10 idiot-proof veg to grow now
(Or how not to get scurvy during lockdown). Here's how to go self-sufficient, thanks to TV gardener Toby Buckland's top veg patch tips. Ready the trowels!
With time on our hands and veg boxes in short supply, we donned our best Land Girl lipstick and locked TV gardener Toby Buckland in his shed until he came up with some no-nonsense crops to fill our empty trugs.
You can come out now, Toby!
Now is premium sowing time, and all my recommendations can be planted outdoors in your garden now. Don’t grow veg amongst your flowers, as they shade out your seedlings: grow special flowers – otherwise known as companion plants – alongside your veg instead, such as tagetes and nasturtium. They deter pests too, as does borage which has lovely little blue flowers, perfect for freezing in ice cubes and popping in your gin – a nice reward for all that hard work.
Sorry, it’s too late to buy seed potatoes and onions (they need to be started in March) but you could also plant edibles which come back every year if you can get your mitts on them, including rhubarb, asparagus and globe artichokes.
Why: Salsa. Gazpacho. Mozzarella: all the best summer dishes need a tomato. Just add salt.
Choose: ‘Gardener’s Delight’ – it’s the easiest cherry tom, and you don’t need a greenhouse to grow it.
Remember to: Sow seeds in a small pot on a windowsill, then plant out next to a bamboo cane. Cut off branches (not the leaves!) so it grows on a single stem which you tie into the cane with twine. Flowers form between leaves, don’t cut them off as that’s where fruit will form, obvs.
2/Cut and come-again salads
Why: Harvest, eat, repeat (they re-sprout after picking).
Choose: Mustard, rocket, mizuna and salad mixes, such as ‘Nice ‘n Spicy’ Mix which is just like the plastic-bagged blend you buy at the supermarket but much better value. If you’re feeling really lazy, buy baby plants.
Remember to: Sprinkle seed in a block, in watered, weeded soil or in a 20cm pot in a sunny place now. In the heat of summer dappled shade is better. Harvest with scissors and leave the bottom buds to bounce back.
Why: Loadsa crops – they don’t hold back.
Remember to: Avoid leaves when watering which turns plants white with mildew and slows them down.
Why: Like peas but far quicker.
Remember too: Push a row of tall sticks, the twiggier the better, in the soil and sow a generous double row of seeds/peas 2cm apart either side. Keep watered and pick the pods just as peas start to show inside.
Why: The taste of fine dining *sobs*.
Choose: Dwarf types, like ‘Delinel’ and ‘Purple Tepee’. Both are easy to spot when picking, important as if you leave any unpicked they stop producing.
Remember to: Sow in orderly rows in a nice sunny spot, with seed 12cm apart, remember to water and have I mentioned picking? Don’t forget, now. So snappy with vitality you can eat them raw.
Why: Fills an empty space fast and kids love ’em.
Choose: Spaghetti types, (useful for when you run out of that stockpiled pasta) easier to grow than butternut and better to cook with as the spaghetti-like flesh is brilliant for sponging up sauces. Kuri is good for summer soups and so dinky you can grow it on a frame.
Remember to: Sow seeds on their side in a pot and plant out when the frosts have finished at the end of May. Allow 1m and a half per plant. Cut off the leaves close to the fruits to let sunshine in to ripen the gourds.
Why: For delicious wilted greens AND you’ll be picking from plants sown now this time next year, right through winter.
Choose: Rainbow types for brilliant beds.
Why: You’ve never tasted anything like these home-grown babies.
Choose: ‘Nantes’ types because they’re fast and you can pick when small or leave to mature.
Remember to: Sow sparingly: better to leave a few cm between each seed as thinning seedlings out attracts a root-eating fly. Pick when you just see them tops swelling above the soil.
Why: So you can scoop it off the BBQ and say, “I grew it myself you know.”
Choose: ‘Swift’ – it’s a sweetie, and really reliable.
Remember: Sow seed direct in a sunny place, 20cm apart, not in a row but in a square block (eg 5×5 plants) to pollinate the plants. If mice are a problem sow in pots first (or get a cat).