Choosing The Right Plants
To get the most yields from a small garden its best to choose vegetables that produce well but don’t take up a lot of space. Any vegetable plants that can be grown vertically on a trellis, poles or obelisks will also help maximise space, peas and beans are wonderful for this, and did you know that the pea pods, shoots, and leaves are all edible and make a delicious accompaniment to a spring salad.
Tomatoes reliably produce heaps of crop and there are so many varieties to choose from, with some well suited to growing in hanging baskets such as ‘Tumbling Tom’ or ‘Gartenperle.’
We recommend using Levington Tomorite on tomatoes and other fruits or vegetables with similar feeding requirements, such as aubergines, sweet peppers and cucumbers. This will provide your plants with essential nutrients to produce a good quality, full-flavoured crop.
Salad greens can be grown easily in just about any space and will even grow in poor soil. By making frequent salad sowings, you’ll have regular pickings over many months and a cut-and-come-again system. Start sowing in March and continue to sow every 2 weeks for a continuous cropping. Greens such as mixed baby salad leaves, red-edged and little gem lettuce, pak choi, watercress, mustard, wild rocket and purslane are great salad leaf varieties to try.
Pots, tubs, and half barrels are the perfect home for herbs, which are an asset to any garden given that they produce a heady scent, attract beneficial pollinators and are often a key ingredient in many recipes. A majority of herbs are perennials which means they come back year after year.
With Spring in full swing, May is a busy month for planting and quick harvesting vegetables can be sown straight into the ground such as radishes, beetroots, spring onions and spinach, providing the risk of frost has passed (if a sneaky frost is forecast remember to cover any seedling with a protective fleece or cloche).
Later, in the month seedlings grown undercover can be ‘hardened off’, which is a simple process of exposing tender plants to sunlight, wind and uneven temperatures which gives them time to ‘toughen up’ before they are planted into the ground.
A super easy and reliable crop that requires minimal labour and attention is potatoes, you can get a good crop easily from just a few square feet of ground or you can use containers or potato grow bags. Potatoes are grown from specially prepared ‘seed potatoes’ that can be purchased here at Root One from as early as January which gives them time to start chitting before planting in Spring.
You can also grow late crop potatoes such as Maris Peer, Charlotte (second crop) and Arran Pilot in July so you’ll be able to enjoy freshly harvested, roasted potatoes with your Christmas dinner. For more information on planting potatoes click here.
In order to grow healthy plants it’s important to note how much sunlight your garden is exposed to and how the light travels across the garden throughout the day to match the plants requirements for light. Although a sunny spot is ideal for most fruit and vegetables there are still plenty of crops that will grow well in shade such as swiss chard, brassicas, beetroot, kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, leeks and salad leaves which will actually produce more lush growth in shade.
Improve The Soil
Healthy and robust plants are a reflection of the soil’s quality, so we must provide the soil below with the nutrients and moisture it needs. Ideally you want to add some well-rotted manure or compost to the soil a few weeks before you plan to plant your vegetables. To prepare an area for sowing, first remove any weeds then fork over the soil to aerate, loosen, and break up any large lumps of soil and remove any large stones. Then rake the soil smooth with a steel rake before planting.
How can I tell what type of soil I have?
The easiest method is to use a simple soil testing kit, we recommend the ‘Tildenet Soil Test Kit’ to discover the Ph of the soil and the presence of the following nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium/potash, to ensure the acidity and nutrient levels are correct for the plants you are growing.
Nitrogen is essential for the growth of vegetables. Phosphorus is needed for strong root growth and root vegetables. Potassium/Potash is important in the development of flowers and shrubs.
What is the Meaning of PH?
A PH scale defines the acidity or alkalinity of the soil, this scale ranges from 0 to 14, a PH of 7 is considered neutral, above 7 is increasingly alkaline and below 7 is increasingly acidic. The soil pH requirements vary according to the types of plants, rhododendrons, and heathers for example, prefer acidic conditions and cannot thrive in alkaline soil.
Make a Compost Heap
Composting is a simple, satisfying, and eco-friendly way to recycle household food waste, grass clippings, plant cuttings and other materials like straw, paper, cardboard, dry leaves, and woody pruning’s. Even with a small garden, you can benefit from making your own compost, it doesn’t have to require a large space and can be achieved using a container the size of a rubbish bin.
If you do have the space, you could build your own compost heap using pallets as we have done in the show garden. For best results the heap should be kept moist without being too wet, and you may wish to add some ‘Vitax Compost Maker’ to accelerate the natural decomposition process. The compost will be ready to use in about 6 months and can be dug into your sowing area to enrich the soil with nutrients, improve its structure and water-holding capacity.
Show Garden Progress
The allotment garden is flourishing in this glorious sunshine, the nasturtium and the sweet peas are in flower, and the strawberries are ready to harvest.
Although the cabbages are looking quite fabulous, the cabbage patch butterflies have commandeered them, and they are now at the mercy of the infamous cabbage patch caterpillar. Needless to say, if you are growing your own cabbages this year, remember to cover them with netting or fleece to keep the caterpillars and pigeons away.
Our Easy Net Tunnels are perfect for keeping your cabbages safe and protected from insects, birds and other pests, they also provide shading from strong sunlight and reduce the risk of drought by conserving moisture.
Next time you visit Root One be sure to sniff the sweet peas, and watch the passing bees that are loving our nectar and pollen rich flowers.
We’re Here to Help
If you find it difficult to visualise what you want to achieve in your outdoor space, our recently installed show gardens will inspire and hopefully prove to you that gardening doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating.
If you’re looking for advice on something we’ve not mentioned above, our friendly staff are always on hand to help.