Six easy vegetables you can grow now May 29 2015
There are lots of tasty vegetables you can grow at this time of the year. Now that the days are getting longer and the soil is getting warmer, it's the perfect time to start sowing seeds so that you can enjoy tasty homegrown crops well into late summer and autumn.
Growing vegetables from seed is rewarding, cheap and easier than you think! With the right conditions, and a bit of luck, anyone can look forward to a successful harvest in even the smallest garden. Here's six easy vegetables to try in your garden this month.
Beetroot are easy to grow, even in partly shady spots. You can eat the roots and the leaf tops – raw young leaves in salads or steam large leaves as you would for spinach. And beets are packed with iron, antioxidants and vitamins A, B6 and C. May is a good time to start sowing this versatile crop.
Soaking the seeds in a bowl of water for an hour before sowing will help speed up germination. Make a row about 2cm deep in rich, well-drained soil. Sow seeds approx 5cm apart along the row, cover with some fine soil, pat down firmly and gently water the row. Allow a spacing of 25cm between further rows. Keep the soil moist.
You can also grow beets in pots, although make sure to use deep containers with good drainage. While you don't want the soil to dry out, try not to over-water either or else the crops will put all their energy into growing leaves instead of roots.
French beans are so easy to grow and just a few plants can produce masses of tender green pods over a long harvest period. While the plants grow very tall, they don't need to take up much space on the ground. In fact, it's possible to grow beans in a deep container. They're a smart way to add greenery to a small garden or balcony. Wherever you grow them, bean plants need a tall support to climb up so make a pyramid structure from bamboo canes tied with string at the top.
If it's chilly and wet outside, you can still start sowing seeds indoors in small pots. Fill 10cm wide pots with multi-purpose compost and sow one seed 4cm deep in each pot. Sprinkle over a little more compost and pat down firmly. Water well and position the pots somewhere light, warm and sheltered – a sunny window ledge is ideal. After a month or so, when the seedlings are well established, 'harden them off' (ie. get them used to being outdoors) by keeping the pots outside during the day and inside at night for a few days. They will then be ready to plant out.
Alternatively, you can sow seeds directly into the soil from May to July. If the soil is too cold and wet then they are less likely to germinate. A suggested date for sowing french beans outside is the mid-May as the risk of frost is usually gone and the soil temperature has warmed up. Plant two seeds 5cm deep next to a your bamboo cane supports. Water well, and one the seedlings start to grow remove the weakest of the two young plants. Help the young seedlings train up around the cane so they start to wind up around the support.
Courgettes, also known as zucchini in North America, are another highly productive plant. They demand plenty of sunshine, well-drained rich soil and lots of space to grow. However, each plant will reward you with lots of dark-green fruits but pick them while they are still small or else they quickly turn into large marrows (still edible and good for chutneys, but less flavour compared to courgettes).
During May you can either sow courgette seeds in small pots indoors or directly in the ground if there's little chance of frost. For starting off plants inside, fill 10cm wide pots with compost. Make a 2cm deep indent in the compost with a pencil and put in a seed laid on its side. Sprinkle over some more compost and firmly pat down. Water and place the pots somewhere light, warm and sheltered and water regularly. If you're sowing outside then sow two seeds on their sides 2cm deep in the soil. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, remove the weaker one. Allow at least 90cm gaps between the plants – they need a surprising amount of room to spread out.
Fresh courgette flowers also make a special edible snack. Pick the yellow flowers after the fruits have formed. Clean the petals carefully with water, stuff with ricotta and fry in a flour batter. They need to be eaten fresh on the day they are picked (which explains why you rarely see them in shops).
Although growing leeks requires some patience, once established leeks demand little attention and attract few pests or diseases. They also belong in that special category of hardy winter crops that sit happily in the ground until needed.
Wait until any threat of frost has passed and rake over a bed of deep, rich soil. Sow seeds thinly (sparingly) into a shallow 1cm deep row and cover with soil. Water well. Allow a 30cm gap between rows. Keep the soil watered. Leeks sown this way may require 'thinning out' later on. To do this, simply remove the weakest seedlings to allow the remaining ones more space to grow.
Radishes are very quick to crop which makes them a popular choice for beginners. They are usually ready to harvest in as little as four weeks and can be eaten cooked or raw.
Sow in pots filled with multi-purpose compost by scattering seeds sparingly across the surface of the soil and then cover with a little more compost. Window boxes or recycled gutter pipes filled with compost also make excellent containers.
Otherwise sow directly into the ground along a 1cm deep row and cover with a little soil. Pat down firmly and water the row. Allow a 15cm gap between any further rows. To make the most use of your available growing area, try sowing a 'catch crop' of radishes between some rows of other slower growing vegetables such as peas, onions, parsnips, carrots or potatoes.
Freshly picked carrots are a real homegrown treat, are taste far superior to any bought from the shops. You can even grow short, early varieties (such as Early Nantes) in pots. For the best chances of germination you need to make sure the soil is warm enough. Wait until later in the month if it's cold and wet outside.
Carrots prefer deep, fine soil that is free from stones and has not been recently manured. Choose a position that gets plenty of sun. To sow carrot seeds directly into the ground, make a 1cm deep row and sow the tiny seeds as sparingly as possible along the row. This reduces the need for thinning out later on, Cover with some fine soil or compost and pat down firmly. Allow a 25cm gap between further rows. Keep the ground moist over the following weeks and the leaves should eventually poke up out the ground. This can take a couple of weeks so be patient. Seedling may then need thinning out so there's enough space for the carrots to grow.