A-Z of Summer: Vegetable Patch

You can grow loads of vegetables and you don’t have to have a massive garden to do it either, a small window box is enough to start with and if you have the space you can try lots of different vegetables, here’s some that are easy to grow

Cress:
This must be the easiest vegetable to grow. Usually grown indoors in flat containers with just some damp kitchen towel or blotting paper, you simply cannot go wrong. Cress, like mustard, grows very quickly.

Lettuce:

Can be grown inside or out, in containers or in the vegetable patch and there are lots of different varieties to choose from. To begin with, try a smaller lettuce which grows quickly.
There are different types of lettuce such as the loose-leaf lettuces, the cos lettuces, the butterhead lettuces and the crisphead lettuces.
Loose-leaf are the easiest to grow, the quickest to reach maturity, and can be ready to eat within 4-6 weeks of sowing, depending on how early in the year you start.  Cos lettuces are also called romaine lettuces and have somewhat upright growth and longer heads, they can look a bit like cabbage. The most well-known is called 'Little Gem' and the leaves are both crisp and sweet.
Butterhead lettuces are probably the most well-known and popular variety. They have soft, smooth-edged leaves, grow fairly quickly and tolerate poorer soil. Some varieties are also fine for planting in the autumn for a spring crop.
Crisphead lettuces have large crisp hearts and fewer outer leaves than the butterheads. They do well in the cooler seasons and tend to take longer to mature than other varieties, but if you like a crunch to your salad, then this is the type to go for. The 'Iceberg' is probably the most popular variety.

Radishes:
These are also a must on your list of starter vegetables. They prefer a damper or colder climate, and need very little maintenance - simply thin them out sufficiently to ensure there is enough space for the bulbs to develop. Radishes are often grown together with carrots, as the seedlings pop up quickly, acting as row markers, and also help to break down the surface for the weaker carrot seedlings to come through. The great thing about radishes is that they are quick to mature, generally trouble-free to grow, not fussy about ground, and even the young leaves are edible!

Swiss Chard:
Like spinach, chard is not fussy about the ground and needs almost no care apart from thinning out and weeding to begin with. Chard also looks nice, especially the variety with red stems, and both the leaf and stem can be eaten. In many climates, chard will overwinter quite cheerfully.  Growing swiss chard is easy, it crops for months on end, and is a versatile alternative to the much stronger tasting spinach. Chard is an almost forgotten vegetable which really deserves a lot more attention than it receives - high in vitamins A and C and fibre, it offers a tasty alternative green which most kids will be quite happy to eat!
Swiss chard varies in colour from red stems and veins and dark green leaves (called rhubarb chard), silver/white stems and veins and green leaves (called silver chard) to yellow/cream stems and green leaves. It is often grown amongst the flower border, as the rhubarb chard especially is also a very ornamental plant.

Green Beans:
Try the bush types for ease of cultivation, though runner beans do offer more yield in the same space (because they grow upwards!) and you can experiment with growing the beans over arches, creating a tunnel of runner beans through which you can walk through, you could even make a bean tepee!

Carrots:
Providing you keep to a few simple rules, growing carrots is easy. They prefer a cooler climate and can be planted as soon as the frost is past and the ground is workable.
Short-rooted carrots can be suitable for growing in containers or deep window boxes and even include small round ball-like types. They are the earliest to be sown and the quickest to mature. Small, quick and tasty!
Medium-rooted types are sown slightly later than the short-rooted carrots and are usually the best bet for harvesting a successful crop.
Long-rooted varieties take the longest to mature and are the most fussy about the quality of the ground. Fine for showing off, but not the sweetest taste!

Onions:
Your best bet is to plant onion sets (miniature onions) rather than onion seeds to begin with. They are easy to handle and need almost no maintenance apart from initial weeding.  Onions like to be planted early on in the season, but there are also varieties which can be planted in late summer or early autumn for a winter or spring crop.

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