You hear a lot of talk these days about how good vegetables are for you. The daily allowance is of five portions of fruit and veg today.
But it costs a lot to buy fruit and veg at the supermarket. Despite all the guff about supermarkets being low cost places they still charge a lot for vegetables.
It is not uncommon for a couple of lettuces to set you back over £1. You can get veg much cheaper if you go down to the market, but it can be out very cost effective to grow your own.
Easy to grow vegetable ideas
Here are the top ten vegetables to grow on your own. I have based this list based on my own hard experience. These should suit the lazy gardener who has little time to carefully tend their crops every day. I like to grow in a largely organic way. The only chemicals that I ever use are a few slug pellets.
1. Spinach beet
This is a great crop that is very easy to grow and a very good vegetable. The slugs and caterpillars will have a gentle nibble at it but largely leave it alone. You can plant it directly into the soil and thin out the seedlings when they come up. You just take off leaves when you need them.
These were the first veg that I ever grew as a kid. They had a big advantage that they came up quite quickly. They have a nice spicy tang and are best off eaten on their own.
Lettuce can be easily grown and can be planted across the season. My personal favourite is the Tom Thumb as these can be picked very soon after sowing. Their size makes them very suitable as a single portion. The main problem with lettuce is that slugs and snails love lettuces and can destroy your whole crop. Slug pellets are some of the few chemicals that I would use on a garden. I understand that there is a biological control called nematodes, but I’m not sure where you can get hold of them from. (Beer is another technique you can use – see below)
This is a great one for kids. The seeds can be grown indoors on a few sheets of tissue (best is unbleached) or in a little compost. It’s not the easiest vegetable to eat but they can be spread on top of a salad or go nicely as an addition to a salad.
5. Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are a real delight to grow
These are very easy to grow. They be grown from seed though I find that it is very easy to pick up seedlings from a village fete or from a vegetable shop or garden centre in late spring. They work best if you have a greenhouse, but I have grown them up against a sunny south facing wall. They can be grown in a grow bag, but you have to make sure that they get lots of water. You can buy irrigation hose pipe which will drip water at a constant rate.
“What?” I hear you say – Nasturtiums are a flower. Well yes, but you can also eat the leaves and flowers as part of a salad. The leaves have a fiery tangy taste, a bit like rocket. They are easy to grow from seed and have very pretty flowers. They are quite good at trailing from a hanging baskets. They seem to grow very easily and quite late in the season, but they can be prone to be eaten by caterpillars.
Potatoes can be easily grown from either seed potatoes or the old potatoes that have started to chit (sprout shoots). They can be grown in a trench and as the potatoes come up it is necessary to keep them watered and to cover the sides of the plant with soil. They can also be grown in barrels or a particularly common practice is to grow them in old car tyres that can then be raised up with soil as the potatoes grow.
Courgettes can be quite tricky to grow but with a greenhouse they can produce good results. They do not take well to no being regularly watered and can be prone to the same virus that effects cucumber plants. The secret seems to be grow the courgettes from seed yourself rather than buying them as seedlings from the garden centre. They can also be prone to aborting the courgettes that then tend to rot.
Carrots can be grown to good effect and they can generate good “beginners luck” in the first year. They are prone to carrot fly which can cause problems, particularly in the second year. I have found that baby carrots can be very effective – particularly if you mix them around other types of vegetable.
So here are my top ideas. I once set myself a New Years Resolution to grow and eat ten vegetables in a year. With very little effort I managed to get to fourteen.
Dealing with slugs (Sent in by Alecia)
My grandmother and mother taught me a very easy, safe, and effective method for slug control that I wanted to share.If you have any problem with slugs in your garden, choose a night when you don’t expect rain, take a pie plate or other deep plate, and place it under the plant. Fill the plate with beer (The brand is up to you as make sure it is aromatic.).
Slugs apparently love beer and will abandon the plant to drink it. While drinking, they become quickly intoxicated and will slip into the beer and drown. Leave the plate or plates there for about 24 hours before checking. When you come back, you should see a number of drowned slugs.This can be repeated as often as needed and could even be left in place and refilled. There is no risk to your plants from the beer, and you won’t even have to worry about harming any stray animals that might come in contact with your pest control.I had a patch of strawberries that were covered in tiny slugs.
I placed a saucer of beer (in my case, Molson Ice) under every few plants, and within about three days they had all met a beer induced demise.
More Dealing with slugs (Sent in by Sonia)
The old idea of making slug traps with beer is very effective but can be expensive as the beer either gets rained out or dries up. And when replenishing, you waste quite a bit while retrieving the dead slugs.I came up with the following idea – an improvement on the old – which is the best yet.Take two yogurt pots (or similar) and one empty margarine tub. Place the ‘sieve pot’ inside the other yogurt pot. Take the margarine tub, (the roof) turn it upside down and in two sides, cut a ‘doorway’ large enough for slug or snail to enter.
Take the second yogurt pot and in the base pierce about ten small holes. This is the ‘sieve pot’ Place the sieve pot inside the other pot.’By your young salads, bury the yogurt pot/s with sieve, up to its neck. Fill with beer! Place roof over the top with a few pebbles on top to stop it blowing away.In this manner, I caught sixty small slugs, the ones that do the most damage, in one night.Inspect your pots every day or two. Just remove the sieve and the beer stays in the pot. Throw the dead slugs out to give the birds a boozy breakfast. Replace sieve carefully and top up beer when necessary.If anyone has a cheap mixture that appeals to slugs, without the need to buy beer, I shall be glad to hear of it.
Do you have any other good ideas? Simply add them into the box below.
27 March 2007