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Which crops to grow
How to decide what vegetables, fruit and herbs to grow
Jump to:- Allotments & Large Plots | Smaller Gardens | Containers | Greenhouses
In most gardens, the type of vegetables, fruit, herbs or edible flowers you will largely depend on how much space you have: even if you have an allotment or large growing space, you should think carefully about what you will grow. This page will help you prioritise so your final choices to suit your personal circumstances and preferences.
Whatever space you have, the thing which takes precedent over anything else is that you should only grow food you like to eat. That's not to say that you shouldn't experiment with new foods, however, especially if you are new to gardening, growing the wrong crops could put you off for life.
If space is limited, don't be tempted to grow too many different crops. Browsing through seed catalogues (online or off) can get addictive, especially with all those fantastic pictures of lush fruit and veg, but there is little point in attempting to grow 30 different crops in an 8ft square patch as you will only ever get a handful of any one crop.
If you have large space or an allotment, filling the whole plot with lettuce would be pointless, especially as they cannot be stored or kept for any length of time.
Be mindful of how long particular crops will take from sowing to harvesting plus the cropping time . Some crops such as radish, are ready to harvest in just 3-6 weeks, leaving vacant space for the rest of the season; others, such as courgettes, whilst taking up space, will crop continuously for 2-3 months; and some, such as winter cabbages and Brussels sprouts will take up space for much of the growing season, cropping during the late autumn and through the winter months.
Another important consideration
is how often you will be able to get to the allotment. As with all
gardening, constant care and attention is required throughout the
growing season. If you think you won't be able to visit your allotment
at least 3 times a week (more if it's really hot and sunny) then it's
best to grow crops which don't need so much attention such as fruit
trees or bushes.
One last thing to consider is whether you have access to a greenhouse or cold frame, both of which come in very handy for raising slower growing crops such as brassicas or strawberries which often need to be sown in a seed bed and grown on a little before planting out in their permanent positions in the main bed. Not only will it free up space initially in the main bed(s), but greenhouses also have the added advantage of being used for growing some fruit and vegetables right up until harvesting, such as cucumbers and aubergines.
When there's less space available it's as well to remember that some crops can be grown vertically, rather than on the ground. Climbing French beans, runner beans, peas and some varieties of courgettes do very well grown with a little support and can be trained to grow up fences or through trellis work.
Once again, take into consideration greenhouse or cold frame space, both of which come in very handy for raising slower growing crops such as brassicas (cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower) or strawberries which often need to be sown in a seed bed and grown on a little before planting out in their permanent positions in the main bed.
Not only will it free up space initially in the main bed(s), but greenhouses also have the added advantage of being used for growing some fruit and vegetables right up until harvesting, such as cucumbers and aubergines.
Although it takes a little forethought, it's worth paying attention to the above as if done properly, even from a relatively small bed, you could be harvesting crops for up to10 months of the year, especially if you practise "catch cropping" i.e. growing quick maturing plants such as loose leaf lettuce, amongst slower growing plants such as cordon tomatoes and most brassicas.
As an example, this vegetable plot plan shows a vegetable bed which measures approximately 9ft x 9ft and which has a fence along one side.
The fence has been utilised by planting climbing beans alongside it. As the cabbages and cauliflowers take a longer time to mature, the space in between the two rows has been used to sow catch crops of quick growing spring onions and radishes which will all be harvested quite early, leaving space for the cabbages and cauliflowers to spread out fully later in the season.
Also notice the carrots and beetroot have been sown in blocks, rather than in rows which means they can be sown closer together. As they get bigger, every other carrot and beetroot can be pulled as baby veg, leaving the rest to mature into larger specimens, thereby prolonging the harvesting season.
If you only have space for containers it is even more important that you choose the right crops. Although there are many varieties of vegetables and fruit which have been specially bred to produce dwarf plants, it's even more important when growing in pots or growbags as space is likely to be at a premium and you don't want to waste any of it. so, once again, only go for the ones you will enjoy eating. Visit our Resources page to find the section relating to growing crops in pots and containers.
Although there are many varieties of vegetables and fruit which can be grown in a greenhouse, it's best to choose crops which will benefit from the added protection and heat. Once again, only go for the ones you will enjoy eating. Good candidates include aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, chillies and citrus fruit. Visit our Resources page to find the section relating to growing crops greenhouses.
Once you have decided what to grow, you can then get on with preparing your plot or other space. Much of this work can be done in the autumn or early spring, before you order any seed or plants and, whether it's a pot or a plot, you will need certain gardening equipment to do the job.
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