Growing Vegetables for the Kitchen Garden
Deciding which cultivars of a particular vegetable to grow can be much more of a problem than choosing a flower. You can usually see a flower growing, or look at a picture in a catalogue, and know instinctively if it’s one that you want to grow. You either like the look of it or you don’t. That’s not so with vegetables — a picture of a carrot tells you nothing of its flavour, time of cropping, or cropping potential.
There can be no ‘best buy’, for although one person may wish to grow for flavour, another may be more interested in sheer weight of crop, while for the exhibitor neither of these considerations counts as much as perfection of form.
Suitability for freezing is often an important factor too when you are considering.
Many of the F.1. Hybrid vegetables have been bred primarily for commercial growers, where uniformity of crop makes harvesting easier, but these are often superior cultivars for amateur use too. Remember, however, that uniformity of growth is not always desirable when growing for a family — it is often better to have a crop maturing unevenly rather than have a whole row ready at the same time and be faced with waste because you can’t eat them quickly enough. If you have a freezer this is less of a problem, but not all crops freeze satisfactorily.
Early crops are always worth more, and usually appreciated the most, and by using cloches and cultivars that are naturally suited to early cropping, the season can be extended. Don’t expect heavy yields from early crops, however; forcing cultivars of carrots, for instance, are nearly always very small.
Never be tempted to sow too early, for a crop sown a week or two later when the ground is warm and the environment more hospitable will often overtake those sown earlier that have languished in the ground or received a severe check to growth.
By careful selection of crops and cultivars, it is possible to have fresh vegetables to harvest the whole year round, even without the need for out-of-season sowings. Even in the winter and spring months there should always be something to pick; celery from November to January,, and Brussels sprouts from November to March, until January, winter from December to March, and winter through till April. Spring cabbages take over from April, together with sprouting . Winter can be cropped in April. Broad beans start cropping in May, with Japanese soon following in June.
Full sowing instructions for growing vegetables are available: (click here to view sowing instructions and ‘How to Grow Vegetables’), but always avoid sowing too thickly — if sown correctly germination will be good and then the job of thinning can become a tiresome chore.