Vegetables to sow and grow
Growing vegetables from seed is fun and easy to do. It's also a great way to get kids interested in gardening, and in eating their vegetables! Follow our simple guide for a bumper crop.
Bush tomatoes are the easiest way to get into tomato growing, as they don't need as much care as cordon (also known as vine) varieties. Look for 'Tumbling Tom', an ideal variety for beginners. It's compact enough to grow in a pot or a hanging basket, and you can expect to get over 200 delicious cherry tomatoes from each plant over the course of the summer.
Start seeds off indoors in Feb or March. Fill a seed tray with seed compost, scatter the seeds on top and cover over with a thin layer of compost. Water and place in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill to germinate.
Once your seedlings are at least 5cm high, it's time to pot them on. Fill small 9cm diameter pots with potting compost, and make a hole in the centre of the compost with a dibber. Then, again with the help of a dibber, carefully loosen the roots of the seeds from the compost and remove the seedlings from the seed tray (NB: hold them by the leaves, not the stems, to avoid damaging them). Place each seedling in a pot, in the hole you've just made, and firm the compost around it. Place back on the window sill or in the greenhouse. Water regularly so that the compost remains moist but not waterlogged.
Once the plants are around 15cm (0.5ft) tall, and have started to produce flowers, they are ready to be planted out. Before you do this, harden them off by placing them outdoors for a few hours every day to let them get used to the conditions. After a week to ten days of this, they will be hardened off and ready to plant.
Plant your tomatoes in a sunny spot, and dig a couple of buckets of well-rotted farmyard manure into the soil before you plant. If you're planting in a pot, use a good quality potting compost.
It's very important to water tomatoes consistently, especially once the tomatoes start to develop. If you allow the soil to dry out and then overwater to compensate, the fruits are likely to split. Feed every two weeks with a tomato feed such as Tomorite. You should be able to harvest your first tomatoes in late July and August.
Never have unused lettuce going limp in your fridge again! Growing your own salad leaves means you can pick what you need, as you need it.
Lettuce will grow in sun or light shade, and if you don't have much space, you can even grow baby lettuce in a pot or window box!
You can sow lettuce seed outdoors from late spring onwards, once the worst of the frosts have passed. Before planting, dig some well-rotted farmyard manure into the soil, firm the soil by treading gently on it, then rake over so that the surface of the soil has a fine, crumbly texture.
Make a shallow groove in the soil by laying a bamboo cane on the surface and pressing down to a depth of about 1.5cm (0.5in). You can also use the corner of a rake head to draw a groove on the soil. Take a pinch of seed and spread it thinly along the groove. Cover over with soil and water well. If you're planting more than one row of lettuces, space the rows about 30cm (1ft) apart.
Once the seedlings are about 2cm high, thin them out by removing some of the seedlings so that the remainder are about 15cm apart.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist. You can harvest leaves from cut-and-come-again lettuces once they are around 5cm high, or wait until they are around 15cm tall and cut off the whole head.
With their bright red flowers and heart-shaped leaves, runner beans are good to look at as well as delicious to eat!
You can sow runner beans directly outdoors from late spring, or start them off indoors in small pots in mid-spring and plant them out about three weeks later.
Before you plant, dig a few bucketfuls of well-rotted farmyard manure into the soil to improve its texture. Make supports for your plants by lashing three bamboo canes together at one end to form wigwams, and place these where your beans will be planted.
Plant two seeds next to the foot of each cane, about 5cm (2in) deep, and water well.
Once the seeds have germinated, remove the weakest seedling from each pair. If necessary, tie the plants loosely to the canes to encourage them to twine around and climb up.
Water regularly, especially once flowers start to appear, so that the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. Start harvesting as soon as the pods are around 15cm long. Remember, the more you pick, the more your plants will produce!
More varieties available
Growing from seed is rewarding and it's great to see the fruits of your labour.
10L essential watering can
An essential item for watering and feeding. Remember to use a different colour for each task.
3 for £6
Gardman standard seed trays
Designed for seeds, seedlings, starter-plants and cuttings.
A garden essential
Burgon & Ball dibblet
Made out of FSC certified beech wood, this dibblet is ideal for planting seeds and small seedlings with great accuracy.