Gardener and designer Susan Begg recommends 8 summer vegetables to sow and grow in your garden now.
You may think you’ve missed the veg growing window but there’s still time to sow and grow veg this summer.
Having even a small patch of home grown veg adds a new dimension to summer. In my pre-veg growing years I measured a good summer by the weather, now I measure it by the success of my harvest. And given that veg growing is more reliable than the British weather it’s led to much happier summers.
Still, some years are better than others. Life gets in the way and I miss the window on certain crops – squash and sweetcorn are the usual suspects. But I’ve been at it long enough to know that even if I get off to a slow start there are enough crops that can be started in June, even July to ensure I can eat from the garden right through to spring.
To show you how to achieve this I’ve put together a list of veg that either completes the cycle from seed to plate in just a few weeks or can be sown now for eating in autumn and winter.
Still to Sow
There’s still time to start your veg from seed. Whether you want to grow a pot of flavour packed pea tips outside the back door, or fill a raised bed with curly leaved kale.
For quick and easy gratification:
You can grow salad leaves almost all year round. Some are better suited to growing at specific times of year. In summer many will bolt before you get much from them, and in autumn and winter only the hardier varieties will survive. Look for packets of mixed seed suited to the seasons.
Fast growing, very pretty and packing a neat peppery punch lacking from shop bought radishes. The only problem you’ll have growing them is how to eat them fast enough.
Recommended: Round Black I haven’t grown these intriguing looking roots but reckon its worth a shot – described as A large winter radish with roots the size of tennis balls that keep well. Very easy to grow, they can be eaten raw, sliced into sandwiches, or cooked like turnips. Sound ideal for sowing now and as though they wouldn’t bolt before you could eat them all. Cherry Belle is tempting red orb – filled with flavour and apparently Raymond Blanc’s fav radish.
Pea shoots are the embodiment of Jack in the Beanstalk magic from seed to plate in 2-3 weeks. You can literally fling any old pea in the ground – including boxes of dried supermarket peas, yep I’ve done this – and up come these curling pea tips. You could leave them to grow into pea bearing adults but the idea is to eat them when they’re just a couple of inches tall. It is like chomping down on essence of pea. Chargrilled steak and roast baby potatoes with pea shoot salad and Dijon mustard is one of the joys of summer.
Recommended for sowing now: Any old pack of peas. Sow them densely a few cm apart. I make several sowings in pots and window boxes so I have a succession right through summer.
For late summer harvest:
As they grow vertically French Beans are a great option if you’re short on space. Plus, a wigwam covered in twisting vines and pre-fruit flowers is a hugely decorative addition to the veg patch. A sowing of in June will give you a harvest through to the frosts in October if you keep picking.
In theory, you can sow beetroot until the end of July. In practice, I think you need to get them in the ground by mid-July to be in with a chance of growing decent sized beets (golf ball sized are tastiest – any bigger can be tough). So sow as soon as you can. Grow a mix of colours.
Recommended for sowing now: Chioggia Pink, concentric circles of pink and white (great raw, finely sliced in salads), Bolthardy, reliable, bolt resistant beets, great taste, Golden, sunny yellow flesh that retains its colour when cooked, sweet earthy flavour.
Sow until mid-July. BUT, I’m going to be completely honest and say I have a very poor record with carrots. Such is my failure rate that I no longer bother so what follows is the varieties I’ve had most success with and those that others I know grow with ease.
Recommended for sowing now: Nante 5, is a short, chubby carrot suited to later sowings, one of the fastest cropping carrots. Autumn King sits well in the soil through winter for pulling when needed, also good for storing.
To keep you going through autumn and winter:
I may fail at carrots but I grow amazing kale. For 12 months of the year I can go out and pick enough for a family of four twice a week. It is in my opinion the best crop to grow. Growth may stop for a while in December and January but otherwise it trucks on producing new leaves. A cut and come again hero.
Recommended for sowing now: Nero di Toscano is tall, dark and handsome in the winter veg garden. Sweeter and more finely textured than supermarket kale. Redbor is sturdy and tough, its frilly, deep purple leaves look magnificent in contrast to the Nero di Toscano. Both are delicious simply steamed until soft and served with the Sunday Roast.
I’ve never had much success direct sowing leeks but as soon as I started sowing them in 1l pots and transplanting them outside at the correct distances I had it nailed. I get my last sowing in the ground by the end of July and like to save this crop for winter eating. Pulled straight from the garden the intensity of their smell and flavour stands out in the depths of winter when we’re reliant on stored shop bought veg.
Sowing instructions and Growing advice:
Most seed packets have basic sowing and growing instructions. For more detailed advice I recommend Sarah Raven’s The Great Vegetable Plot. It has all the technical advice you need as well as being visually engaging. If Jonathon Buckley’s beautiful photography doesn’t seduce you into growing veg it’s unlikely anything will.
Susan Begg is one half of Semple Begg, a successful garden and landscape design practice that brings together the combined talents of Nicola Semple and Susan Begg. They have a reputation for innovative planting and garden design throughout Scotland and the North of England.
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