit from early in the season until frost.
plants in garden centers. There are two main greenhouse or windowsill. ‘Sungold’—heavy cropping, sweet, golden-
types of tomato plant: vine (or indeterminate) After germination, seedlings should be grown orange fruit.
tomatoes and bush (or determinate) tomatoes. at 70–81ºF (21–27ºC). When the seedlings can be ‘Sweet Million’—heavy-cropping, sweet,
Vine tomatoes are usually grown with the handled, prick into individual 2–3in (5–8cm) pots, very small fruits with thin skins, f lavorsome.
central stem trained up a tall support (see p.110), large modules or, better, biodegradable pots; feed Plum tomato
with its sideshoots removed; these cordons will with balanced liquid fertilizer after 2–3 weeks or ‘Olivade’—heavy-cropping, brilliant texture,
grow to several metres in frost-free conditions. if growth appears discolored. Plant out after roots good f lavor especially when cooked.
The f lowers and consequent fruits are borne have filled the pot and the first flower buds appear. Vine tomato
on trusses that grow from the main stem. Vine 3
‘Black Russian’—beefsteak, purple-black
SOWING DEPTH /4in (2cm)
tomatoes are easier to keep within bounds if fruits, semi-determinate, juicy, fine-f lavor.
FINAL PLANT SPACING vine: 15–18in (38–45cm)
grown in greenhouses, containers, or growing bush: 12–36in (30–90cm),
‘Golden Sunrise’—yellow fruits, extremely sweet,
bags, although if in the latter they will need depending on vigor
very heavy-cropping, old favorite.
more attention (see p.110). Avoid greenhouse ROW SPACING vine: 36in (90cm) single or
‘Green zebra’—lime-emerald f lesh has an
cultivars outdoors, since the fruits often need staggered double rows
invigorating lemon-lime f lavor.
the protection and warmth under cover to ripen. bush: 36in (90cm)
‘Juliet’—deep red, shiny fruits.
Bush tomatoes are much more compact plants ‘Moneymaker’—deep red fruits, extra-vigorous.
with plenty of side branches, and are better for ■ Routine care Cover bush tomatoes with ‘Tigerella’—striped fruits, very good f lavor.
growing outdoors. Flowers appear on the end f leece or cloches, and support if needed (see ‘Yellow Perfection’—yellow fruits, very
of each stem. After f lowering, the stem ceases p.109). Support vine tomatoes, removing sweet, heavy-cropping, old favorite.

Growing cucurbits
Included in the cucurbit, or gourd,
family (Cucurbitacae) are cucumbers,
Planting out seedlings in biodegradable pots
melons, pumpkins, squashes, and When seedlings sown
zucchini. These are all half-hardy
annuals that make good ornamental
1 in biodegradable pots
reach the top of the pot,
plants where trained because the leaves fill in with more compost
and f lowers are attractive as well as to earth up the stem and
the fruits. The fruits are either eaten encourage strong roots.
raw or cooked, or used in preserves. About 2 weeks after
The young leaves and shoots are
sometimes consumed as greens and
2 sowing, when the
seedling has 3 or 4 true
the seeds as snacks, and even the leaves and the roots are
f lowers are occasionally eaten (see 1 2 starting to show through
individual crops, pp.117–119, for details the walls of the pot, it is
of which parts of any crop are edible). ready for planting out.
The closely related ornamental gourds Plant the seedling in
may be harmful if eaten. If allowed 3 its pot after digging out
to sprawl, squashes can take up quite holes at spacings appropriate
a lot of space; training them vertically for the crop; water the holes
overcomes this problem. and pots thoroughly. Plant
so the leaves sit just above
SOWING CUCURBIT CROPS the soil surface. Mound a
The large, flat seeds of cucurbits usually little soil around the seedling
produce fast-growing seedlings, but stem to prevent water from
collecting around it and
germination requires soil temperatures
of 55–86°F (13–30°C) and some of the 3 encouraging rot. Water in
to settle the soil, and label.
crops are slow to mature. Seedlings need
similar soil and air temperatures. Frost
is fatal to leaves and stems, although ripe Outdoor sowings of fast-growing SITE AND SOIL
fruits may survive low temperatures. cucurbits can be made in late spring All cucurbits prefer a warm, sheltered
In cooler areas, therefore, it is best or in early summer in favorable site. Cucurbits were traditionally grown
to sow all cucurbits under cover; in areas, or earlier if the soil is pre- on ridges or mounds, often heavily
warmer areas, with long, hot summers, warmed with clear plastic or cloches enriched with organic matter. This
sowing fast-growing crops such as (see p.46) for six weeks before sowing. helps particularly where soil is poor,
zucchini and ridge cucumbers directly Sow one to three seeds per station, on shallow, and prone to waterlogging.
outdoors usually produces stronger their sides; later, thin to the strongest Mounds and ridges require great labor
plants, since cucurbits resent root seedling, if applicable. Protect newly to make and fill with organic matter,
disturbance, but slow-maturing crops sown areas with f leece (see p.48) for however, and are difficult to water
such as melons and squashes should four weeks after sowing. adequately. Flat-topped beds, about
still be sown under cover. 3ft (1m) wide and raised by 6in (15cm),
Sow in mid- to late spring in large SUCCESSIONAL SOWING are just as successful, without the
modules or 3in (8cm) pots, preferably Because most cucurbit crops produce drawbacks. Another traditional practice
biodegradable ones (see above) so that a succession of fruits, successional was to prepare 12in (30cm) planting
there is no disturbance to the roots when sowing (see p.69) is seldom required. holes, refilled with soil enriched with
planting out the seedlings later. Half-fill The exceptions to this rule are zucchini organic matter. Equally good crops
the pot or module with compost, and and cucumbers, where an early spring can be more conveniently grown on
sow one or two seeds on their sides, sowing may need to be supplemented well-manured flat soil, especially if
rather than upright; this reduces soil by an early summer sowing in order it is mulched after planting (see p.72).
resistance, since the emerging seed leaves to produce later supplies. Planting cucurbits on old compost
are raised clear of the soil, still encased heaps to utilize the residual fertility
in the seed coat. If necessary, thin out HARDENING OFF can be successful provided that the
the weaker seedling after germination. Before planting out seedlings raised abundance of nutrients does not lead
When the remaining seedling reaches under cover, harden them off (see p.65) to leafy, nonf lowering growth. The
the top of the pot, fill in around it with for two weeks in a cold frame, with less vigorous cucurbits, such as
more compost (see above) to produce a gradually increasing ventilation, or cucumbers and zucchini, also grow
strong root system. under a double layer of f leece (see p.48). well in pots of at least 10in (25cm)

in diameter, and in growing bags. Planting out seedlings

Success, however, is dependent on As an alternative to growing
plentiful and frequent watering and seedlings in biodegradable pots
(see facing page), sow seed in
feeding (see Routine Care, below). 3in (8cm) pots or modules and
plant out with care when the
PLANTING OUT seedlings have 3 or 4 true leaves.
As soon as the seedlings have three In a bed prepared with organic
or four true leaves, usually about two matter, plant at appropriate
weeks after sowing, they are ready for intervals—here ‘Turks’ Turban’
squash seedlings are spaced
planting out (see facing page, and right).
3ft (1m) apart. Use a hand trowel
Plant to the depth of the seed leaves; or a bulb planter to make the
this buries some stem and allows more holes. Firm, water in, and label.
roots to form, which improves early
growth. When conditions are dull SUPPORTING CUCURBIT CROPS shading paint or netting in midsummer
and wet, however, shallower planting The shoots of trailing or climbing to protect plants from scorching.
reduces the risk of disease. If in doubt, cucurbits can be tied into twine, wires, Feeding will increase yields, although
make a slight mound around the stem trellis, or bamboo wigwams (see below) too much nitrogen should be avoided
to prevent accumulation of water at to save space and protect fruits from because it can lead to excessive leaf
the collar of the plant, which might wet soil, slugs, disease, and damage. production at the expense of fruiting.
cause rotting. The brittle roots and However, they can ramble freely and Cucurbits need only small amounts of
fragile area where the stem joins the crops are often heavier if this is allowed. fertilizer; a suitable dressing is 2–3oz per
roots means that each seedling requires sq yd (75–100g per sq m) of a general
very gentle handling, especially if it ROUTINE CARE compound fertilizer, or 3–4oz per sq yd
is being planted out as a bare-root Protect all early sowings and plantings, (100–140g per sq m) of an organic feed
seedling (see p.70). especially in cooler areas, with cold such as dried poultry manure with a
Cucurbit seedlings benefit from extra frames, cloches, or fleece (see pp.45–48). 5 percent nitrogen content (see pp.20–23).
warmth and protection after planting Melons and cucumbers will require Halve these amounts for plants growing
out, provided by either a cloche or fleece protection throughout the year. In in fertile, recently manured soil. Regular
(see pp.45–48), especially if conditions are hot periods, ventilate cold frames and feeding is vital for container crops.
still chilly. On frosty nights, protect with cloches sufficiently to prevent excessive Mulching (see p.72) helps to retain
burlap sacking or similar cloth. temperatures. In greenhouses, use soil moisture, suppress weeds, and keep

Supporting cucurbit crops

Some cucurbits have a climbing or trailing wigwam or row arrangement. A trellis
habit, and therefore need some form of would suit a sheltered spot and allow
support to prevent the fruits from resting on fruits to hang down. Greenhouse cordon
the ground, where they will be susceptible crops can be twined around single strings
to rotting, as well as the attentions of slugs hanging vertically from the roof. Individual
and snails. Outdoor crops may be supported fruits may also be supported with netting
with bamboo stakes and twine, either in a attached to the overall support network.

Outdoor squashes on a fan trellis

Tying in outdoor cucumbers into stake wigwam Greenhouse cucumber growing up vertical twine Individual greenhouse melon supported by a net

the fruits clean. Additionally, black

plastic sheet mulches (see p.42) will
Hand-pollinating cucurbit flowers
help to warm the soil. Organic mulches Help cucurbit plants to set fruit by
feed the crops, but very rich ones,
such as mushroom compost, can lead
1 pollinating them by hand, rather than
waiting for insects to do it. Pick a fully
to more leafy growth than fruit. open male flower—one with no embryonic
Frequent, plentiful watering is fruit at the base (see below)—and carefully
essential, especially for crops grown pinch off all the petals to expose the
under cover or in containers. Water stamens, which bear the powdery
after planting and sowing, during yellow pollen.
flowering and fruit swelling, and in
dry spells. A low-level or drip-irrigation No fruit
system (see p.54) can be indispensable. below
To grow very large fruits such as giant
pumpkins as much as 2½ gallons
(11 liters) per week for each plant may Insert the male flower carefully into
be required, to which liquid fertilizer
(see pp.20–23) should be added. Male flower
Embryonic fruit
forming at
2 a female flower—one that has an
embryonic fruit (see left)—so that the
base of flower
pollen is transferred from the male stamens
WEED CONTROL Female flower onto the stigma of the female flower.
The spreading shoots and large leaves
of mature cucurbits will suppress weeds
by themselves. In the early stages, yellow, powdery pollen. spacing and early planting out will create
however, use organic or black plastic Each fertile male flower has enough a predominance of male flowers.
mulches (see pp.41–42). Alternatively, pollen for several females. Repeated Cold temperatures cause incomplete
prepare the site in early spring and allow pollination on consecutive sunny days pollination, where fruits swell only at the
the weeds to germinate; before planting, is sometimes required for a good “set.” flower end, and shrivel at the other end.
remove them by shallow hoeing or with Male flowers can predominate during Cool weather can also lead to complete
a contact herbicide. This is known as short days early in the season, but the failure to set fruit, because pollination
the stale seedbed technique. If left female flowers will prevail later on. fails through lack of insects and impaired
undisturbed, the soil will remain largely Wider spacing between the plants, pollen germination and development.
weed-free until the foliage spreads less shade, later planting, and potassium- If pollination occurs but fruitlets fail to
sufficiently to smother the weeds. rich liquid fertilizers (see p.20) can develop, the cause is often that there are
increase female flower numbers. Closer more fruits than the plant can support.
POLLINATION This will be resolved as the plant grows.
Pollination is an essential requirement Fruitlets may be thinned to just one
for most cucurbits to set fruits, and per stem, or even one per plant, where
separate male and female flowers are large fruits are wanted. This is especially
borne on the same plant. The only necessary for melons. There is no need
exception to this are greenhouse to thin cucumbers or zucchini.
cucumbers (see p.117). Cucurbits are
pollinated by insects, so fleece, frame, HARVESTING AND STORING
or cloche coverings should be opened Frequent harvesting of immature
at flowering time to allow insects access. zucchini, cucumbers, and melons
When there are too few pollinators, is essential to prevent poor-quality,
or they are insufficiently active, hand- overly mature fruits from forming.
pollination (see above) can be carried Cut the stalks cleanly with a sharp
out by picking a male flower and knife or pruners. Fruits of pumpkins
pressing it lightly onto a female one and squashes are ready to harvest when
so that the stigma, in the center of the they develop full color and a hard skin,
female flower, receives pollen from and ring hollow when tapped. The stem
the stamens of the male. Small flowers, will also start to crack. Fruits for storage
such as those of cucumbers and melons, should be left to mature on the plants
which are easily damaged, are best Protecting ripening fruits as long as possible. After cutting, cure
If plants are grown unsupported outdoors,
shaken over the females. Male cucurbit place a piece of wood or a brick underneath
them in a greenhouse or warm room
flowers are fertile only for a short time; the ripening fruits (here, a winter squash) at 81–90°F (27–32°C) for several days.
check that they are ready by brushing to raise them off the soil. This will minimize Store at about 50°F (10°C), with fairly
a finger over the male flower to detect any possibility of soiling or rotting. high humidity to prevent shriveling.

Cucumber outdoors; delay this by two weeks in cooler
areas or for gherkins. Greenhouse cucumbers
can be grown in growing bags.
and gherkin Sowing direct (see p.114) is possible in early
summer, especially if soil is pre-warmed with
Cucumis sativus cloches or f leece, or in midsummer for gherkins.
Sow three seeds per station, each seed 6in (15cm)
SOW • • • •
apart. Where space is tight, seeds can be sown
in a drill (see p.67), with the plants later trained
HARVEST • • • •
up a mesh or trellis fence to make an attractive
cucumber hedge.
Home-grown cucumbers are worth the
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
effort, since they are far tastier than those
PLANT SPACING 18in (45cm) for drills
from supermarkets. There are two basic types:
6in (15cm) at stations
greenhouse and outdoor cucumbers. Greenhouse ROW SPACING 24–30in (60–75cm)
types are more difficult to grow, but have
long, smooth fruits. Some resilient greenhouse ■ Routine care For supports, use wigwams,
cultivars also grow well in cold frames. Outdoor trellis, twine, or wires (see p.115). Pinch out
types include ridge cucumbers and gherkins, growing tips of climbers only when they reach
which are short, rough-skinned, and hardier the top of the support; plants allowed to trail
than greenhouse cucumbers, but equal in f lavor. on the ground crop better and use space more
Japanese outdoor cucumbers are robust and efficiently if growing tips are regularly removed
approach greenhouse types in size and quality. to encourage bushy growth. In cold frames
Cucumbers are climbing plants suitable and cloches, train sideshoots to the corners and
for growing on wigwams, trellis, or wires pinch out the tips again. Water plentifully (see
(see p.115), or for trailing along the ground; p.116); never allow cucumbers to dry out. If
better-quality fruits will be obtained by using growth slows and leaves become pale, use a
supports, however, and the plants occupy less balanced liquid fertilizer (see p.21) as directed
space. No cucumbers can tolerate frost. They by the manufacturer until leaves green up again.
normally yield about 15 fruits per plant. Alternatively, use an organic mulch (see p.41)
Modern greenhouse cucumbers are all- to add nutrient, keep fruits clean, reduce water
female and do not require pollination to set loss, and suppress weeds.
fruit. For these plants, pollination can cause ■ Harvesting Cucumbers and gherkins are
unshapely and bitter-tasting fruits, and should best harvested before any yellowing begins, and
be avoided by growing them well apart from after the sides become parallel. Avoid picking
other cucurbits. Grown in cool conditions, excessively young fruits, however, as they often
however, male f lowers (see p.116) occasionally taste bitter. Greenhouse cucumbers are usually
arise, and these should be removed. ready from midsummer; gherkins a month later.
All outdoor cucumbers and gherkins, except Outdoor cutting can be done in late summer
all-female cultivars, need pollination by insects to mid-fall, or the first frosts; and for gherkins,
or by hand (see p.116), or no crop will result. in late fall.
■ Site and soil For germination, cucumber ■ Common problems Powdery mildew (see
seeds need a minimum temperature of 68°F p.260) often occurs in late summer; good
(20°C); the optimum growing temperature cultivation, especially watering and feeding,
is 82°F (28°C); in greenhouses, provide a helps prevent this. Cucumber mosaic virus (see
minimum of 68°F (20°C) at night. Sheltered, p.254) is common and can cause poorly formed
warm, sunny conditions are therefore essential fruits; disease-resistant cultivars are sometimes
for outdoor cucumbers and gherkins, but black available—remove all diseased plants. Slugs and
plastic mulches and f leece (see p.42) can help snails (see p.262) can destroy young plants. Red
warm the soil. Plants benefit from the spider mite (see p.261) and whitef ly (see p.264)
incorporation of organic matter during soil are very damaging in cold frames; biological
preparation, and mulching (see p.72) during controls are very effective in these situations.
the growing period. On heavy soils, it is Foot and root rots (see p.255) affect stem bases
better to grow cucumbers and gherkins on and are associated with overwatered plants and
a f lat-topped raised bed (see p.114) than a ridge. badly drained soil. Bean f ly (see p.252) can
Cucumbers and gherkins will crop better when sometimes damage outdoor sowings in early
protected with cloches, cold frames, or even summer. Fleece will exclude them. If male
f leece (see p.48), in cold districts. f lowers are allowed to pollinate the plant, the
■ Sowing and planting Sow in a greenhouse fruits will be bitter and inedible (see p.252).
(see p.114) in early to mid-spring, and from ■ Recommended cultivars
mid-spring outdoors. After hardening off Greenhouse cucumber
(see p.114), plant out seedlings in late spring in ‘Eureka hybrid’—most disease-resistant
cloches and cold frames, and in early summer cucumber ever grown, uniquely versatile.

‘Femspot’—hybrid, dark fruits, easy to grow. Alternatively, grow them up a support (see p.115), is required for seed to germinate, and the plants
‘Improved Telegraph’—good frame type, not making sure it is sufficiently sturdy to support grow best at around 77°F (25°C). In cool,
all-female, reliable, high yields, good f lavor. large, heavy fruits. Support individual fruits with temperate areas, this means growing them in
‘Lemon’—lemon-yellow, tender and sweet. netting if necessary (see p.115). If very large fruits a greenhouse or a cold frame, or protecting
‘Rocky’—f lesh with good f lavor. Very early are desired, thin when they are still small fruitlets them with f leece or cloches (see pp.43–48).
maturity with high yields. to only 2–3 per plant. ■ Sowing and planting In cool areas, sow
Outdoor cucumber and gherkin ■ Harvesting and storing Gather fruits when in the greenhouse (see p.114) in mid-spring, and
‘Burpless Tasty Green’—trailing, tender fruits. they are fully colored and have a hollow ring plant out in early summer. When planting, the
‘Bush Champion’—ridge-type cucumber, when tapped. Allow the skins to harden in the rootball should only just be covered in soil, since
good in containers, resistant to cucumber sun. For storing, use larger, more mature fruits. deep planting encourages rotting. In warmer
mosaic virus. If carefully cured and stored (see p.116), they areas, station sow direct outdoors under cover
‘Crystal Lemon’—lemon-shaped, yellowish, will keep for several months, sometimes even in late spring (see p.114).
tasty fruits. into early spring.
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
‘Kyoto’—Japanese type, slender fruits. ■ Common problems Powdery mildew
PLANT SPACING 2–3ft (60–100cm)
‘Marketmore’—ridge type, disease-resistant. (see p.260) is the only real threat. The crops ROW SPACING 3ft (1m)
‘Tokyo Slicer’—Japanese type, slender fruits. might be affected by foot and root rots (see
‘Venio Pickling’—traditional pickling gherkin. p.255), cucumber mosaic virus (see p.254), and ■ Routine care Constant moisture is required,
slugs and snails may attack seedlings (see p.262). especially during the f lowering period (see
■ Recommended cultivars p.116). If growth f lags, apply a liquid fertilizer
Pumpkin and Pumpkin weekly (see p.21). If growing in a greenhouse,
‘Atlantic Giant’—trailing, exhibition type, huge train the stems up supports (see p.115). In a
winter squash record-breaking fruits.
‘Howden Biggie’—upright, variable ridging,
cold frame, train the shoots into the corners
as they grow. After planting, “stop” the main
Cucurbita maxima, C. moschata, true pumpkin shapes ranging from globe to stem by pinching out the leading shoot after
and C. pepo tall globe. two leaves have developed, resulting in two
‘Jack o’ Lantern’—classic Halloween type. further shoots. Stop these after seven leaves
‘Rouge Vif D’Etamp’—trailing, f lat shape, rich have been produced, and stop the shoots
SOW • • •
orange fruits, stores well. resulting from this when they have five
‘Triple Treat’—trailing, bright orange fruits, leaves. Subsequent shoots bear the crop.
Halloween type, edible seeds. The first fruits to set inhibit further fruit
Pumpkins and winter squashes are a valuable, Winter squash formation. To avoid this, keep cloches, cold
highly ornamental winter vegetable. Most ‘Crown Prince’—trailing, steely blue color, frames, or f leece in place and closed until
trail to form very large, rambling plants, but nutty f lavor. the plant is in full f lower, then open up the
some bushy types also exist. Although mainly ‘Golden Hubbard’—produces sweet large fruits protective covering to allow insects to gain
grown for storage, the immature fruits may packed with dry, fine-grained f lesh. access and to pollinate all the f lowers
be eaten in the same way as zucchini (see p.117). ‘Queensland Blue’—trailing, blue-green fruits, simultaneously. Thin the fruits to two or four
The seeds of some cultivars may be roasted good f lavor. per plant when they are about 1in (2.5cm)
to eat; the f lowers, tendrils, and shoot tips ‘Sweet Dumpling’—small, densely f leshed in diameter. Stop any fruit-bearing shoots at
are edible as for zucchini (see p.117). Normal fruits, sweet, nutty. 2–3 leaves beyond the fruit to concentrate the
yields are one large fruit or 4–6 small fruits plant’s energy into the fruits. Support individual
per plant. greenhouse fruits with netting (see p.115).
■ Site and soil An open, sunny site and Sweet melon ■ Harvesting and storing When the stalk
fertile, well-drained soil are essential (see begins to crack and the fruit develops a
p.114). Seeds require a minimum of 56°F Cucumis melo sweet scent, cut the stem with a sharp knife
(13°C) to germinate, and the plants grow best or secateurs. Sweet melons may be stored
at 65–70°F (18–21°C). Pumpkins and winter successfully for several weeks in a refrigerator.
SOW • • •
squashes can be unreliable in cooler areas. Covering fruits with cloches or f leece as cool
■ Sowing and planting A long growing season fall nights approach will help speed the process
HARVEST • • • •
is required and seed is best sown indoors (see of ripening.
p.114) in mid- to late spring for planting out Sweet melons are trailing, tender annuals from ■ Common problems Powdery mildew
in late spring and early summer (see p.115). tropical regions that need plenty of warmth; (see p.260), cucumber mosaic virus (see p.254),
Alternatively, station sow outdoors in early in temperate areas, they can only be grown foot and root rots (see p.255), slugs and snails
summer (see p.114), ideally in soil prewarmed successfully if protection is provided. There (see p.262), red spider mite (see p.261), whitef ly
with f leece or cloches (see pp.46–48). are three main types of sweet melon: cantaloupe, (see p.264), aphids (see p.251), and bean f ly (see
winter or casaba, and musk. Cantaloupe types p.252) may all be troublesome.
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
have thick, rough, grooved skins, grayish green ■ Recommended cultivars
PLANT SPACING 3ft (90cm) bush cultivars
5ft (1.5m) trailing cultivars
in color. Winter melons have yellow, or yellow- ‘Blenheim Orange’—old favorite, netted
ROW SPACING 3ft (90cm) bush cultivars
and-green-striped, smooth skins, and include fruits, yellow f lesh.
5ft (1.5m) trailing cultivars
honeydew melons. Musk types are usually smaller ‘Castella’—striped fruits, grown outdoors
than the other two types, and have smooth skins, under cloches or f leece, sweet amber f lesh.
■ Routine care Trailing types need less water often covered with a network of fine lines. Sweet ‘Edonis’—Charentais cantaloupe, early, netted
and feeding than other cucurbits as they spread melons yield 2–4 fruits per plant. pale green skin, delicious orange f lesh.
widely, rooting deeply as they go. Bushy plants ■ Site and soil For uninterrupted growth and ‘Galia’—sweet, vigorous, resists mildew.
need normal amounts (see p.115), and a mulch good f lavor, sweet melons need an especially ‘Ogen’—cantaloupe, reliable, dark green striped
(see p.116) also helps retain moisture. To save sunny, warm, and sheltered site, and a rich soil skin, f lavorsome green f lesh.
space, you can use short canes to train shoots with plenty of organic matter added to it (see ‘Sivan’—rich orange f lesh with a hint of
of trailing types into circles on the ground. p.114). A minimum temperature of 60°F (16°C) charentias-like butterscotch f lavor.

are relatively robust and fast-growing, and grow

Vegetable marrow Watermelon easily outdoors. Some have a trailing habit.
Summer squashes are treated in the same way as
Cucurbita pepo Citrullus lanatus zucchini. The f lowers, especially male ones, are
considered a delicacy, stuffed or fried; the tendrils
SOW • • • SOW •
and shoot tips can also be steamed for eating.
Zucchini and summer squashes yield 6–12 fruits
per plant. They are not suitable for storing.
■ Site and soil Zucchini prefer an open, sunny
Vegetable marrows are easy-to-grow, bush Watermelons are spreading annual plants. Their position, and benefit from the addition of plenty of
or trailing annuals; the fruits are traditional stems can grow up to 12ft (4m) in length. The organic matter during soil preparation (see p.114),
summer and fall vegetables that can also be large fruits—up to 2ft (60cm) long—are oblong as well as dressing with a mulch (see p.116). Seeds
stored for winter use. Marrows are usually or rounded, cream or green in color, striped or need a minimum of 56°F (13°C) to germinate.
elongated and striped, but plain-colored and mottled, and are eaten raw. Watermelons need ■ Sowing and planting For early crops, sow
rounded types are also available. Vegetable a long growing season and plenty of warmth in in a greenhouse in mid- to late spring (see p.114),
marrows normally yield two large fruits, or order to thrive. In cool, temperate regions, a cold and plant out under cloches or frames in late
six to eight small ones, per plant. frame can give adequate protection if sited in a spring or outdoors in early summer (see p.115).
■ Site and soil Vegetable marrows prefer very warm, sunny, sheltered position; otherwise, Later crops can be direct sown, three seeds per
an open, sunny position and benefit from the grow them in a greenhouse. New developments station, outdoors in early summer (see p.114).
addition of organic matter during soil preparation include small-fruited, quick-growing cultivars. Delay sowing, or planting out, for about two
(see p.114). They also do well if grown through Watermelons yield one or two fruits per plant. weeks in cooler districts.
a mulch (see p.116). Seeds need a minimum soil ■ Site and soil Watermelons require similar,
SOWING DEPTH 1in (2.5cm)
temperature of 13°C (56°F) to germinate. conditions to sweet melons (see above), but
PLANT SPACING 36in (90cm)
■ Sowing and planting For early crops, sow optimum temperatures for growth are higher:
ROW SPACING 36in (90cm)
in the greenhouse in mid- to late spring (see 77–85°F (25–30°C). 4ft (1.2m) for trailing cultivars
p.114), and plant out either under clo