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Plant specific tips

Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Parsnips, Peas, Potatoes, Runner Beans, Swede, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes (in Growbags)



Plant asparagus early in the spring, before growth occurs from the crowns. Asparagus should be grown in the part of the garden with maximum sun exposure. It is a deep-rooted plant and requires a rich, deep soil that is well prepared before planting. Asparagus plants respond well to a good moisture supply. They require 1 inch of water per week from May through October. Asparagus plants will crop in the second year after planting.


Broccoli prefers a heavy fertile soil in full sun or semi-shade. Sow from April to May, about 3 inches apart in lines 2 feet apart. Cover the seeds with half an inch of crumbly soil and water well. The seeds should germinate in 10 days or so. When the seedlings appear, thin them to 9 inches apart. Expect harvesting two to three months later.

Brussels Sprouts:

Brussels sprouts should be sown in a firm soil. They dislike acid soils which can make them more susceptible to club root. Sow in mid spring 12mm deep in a prepared seed bed, ½ inch apart. Leave 10 inches between rows. Transplant April to May when 6 inches tall, allowing 2ft 6in between the plants. Young plants need to be kept well watered. They may need staking on a windy site.


Sow seeds thinly ½ inch deep, thin to 1 inch apart and transplant when 3 incheshigh to a spacing o f2ft. Early sowings can be made indoors. Prior to cutting, the outer leaves are stripped off. This is done by placing your hands around the cabbage head and pushing down, leaving a tight clean head sitting on the stalk. Once all the outer leaves have been removed, the cabbages can be cut.


Carrots prefer a light soil which has been improved with lots of well-rotted organic material fully dug into the soil. They can be sown from February through to July. Sow seeds very thinly, direct from spring onwards in succession to summer, in ½ inch deep rows 6 inches apart. Thin the young seedlings to 4 inches apart. When the foliage begins to wilt and shrivel up, the carrots have reached maturity. Use a fork to get the roots up and then remove the carrots by hand. Fleece may help to protect against the dreaded carrot fly.


Dig the soil deeply with the addition of manure or compost during the late autumn/winter some months prior to planting. Sow January to February under glass and sow outdoors March to May. Sow seeds ½ inch deep, thin out to 3 inches apart, then transplant up to 2ft apart when the plants have made 5-6 leaves.


Soak the cloves in a solution of Epsom Salts before planting. According to Russian research it leads to bigger bulbs as shoot growth is faster. Plant November or February.


Lettuce can be harvested most of the year if it is sown in succession. Try different varieties.


Onions prefer a sunny position with a rich but light soil although they will do well in most soils as long as it is firm. Maincrop onion sets should be sown in March, 4 inches apart in rows 1 foot apart to a depth where only the very tips of the sets are just showing through the soil. Dig a hole in the soil with a trowel and place them in the hole with their necks uppermost. Watering may be required in dry periods up till mid-August. After that, do not provide any water as this may delay the maturing process. Onions are ready for harvesting a week or two after the foliage starts to turn brown and shrivel up.


Parsnips are slow to germinate, so try sowing radish as an intercrop with parsnips. The radish will be out of the ground by the time the parsnips are up. Radish acts as a good marker to show exactly where the parsnips are sown.


To grow good peas and mangetout the soil needs to be of good structure with plenty of organic matter and a pH of 6.5. It does not need to be too fertile. Sow from February to June, under cloches if necessary, in shallow trenches about 6" wide and 2" deep. Scatter the seed evenly, so that there is roughly 2" between seeds, in the trench and fill by raking soil over the seed.
Peas need to be supported - tie the plants to canes as they grow. The plants should be pinched out when they reach the top to encourage shoots further down the plants. Peas are normally ready for harvest three weeks after flowering.


Before planting out, potato seeds need 'chitting'. This is done by placing them in seed trays or egg cartons. Leave them in a light place for about 6 weeks; they will then sprout small green shoots. Plant the tubers 5" deep, being careful not to damage the shoots. Space early varieties 12" apart with 24" between the rows. Later maincrop varieties should be planted 15" - 18" apart with 2ft 6 inches between the rows.
The ground has to be dug over - preferably by double digging, and organic matter incorporated. The trench then has to be dug to take the seed. Later the plants have to be earthed up and finally the tubers are dug out of the ground.
All varieties of potato are pretty tolerant and will grow in any soil but will do better in an organic rich one that is slightly acid. Potatoes are not hardy and a frost will kill them. Early potatoes (new potatoes) should be harvested just as the flowers are opening. Second earlies can be lifted as required, or if the space is needed, the whole crop can be lifted and left on the soil surface for 48 hours to allow the skins to harden. Green potatoes should not be eaten as they are poisonous.

Runner Beans:

Runner Beans should be planted using a trench 2 feet wide that has been double dug and had plenty of manure incorporated. They grow to over 6 feet high, so some form of support will be needed. This support must be absolutely rigid - use 8' or 10' canes, using one cane for each plant, to make a framework. Runner beans need plenty of water. They will be ready for picking from midsummer onwards until the first frosts. Check the plants regularly and pick the beans while they are young and tender. Leaving them too long before picking will result in tough, stringy beans.


A well dug, weed free area is all that is required for Swede and some well prepared compost is beneficial if your soil is poor or dries quickly in the summer. As soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle, thin out to 1 plant every 12 inches. Keep weed free in the early stages. Swedes are winter hardy so can be left in the ground until required.

Sweet Corn:

Grow sweet corn in a sunny position that is not too windy. Use well drained soil, pH 5.5 - 7. Sow in individual pots during April. Sweet corn seeds need chitting (germinating) before sowing - place them in a damp, warm place. Use easily degradable pots so the roots don't suffer from being transplanted. Harden off and plant out in late May - early June. Plant in a block instead of a long row as this aids pollination. Plant seeds 12-18" apart. Watering is usually only necessary when the flowers appear. Stake the plants if they are exposed to the wind and pull soil around the roots if they become exposed. To test when cobs are ready pull back the leaves and prick a grain with a fingernail. Some liquid will emerge. If it is creamy, the cob is ready. If it is watery, leave it a few days.

Tomatoes (in Growbags)

Place your growbag against a sunny wall or inside your greenhouse. Plant three equally spaced tomato plants in your grow-bag and give them a good watering. Make sure that the tomato plant has good stability and support by tying to cane supports. As the plant starts to grow, pinch out any side shoots that start to grow away from the main stem. This stops the plant from wasting any energy and keeps it in a manageable shape. Keep tying the main stem as it grows to ensure the plant is well supported. When the plants have produced 4 sets of little flowers, pinch out the top of the plant so that it doesn't grow any further. Tomatoes should be picked when they are in full colour. If you wish them to ripen quickly, lift them into a warm place in full daylight, such as a greenhouse, to ripen. If you don't have the space, then pick any fruits showing some colour and place them on a sunny windowsill to ripen.