Believe it or not you don’t need several acres of allotment and hours of daily toiling to achieve a decent edible production line direct to your kitchen- it needn’t be an exercise in endless soil turning and Alan Titchmarsh tomes. You don’t even need that much ground if you have space for some decent sized pots and the muscle to heft a couple of bags of compost home from the garden centre.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do get it wrong with my fruit and veg efforts and it is not possible to make every garden work for every kind of crop but if you want to try out fruit and veg growing for the first time or have been unsuccessful in the past try any or all of the below for low-effort, high yield starters.
Lettuce is never going to be sexy but it is always going to have a place at the table through the summer months, be it for your bikini diet or a BBQ side. Maybe it is just a trick of my own pride but I have found that the varieties I’ve grown in my garden hold a lot more flavour than a supermarket buy and because you can trim leaves off the growing plant as required you don’t end up with that horror-movie slime accumulation that can come of keeping a whole one in the fridge for too long.
You can start these on a windowsill or in a greenhouse/conservatory if you have particularly cold weather or numerous pests but they will usually grow well if you chuck the seeds straight into the soil once the chance of a frost has gone. I have found them to suffer less from pests if grown in pots and you will need to up your anti-slug game to protect them if they are in the ground (try beer traps if you don’t want to use pellets).
I love the Salad Bowl variety available from Mr Fothergill’s which grow quickly and do well in partial shade as well as full sun.
Extra tip: If you get on with lettuces try chard too as they seem to thrive in similar conditions.
There is something wonderful about yanking up a homegrown carrot with that cartoon-esque crown of spiky green leaves! If you want an early crop, start these on a windowsill or in the conservatory in late March to plant out in April and harvest from late June. Otherwise plant seeds directly into soil after the regional frost risk is gone. If you are OCD on appearances try planting them in a large pot for straighter results- they will grow much bigger in the ground but can be quite twisted and unattractive! They need little care beyond the expected watering but will benefit from occasional feed if you are inclined to do so. Mice or squirrels might take nibbles from the tops as they begin to emerge so cover any emerging orange flesh up with soil from time to time.
Extra tip: You can increase your carrot yield and put off their main pest (the imaginatively titled carrot fly) but planting sage, rosemary or onions nearby and some people suggest that sharing the ground with some chive plants will improve the flavour.
Parsley really is the easiest go-to green herb to grow yourself and I keep my kitchen stocked from one 10cm pot on our patio that come in for the winter. Parsley will do equally well on a window sill that sees an good amount of daylight. Keep it watered and do not be tempted to leave in a greenhouse/conservatory much past the seedling stage as this plant will suffer from drying out too regularly- I have seen an entire plant go from healthy in the morning to yellow, curled and decimated by mid afternoon on a particularly sunny day in our conservatory. Parsley will be harvest ready in a few weeks, simply snip as required from the plant and add to garlic butter, soups and sauces or just use to pretty up your plates as a garnish.
Extra tip: You can buy parsley seeds all over the place so look for budget steals like your local bargain/pound shop where you can often get three garden seed packets for a quid.
I invested in a couple of young Hinnomaki Red gooseberry plants on a whim this spring to take up some space in a bare patch where I had recently dug out a useless/ugly Red Robin. Opting for plugs or juvenile plants might seem like cheating a bit versus growing from seed, but when you have weed or pest issues or are late in the season getting started sometimes it is the best option. It certainly takes a lot less maintenance as long as you prep the ground well by throwing in some bonemeal and giving them a really good soak immediately after planting. I’ve done next to nothing for those gooseberry bushes and they have roughly tripled in size over the last three months and produced a really lovely crop of juicy, sweet red gooseberries last week (end June). Some smaller cheeky birds might nip at the flowers in early spring but otherwise they don’t seem to be bothered by pests.
Green Fingered legend has it that you can’t kill an onion! They will take frost. They will take shade. They will take days of blazing sunshine. They will take all the cats and slugs and flea beetles and other buggers in your garden with little to no impact! They are also mega easy to plant from bulbs and available in good number from all garden centres. Don’t be tempted to plant them too shallow and if you allow 1 or 2 to bolt they produce quite stunning flowers! Plant them straight into the ground in the early spring or if you are restricted to pots try shallots rather than full sized onions and give them plenty of space. For the ultra lazy, research the more hardy varieties and plant them in the autumn once you have cleared out everything else and they will survive the winter and crop from the following Spring.
Extra tip: I have found that the darling/evil cats that visit my garden never make their toilet area near the patch where I grow onions, possibly due to the strong smell so if you are troubled by felines try planting a border line of onions to put them off.