Growing your own during National Allotment Week

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Posted 16th August 2017

by Peter Godley

Starting to grow your own vegetables needn't be a daunting task. In fact it should be an exciting adventure. Lack of space isn't an issue as you can grow a lot in a very small area.

Firstly purchase your seeds from the local gardencentre or a mail order company in late winter or early spring to ensure you'reready toget going after the last frosts and the soil has warmed up.

Choose a fairly sunny position, as this will be essential to ripen some of your crop. Ensure the ground is weed free and well dug over.

Next choose vegetables which are easy to growto start you off: things such as radish, beetroot, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and courgettes. All these could be also grown in pots on a patio or terrace if you have no physical soil area.All with the exception of the potatoes can be easily grown from seed.

Cultivate your soil to a fine seed sowing tilth by raking until the soil resembles a compost consistency. Makea slight channel inthe tilthand sow a thin lineof seeds,being careful to make sure too many seeds don't drop in the same place. This will cut down on the need for thinning later.

For the tomatoes you may want to start these off in pots on a windowsill and plant out when they have a good root system.

Potatoes should be bought as seed potatoes from the garden centre or mail order catalogue. These are specially prepared to minimise disease.Choose a varietyto suit your needs (ie. First Early [salad/new], Second Early [good allrounder] or main [baking/roasting]).Allow the seed potatoes to 'chit' (start to produce shoots) by leaving them in a dark placefor a couple of weeks. They are then ready for planting out.

Dig a trench about a spades depth deep andplace a potato about a foot apart along the row. Then cover and when you start to see shoots emerging from the ground, earth up by mounding up the soil to form a ridge.

Be sure to label each row of vegetables and the varieties plus the date sown.Also water well after sowing and throughout dry weather to get goodseedgermination and prevent your crop going over too quickly.Keep the area weed free as best as possible to minimise competition for your crop.

Stake the tomatoes as they grow and feed once a week when you see the first set of flowers.

For radish, beetroot, carrots and parsnips you can sow successional every couple of weeks or when you've harvested your first crop. This way you'll ensure you have a regular supply to keep you going all summer.

Lastly remember thatall crops have good and bad years, so don't be disheartened if some things don't grow the first time.

Happy growing!

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