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Year:
2012
Edition:
2nd ed
Publisher:
Wiley
Language:
english
Pages:
1863
ISBN 10:
1119953871
ISBN 13:
9781119953876
File:
EPUB, 10.62 MB
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Gardening Bundle For Dummies®


Growing Your Own Fruit & Veg For Dummies®


Table of Contents

Introduction

About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organised

Part I: Getting Going with Growing

Part II: Prepping Your Plot

Part III: Growing Tasty Veg

Part IV: Growing Your Own Fruit Salad

Part V: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Getting Going with Growing

Chapter 1: Becoming a Grow-Your-Own Gardener

Recognising the Advantages of Growing Your Own

Saving money

Eating fresh

Growing food metres, not miles, from your doorstep

Experiencing more variety

Feasting without chemicals

Looking at the broader picture

Tooling Around: Kitting Yourself Out

Getting the Plot

Back garden

Pots and containers

Allotments

Knowing What You’re Growing

Growing tasty veg

Planting luscious fruit

Chapter 2: Assessing Your Territory

Making the Most out of Your Back Garden

Working with raised beds

Gardening in containers: Pot training

Growing in bags

Nurturing vertical gardens

Growing under Cover

Growing in a greenhouse

Growing in a polytunnel

Growing indoors

Getting your Share of Allotment Gardening

Acquiring your plot

Choosing your plot

Divvying up your plot: Deep beds or raised beds

Avoiding common allotment pitfalls

Clearing Old Plots

Perennial weeds

Impeding perennial weeds

Annual weeds

Impeding annual weeds

Chapter 3: Deciding What, When, Where and How To Grow

Deciding What to Grow: Where and When

Making a planting calendar

Plotting for success

Choosing Your Fruit and Veg

Going for yield or flavour

Picking modern or heritage varieties

Looking at hybrid varieties

Selecting Seeds or Plants

Growing from seed

Choosing successful plants

Buying plants to save time

Planning Your Plot

Planning the layout

Catch cropping

Intercropping

Part II: Prepping Your Plot

Chapter 4: Getting Down and Dirty with Your Soil

Delving into the Make-up of Soil

Mineral particles

Organic matter

Water

Air

Soil i; nsects, bacteria and fungi

Assessing Your Soil

Analysing your soil

Looking at soil types

Improving Your Soil

Adding organic matter

Making compost

Chapter 5: Feeding and Watering Your Plants

Watering Your Crops

Knowing when to water

Making water go further

Reducing water needs

Eating Well: How Plants Feed

Nitrogen (chemical symbol N)

Phosphorus (chemical symbol P)

Potassium (chemical symbol K)

Trace elements

Using Fertilisers

Solid fertilisers

Liquid fertilisers

Organic fertilisers

Chapter 6: Becoming a Greener Gardener: Growing Organic

Deciding How Organic You Want to Be: Horses for Courses

Understanding the Ins and Outs of Organic Gardening

Knowing your priorities: The soil comes first

Adapting to your environment

Choosing the right varieties

Choosing organic seeds

Timing your crops carefully

Gardening without chemicals

Reducing, reusing, recycling

Cultivating comfrey

Living with imperfection

Gardening with nature

Assessing the Pros and Cons

Chapter 7: Spotting Signs of Trouble

Keeping Problems at Bay

Selecting suitable crops

Looking at crop rotation

Identifying the Most Common Problems

Considering climatic problems

Sorting out soil problems

Dealing with common pests

Fighting off common diseases

Controlling Plant-Specific Problems

Keeping your vegetables happy

Fending off fruit pests and diseases

Part III: Growing Tasty Veg

Chapter 8: Looking After Leafy Crops

Selecting Succulent Salads

Making a hearty salad: Lettuce

Bouncing back: Cut-and-come-again crops

Keep on growing: Winter salads

Blooming lovely: Edible flowers

Getting to Know the Cabbage Family

From Belgium with love: Brussels sprouts

A vegetable for all seasons: Cabbage

Curly and cute: Kale

Quick off the mark: Calabrese

Slow but superb: Sprouting broccoli

A white shade of pale: Cauliflowers

Pretty in green: Romanesco

A taste of the East: Chinese greens

Choosing Leaves You Won’t See in the Shops

Held in fond regard: Chard/leaf beet

Not just for sailors: Spinach

The crop of the future: Amaranth

Poor-man’s asparagus: Good King Henry

Chapter 9: Raising Root Crops

Sowing Staples

The humble spud: Potatoes

Plain and simple: Turnips

Crunchy and colourful: Carrots

Sweet and nutty: Parsnips

The onion’s big cousin: Leeks

So good, they make you cry: Onions and shallots

Pretty in purple: Beetroot

The Swedish turnip: Swede

Quick and easy: Radish

Enjoying Exotic Vegetables

Space invaders: Kohl rabi

From Florence with love: Fennel

Sleek and slender: Salsify and scorzonera

Not such an ugly duckling: Celeriac

Sweeter than the average: Sweet potatoes

Chapter 10: Growing a Selection for All Seasons

Growing Tangy Leaf Crops

Something to end up with: Endive

Two of a kind: Chicory and radicchio

Enjoying Flavoursome Summer Crops

A bit saucy: Tomatoes

Spicing things up: Peppers

Feeling hot: Chillies

Deep purple: Aubergines

Cool as a . . .: Cucumbers

Smashing Pumpkins and Squashes

Prolific producers: Courgettes

Get ready for a glut: Marrows

Not just for Halloween: Winter squashes and pumpkins

Chapter 11: Planting Pods and Grains

Nurturing Nutritious Beans

Healthy and hardy: Broad beans

Going continental: French beans

Sprinting up the canes: Runner beans

Producing pleasing pods: Peas

Growing Glorious Grains

Sweet as sugar: Sweetcorn

Something different: Amaranth and quinoa

Chapter 12: Branching Out: Growing Unusual Vegetables

Achieving A+ Artichokes

Going global: Globe artichokes

Gone with the wind: Jerusalem artichokes

A taste of the east: Chinese artichokes

Growing Culinary Treats

The highlight of spring: Asparagus

Stick to it: Celery

Beside the seaside: Seakale

Trying Something Different

A blast from the past: Cardoons

Going gumbo: Okra

Pretty and dainty: Asparagus peas

Part IV: Growing Your Own Fruit Salad

Chapter 13: Fruit in a Flash: Planting Quick-Growing Fruit

Creating Summer Treats

Succulent and summery: Strawberries

Fruit for the masses: Raspberries

Growing Fruit from Seed

Not just a pretty face: Cape gooseberries

Unfamiliar but useful: Huckleberries

More varied than you might think: Melons

Crunchy and juicy: Watermelons

Chapter 14: Very Berry! Growing Berries, Currants and Nuts

Growing Healthy Berries

Dark and delicious: Blackberries

It takes two: Loganberries

Not to be left out: Gooseberries

Everyone’s favourite: Blueberries

Time for Christmas: Cranberries

Scandinavian delight: Lingonberries

Coaching Currants

Better than blueberries: Blackcurrants

Summer jewels: Redcurrants and whitecurrants

Trying Something New: Growing Unusual Fruits

Getting going with Goji berries

Here we go: Mulberries

Scents of pride: Quinces

Much maligned: Medlars

Going Nuts

A long-term challenge: Walnuts

Ideal for smaller gardens: Hazelnuts

Chapter 15: Caring for Slow-Growing Tree Fruit

Looking at Seed and Rootstocks

Deciding on Tree Types

Cordons

Standards and half-standards

Bushes

Espaliers

Stepovers

Fans

Anchoring Apple Trees

Rummaging around rootstocks

Keeping the doctor away: Growing apples

Planting Pears

Rooting around with rootstocks

Pear-ing up: Growing pears

Sweet success: Stone Fruits

Taste of summer: Plums, gages and damsons

Summer loving: Cherries

A surprise in store: Apricots

A nice pair: Peaches and nectarines

Chapter 16: Growing Greenhouse Fruits

Cultivating Climbing Fruit

Fruit of the vine: Grapes

The Chinese gooseberry: Kiwi fruit

Getting a Zest for Life – Growing Citrus and Other Exotic Fruits

Sunshine fruits: Oranges, lemons and limes

The taste of paradise: Figs

Growing brightly: Pomegranates

Getting loved up: Passion fruit

An acquired taste: Tree tomatoes

Totally tropical: Pawpaws

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 17: Ten Tips for Planting a Herb Garden

Growing Herbs from Seed

Growing Herbs from Cuttings

Cheating with Cheap Young Plants

Finding the Best Herbs for Shade

Choosing Lookers

Keeping Herbs Healthy in Pots

Pruning Your Herbs to Keep Them Young

Keeping Mint in Check

Choosing the Best Mints for Flavour

Keeping Your Bay Tree in Tip-Top Condition

Chapter 18: Ten Projects for Your Plot

Growing a Few Salad Leaves

Growing Three Different Beans in a Pot

Grow Pumpkins, Beans and Sweetcorn the Native American Way

Growing Strawberries Without a Garden

Preserving Herbs

Adding Colour with Edible Flowers

Sprouting Seeds on the Windowsill

Growing Carrots on the Patio

Going Up the Wall: Wall Planters

Aiming High: Hanging Baskets





Composting For Dummies®


Table of Contents

Introduction

About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Composting Basics

Part II: Selecting a Home and Method for Your Compost

Part III: Compost Happens

Part IV: Expanding Your Compost Horizons

Part V: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Composting Basics

Chapter 1: Digging into Compost

Welcome to the World of Compost

What compost is

What tools and equipment you need

How composting works

You Can Do It! Home Composting Made Easy

Some like it hot!

Cool customers

Reaping the Rewards of Composting

A healthier, more prolific garden

A healthier community and planet

Chapter 2: Tools of the Trade

Protecting Yourself from the Elements: Safety Gear

Getting a good pair of gloves

Shielding your eyes

Donning a dust mask

Blocking harmful rays with a hat and sunscreen

Choosing the Right Tools and Equipment for the Job

Mixing things up with a pitchfork or compost fork

Digging in with a soil fork

Getting the lowdown on shovels and spades

Investing in a good-quality hose

Moving compost in buckets or tarps

Hauling compost with wheelbarrows or garden carts

Additional Gadgets and Tools for the Enthusiastic Composter

Testing your compost’s temperature

Aerating your compost

Considering chopping tools

Tool-Buying Tips

How does it feel?

How’s it made?

Showing Your Tools Some TLC

Giving everything a quick cleaning

Maintaining wooden handles

Chapter 3: The Decomposition Process

Decomp 101: How Rotting Works

Going to pieces: The physical breakup

Freeing the nutrients: The chemical breakdown

Maintaining balance through the food web

Who’s Doing the Hard Work?

Counting on chemical decomposers

Profiting from physical decomposers

Creating a Productive Work Environment

Rationing the carbons and nitrogens

Sizing down particles

Managing moisture and air

Tuning the temperature

Part II: Selecting a Home and Method for Your Compost

Chapter 4: Composting Aboveground or Underground: No Bin Required

Composting Without a Container

An Issue of Air: Aerobic versus Anaerobic Composting

Aerobic composting: Keeping everything aboveground

Anaerobic decomposition: Working without air underground

Creating a Pile Aboveground

Where to site the pile

Aboveground composting in a few simple steps

When your compost will be ready to use

Digging a Hole (Pit or Trench Composting)

Where to site the hole

Pit composting in a few simple steps

When your compost will be ready to use

Keeping Your Binless Compost Critter-Free

Chapter 5: Working with Compost Containers

Composting in a Container (Or Two or Three)

When using containers is best

Sorting out your composting style

Checking Out Your Options

Taking a turn with tumblers

Bins of all types

Kitchen composters

Keeping Wildlife Out of Your Container

Eliminating enticing ingredients

Using bin characteristics to exclude creatures

Bugs, ants, and flies, oh my!

Shopping for a Composter: A Buyer’s Guide

Chapter 6: Erecting Your Own Compost Containers

Transforming Recycled Items into Inexpensive Containers

Wood shipping pallets

Recycled garbage can

Building Bins with Wire, Bales, or Wood

Hardware cloth circular wire bin

Poultry wire circular bin

Straw-bale bin

Wood and wire three-bin composter

Part III: Compost Happens

Chapter 7: Selecting Your Ingredients

Getting Down with Browns: Carbon-Rich Ingredients

Dry leaves

Woody plant trimmings

Paper products

Straw

Pine needles

Sawdust

Greening It Up: Nitrogen-Rich Ingredients

Kitchen scraps

Grass clippings

Leafy plant trimmings, spent flowers, herbs, and vegetables

Weeds — foliage only!

Livestock manure

Pet bedding

Feathers

Hair and fur

Hay

Using the Right Ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen Ingredients

Knowing which Materials to Avoid

Getting Your Hands on Compostable Materials

Stockpiling your own organic matter

Rounding up free organic matter

Chapter 8: Mixing Up a Batch: A Step-by-Step Guide

Deciding on Location

Choosing a convenient site

Climate considerations

Creating Your Pile

Finding the pile size that’s just right

To chop or not to chop: Adding small or large chunks

Aerating made easy

Piling on the layers — and watering as you work

Tending to the Compost Pile

Turning your compost pile

Adding water

When Is It Finished — And Why Does It Matter?

Surveying Different Approaches to Making Compost

Basic compost for laid-back gardeners

Speedier compost

Compost for Type-A personalities

A fine three-bin compost

Compost smoothie, anyone?

Chapter 9: Using Your Finished Compost

Enriching Vegetable and Flower Beds

Knowing how often to add compost to garden beds

Figuring out how much compost is enough on beds

Using Compost to Mulch Landscape Plants and Trees

Top-Dressing Lawns

Screening Compost for Containers

Making a compost screen

Screening small and large amounts of compost

Using screened compost in container plantings

Finding Other Uses for Finished Compost

Brewing (and using) compost tea

Growing plants directly on the pile

Combining Homemade with Store-Bought Compost

Purchasing bags of compost

Buying in bulk

Part IV: Expanding Your Compost Horizons

Chapter 10: Working with Worms

Vermicomposting in a Nutshell

Meet the Squirmy Stars of the Show

Composting worm species

Obtaining composting worms

Hooking Up the Housing and Bedding

How much room do your worms need?

Building your own worm abode

Opting for a manufactured worm bin

Making the bed

Introducing worms to their new home

Chow Time! Feeding Your Worms

What’s on the menu

To chop or not to chop (again)

Maintaining Your Worms’ Comfort Zone

Light

Temperature

Moisture

Breathing room

pH levels

Tackling Problems with Your Worm Bin

Odor

Mites

Dying worms

What Worms Contribute to Your Compost: The Casting Call

Harvesting vermicompost

Using vermicompost

Chapter 11: Adding Cover Crops and Green Manures

Recognizing the Value of Cover Crops and Green Manures

Preventing erosion

Adding organic matter

Reducing soil compaction

Improving tilth

Creating and adding nitrogen

Feeding beneficial insects

Inhibiting weed growth

Surveying Your Cover Crop Choices

Legumes

Grasses

Other cover crops

Planting and Turning Over Cover Crops

Sowing seasons

Mixing your mature cover crop into the soil

To till or not to till

Chapter 12: Composting in Sheets

Sheet Composting: Read All About It

Pros and cons

Where and when to lay sheets of compost

Getting down to ingredients

Sheet Composting and Gardening in One Step

Building garden soil

Planting in sheet compost beds

Planting next year’s garden

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 13: Ten Answers to Common Questions about Compost

What Is Compost, Really?

What Are Browns and Greens?

Can I Compost All My Kitchen Scraps? What about Pet Waste?

Do I Have to Purchase a Container to Compost?

Do I Have to Turn Compost Regularly?

How Long before Organic Matter Becomes Compost?

How Do I Know When My Compost Is Ready to Use?

Can’t I Just Send My Yard and Household Waste to a Landfill to Decompose?

Can I Compost in Winter?

Can I Use Compost instead of Fertilizer?

Chapter 14: Ten Tips for Troubleshooting Compost

Slow Decomposition

Hovering Swarms of Teeny Flies

Fat, White Grubs

Dead Vermicomposting Worms

Lots of Bugs Crawling About

Ammonia Odor

Rotten Egg Odor

Slurry-Like Compost

Eek! A Mouse in the Compost

Animals Scattering Compost





Storing and Preserving Garden Produce For Dummies®


Visit www.dummies.com/cheatsheet/storingandpreservinggardenproduceuk to view this book's cheat sheet.

Table of Contents

Introduction

About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organised

Part I: Understanding Preserving

Part II: Discovering Storing and Preserving Methods

Part III: Working with Home-Grown Fruits

Part IV: Keeping and Eating Garden Vegetables

Part V: Preserving and Using Herbs, Eggs and Wild Extras

Part VI: The Part of Tens



Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here



	Part I: 	Understanding Preserving

Chapter 1: Experiencing the Good Life with Good Reasons

Reaping the Rewards of Preserving

Wanting the good life

Saving for a rainy day: Thrifty ways

Satisfying your soul with home-grown therapy

Passing on the knowledge



Planning Ahead in a Down-to-Earth Way

Rotating your crops

Selecting what to grow and how to preserve it

Growing your favourites

Ensuring that you have the right amount: Multi-method preserving

Egg-zamining egg-stra information



Overviewing Storing and Preserving Methods

Choosing What Works for You

Sharing a snippet on safety

Handling handy tools of the trade

Expanding your preserving possibilities





Chapter 2: Equipping Yourself and Your Kitchen

Examining Your Existing Equipment at Home Sweet Home

Studying your kitchen space

Going potty with pans and bowls

Tooling up

Buying new jars or recycling old ones



Obtaining Useful Specialist Tools and Handy Extras

Buying specialist equipment

Getting serious: Specialist equipment to die for



Gathering Together Recipes

Reading and understanding recipes

Indulging in quality ingredients





Chapter 3: Preserving Garden Produce Safely

Cleaning Up with Commonsense Safety Guidelines

Boxing clever with first aid

Gathering up the cleaning tools

Cultivating good practices



Handling Personal Cleanliness and Food Safety

Washing your hands

Sterilising your food jars

Spotting the rotten apple

Keeping your food safe: Tried and tested methods

Taking care with chemicals



Recognising and Dealing with Nasties

Unmasking spoil-sport bacteria and micro-organisms

Sizing up ‘bad’ bacteria

Doing bacteria out of a job

Grappling with pesky pests





	Part II: 	Discovering Storing and Preserving Methods

Chapter 4: Boxing, Bagging and Clamping: Cool Storage Options

Shelving Your Storage Problems: Easy Ways Out

Reusing and recycling for effective storage



Keeping Things Dry and Safe: What Not to Use for Storing

Taking the Best of the Old and the New

Getting the job done quickly and easily

Going up high

Rooting underground

Benefiting from bricks and stones

Adapting to modern life

Employing state-of-the-art inventions



Clamping It Up

Digging up and sorting out

Finding the ideal clamp spot

Building ‘au natural’

Sizing up perfectly



Letting the Right Creatures In

Hiring friendly help

Discouraging unwanted guests





Chapter 5: Preserving With Sweetness: Jams, Jellies and Syrup

Starting Off on the Right Foot

Working on quality

Putting your money where your mouth is



Getting out of a Fruity Jam with Jams and Jellies

Working with pectin

Preparing and pulping fruit

Using a jelly bag

Spooning in the sugar, with precision

Stirring up to avoid trouble

Testing times

Going potty and potting-up



Coming Over All Syrupy! Hot Bottling

Choosing suitable produce and generating syrup

Getting up a head of steam



Staying Out of the Dairy with Fruit Butters and Cheeses



Chapter 6: Using Vinegar to Preserve Your Produce

Figuring Out the Vinegar Treatment

Defining the different vinegar preserves

Using the right acid-resistant equipment

Assembling the preserving ingredients

Choosing the right vinegar for the job

Making your own flavoured vinegar



Mixing Vinegar with Other Ingredients

Chunking up for chutney

Getting in a pickle and other states

Relishing your relishes

Catching up with ketchup

Maturing your vinegary preserves



Jazzing Up Jars and Giving Gifts



Chapter 7: Freezing and Refrigerating Home Produce

Chilling Out: Cooling and Freezing Food for Longevity

Refrigerating Your Food

Regulating your fridge’s temperature

Avoiding cross-contamination and frosting



Lowering the Temperature with Freezers

Stacking and organising your chest freezer

Positioning your freezer: Things to consider

Plugging in and revving up

Reading the dials

Defrosting and thawing out



Preparing for the Big Freeze

Blanching in brief

Wrapping up well

Working with bulk packing: Open freezing





Chapter 8: Drying, Salting and Vacuum-Packing Your Produce

Drying Up Your Food – Deliberately

Using the sun and air to dry

Saving seeds

Making and using solar dryers

Pre-treating fruits and vegetables

Helping with powerful incentives

Testing for dryness

Extending the shelf-life with delicate things in mind



Shrivelling with Salt: An Old-fashioned Method

Understanding osmosis

Working with salt



Sucking Out the Air

Getting help from a real sucker

Appreciating the advantages of vacuum-packing





Chapter 9: Drinking Up Time: Imbibing Your Own Liquid Refreshments

Being Cordial: Family-friendly Drinks

Making and keeping fruit cordials

Being sweet with children

Adding cordials to adult drinks



Juicing: Getting Straight to the Point

Getting Delightfully Tipsy on Home-made Hooch

Equipping yourself for wine-making

Fermenting fruits and flowers

Making wine: The basic formula

Enjoying alcoholic recipes





	Part III: 	Working with Home-Grown Fruits

Chapter 10: Enjoying Outstanding Orchard Offerings

Getting to Grips with Tree Roots and Top Fruits

Grafting isn’t always hard graft

Perfecting your picking techniques



Swapping Fruity Tips and Tastes

Trying Out Some Treetop Treats

Apples

Apricots

Cherries

Crab apples

Damsons

Figs

Grapes

Greengages

Medlars

Nuts (cultivated)

Oranges

Peaches

Pears

Plums

Quinces





Chapter 11: Making the Most of Your Berry, Berry Good Soft-Fruit Harvest

Protecting and Picking Your Soft Fruits

Mixing and Matching with Berries

Writing the Alpha-berry of Soft Fruits and their Currant Friends

Blackberries

Blackcurrants

Chokeberries

Gooseberries

Ground cherries

Jostaberries

Loganberries

Mulberries

Raspberries

Redcurrants

Rhubarb

Strawberries

Tayberries





Chapter 12: Storing and Enjoying Fruiting Vegetables

Turning on to Tastes from the Mediterranean (and Beyond)

Partnering up the exotics

Using oil as a preserving tool

Firing up the senses



Preserving Fruiting Vegetables: From Aubergines to Tomatoes

Aubergines

Chillies

Cucumbers

Fennel (bulb)

Garlic

Melons

Okra

Peppers

Sweetcorn

Tomatoes





	Part IV: 	Keeping and Eating Garden Vegetables

Chapter 13: Going Underground: Rootin’ Around with Root Vegetables

Considering an A–Z of Roots (Don’t Cry . . . The Onion Family’s Here Too!)

Beetroot

Carrots

Celeriac

Florence Fennel

Garlic

Jerusalem artichoke

Kohlrabi

Onions

Parsnips

Potatoes

Radish

Salsify

Scorzonera

Shallots

Swede

Turnip



Coming Together Beautifully: Effective Food Combinations

Getting in a stew pack

Spicing up your life





Chapter 14: Making Room for Legumes: The Bean Harvest

Walking Through the Season with Legumes

Making the most of freshness

Preserving something magical for future use



Creating a Scene with Peas and Beans

Broad beans

French beans

Heirloom varieties

Mangetout peas: Edible podded peas

Peas

Runner beans





Chapter 15: Harvesting the Best of the Rest

Squashing in Your Vegetables

Carrying on with courgettes

Making the most of marrows

Wondering at the variety of squashes

Snacking on seeds



Going Green in Your Cabbage Patch

Broccoli and calabrese

Brussels sprouts

Cabbages

Cauliflower

Celery

Kale

Leeks

Salad leaves

Spinach



Dealing with Perennials: Vegetables That Don’t Go Away

Asparagus

Globe Artichokes

Horseradish

Jerusalem Artichokes





Part V: Preserving and Using Herbs, Eggs and Wild Extras

Chapter 16: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme: Enjoying Glorious Garden Herbs

Drying Herbs for the Future

Ensuring that you choose herbs that dry well

Picking perfectly

Hanging herbs around

Racking up: An alternative to hanging

Going professional

Testing and storing after home drying

Sorting out problems with dried herbs



Getting to Grips with Other Herb Use and Preserve Options

Making the most of aromatic herbs

Using herbs for comfort and health

Matching and mixing herbs with your food



Finding and Using Favourites from the Herb Garden

Basil

Bay

Chamomile

Chives

Comfrey

Coriander

Dill

Fennel

Lavender

Lemon Balm

Lovage

Marjoram

Mint

Oregano

Parsley

Rosemary

Sage

Tarragon

Thyme





Chapter 17: Enjoying Eggs All Year Round

Keeping Hens for Eggs

Eggs-tending your harvest by breed

Staying ‘au natural’ and taking the consequences



Counting Up Hen and Egg Numbers

Watching Your Eggs Over Time

Looking perfect

Cracking up and related problems

Checking age and freshness



Storing Eggs for the Future

Pickling your eggs

Solving egg storage

Whisking up and separating out

Cooking with eggs before storing





Chapter 18: Going Wild in the Country

Gathering Up Your Stores

Preparing to pick

Charting your way around the seasons



Taking Care in the Countryside

Stepping away from the beaten track

Keeping a weather eye open

Choosing clean and safe food

Staying on the right side of the law

Sharing the bounty



Delighting in the Turning of the Seasons

Blackberries

Coltsfoot

Crab apple

Dandelion

Elder tree

French hales

Haws

Hips

Nettles

Ramsons

Sloes

Wild mushrooms





	Part VI: 	The Part of Tens

Chapter 19: Ten Pointers for Perfect Preserving

Timing Is Key to Success

Preparing Yourself for Preserving

Sourcing Top-Quality Ingredients

Tooling Up for Work

Reaping the Rewards of the Right Ripeness

Heating Up for Hygiene

Staying Safe

Checking the Details Carefully

Making What You Love to Eat

Spreading the Preserved Wealth Around



Chapter 20: Ten Troubleshooting Tips

Finding the Rotten Apple

Handling a Pest Crisis

Freshening Up Freezer Space

Working Out Why Your Jam Doesn’t Set

Gauging the Ripeness of Your Fruit

Dealing with Bubbles and Crystals

Sealing Containers Safely

Deciding What to Do about Worrying Smells

Handling Hot Preserves

Maintaining a Sensible Storage Regime



Chapter 21: Ten (or So) Ways to Take Storing and Preserving Further

Harvesting: To Boldly Go With the Stars

Extending Your Produce Range

Moving from Window Box to Part-Time Farmer

Enjoying Seedy Sunday: A Free Seed Bonanza

Investing in Containers

Growing on the Rooftops

Digging Up Your Lawn

Allotmenteering, If You Aren’t Already

Finding Community Growing Spaces

Looking into Landshare

Getting Involved: Community Supported Agriculture

Joining Your Transition Town Movement



Cheat Sheet





Growing Your Own Fruit & Veg For Dummies®


Table of Contents

Introduction

About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organised

Part I: Getting Going with Growing

Part II: Prepping Your Plot

Part III: Growing Tasty Veg

Part IV: Growing Your Own Fruit Salad

Part V: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Getting Going with Growing

Chapter 1: Becoming a Grow-Your-Own Gardener

Recognising the Advantages of Growing Your Own

Saving money

Eating fresh

Growing food metres, not miles, from your doorstep

Experiencing more variety

Feasting without chemicals

Looking at the broader picture

Tooling Around: Kitting Yourself Out

Getting the Plot

Back garden

Pots and containers

Allotments

Knowing What You’re Growing

Growing tasty veg

Planting luscious fruit

Chapter 2: Assessing Your Territory

Making the Most out of Your Back Garden

Working with raised beds

Gardening in containers: Pot training

Growing in bags

Nurturing vertical gardens

Growing under Cover

Growing in a greenhouse

Growing in a polytunnel

Growing indoors

Getting your Share of Allotment Gardening

Acquiring your plot

Choosing your plot

Divvying up your plot: Deep beds or raised beds

Avoiding common allotment pitfalls

Clearing Old Plots

Perennial weeds

Impeding perennial weeds

Annual weeds

Impeding annual weeds

Chapter 3: Deciding What, When, Where and How To Grow

Deciding What to Grow: Where and When

Making a planting calendar

Plotting for success

Choosing Your Fruit and Veg

Going for yield or flavour

Picking modern or heritage varieties

Looking at hybrid varieties

Selecting Seeds or Plants

Growing from seed

Choosing successful plants

Buying plants to save time

Planning Your Plot

Planning the layout

Catch cropping

Intercropping

Part II: Prepping Your Plot

Chapter 4: Getting Down and Dirty with Your Soil

Delving into the Make-up of Soil

Mineral particles

Organic matter

Water

Air

Soil insects, bacteria and fungi

Assessing Your Soil

Analysing your soil

Looking at soil types

Improving Your Soil

Adding organic matter

Making compost

Chapter 5: Feeding and Watering Your Plants

Watering Your Crops

Knowing when to water

Making water go further

Reducing water needs

Eating Well: How Plants Feed

Nitrogen (chemical symbol N)

Phosphorus (chemical symbol P)

Potassium (chemical symbol K)

Trace elements

Using Fertilisers

Solid fertilisers

Liquid fertilisers

Organic fertilisers

Chapter 6: Becoming a Greener Gardener: Growing Organic

Deciding How Organic You Want to Be: Horses for Courses

Understanding the Ins and Outs of Organic Gardening

Knowing your priorities: The soil comes first

Adapting to your environment

Choosing the right varieties

Choosing organic seeds

Timing your crops carefully

Gardening without chemicals

Reducing, reusing, recycling

Cultivating comfrey

Living with imperfection

Gardening with nature

Assessing the Pros and Cons

Chapter 7: Spotting Signs of Trouble

Keeping Problems at Bay

Selecting suitable crops

Looking at crop rotation

Identifying the Most Common Problems

Considering climatic problems

Sorting out soil problems

Dealing with common pests

Fighting off common diseases

Controlling Plant-Specific Problems

Keeping your vegetables happy

Fending off fruit pests and diseases

Part III: Growing Tasty Veg

Chapter 8: Looking After Leafy Crops

Selecting Succulent Salads

Making a hearty salad: Lettuce

Bouncing back: Cut-and-come-again crops

Keep on growing: Winter salads

Blooming lovely: Edible flowers

Getting to Know the Cabbage Family

From Belgium with love: Brussels sprouts

A vegetable for all seasons: Cabbage

Curly and cute: Kale

Quick off the mark: Calabrese

Slow but superb: Sprouting broccoli

A white shade of pale: Cauliflowers

Pretty in green: Romanesco

A taste of the East: Chinese greens

Choosing Leaves You Won’t See in the Shops

Held in fond regard: Chard/leaf beet

Not just for sailors: Spinach

The crop of the future: Amaranth

Poor-man’s asparagus: Good King Henry

Chapter 9: Raising Root Crops

Sowing Staples

The humble spud: Potatoes

Plain and simple: Turnips

Crunchy and colourful: Carrots

Sweet and nutty: Parsnips

The onion’s big cousin: Leeks

So good, they make you cry: Onions and shallots

Pretty in purple: Beetroot

The Swedish turnip: Swede

Quick and easy: Radish

Enjoying Exotic Vegetables

Space invaders: Kohl rabi

From Florence with love: Fennel

Sleek and slender: Salsify and scorzonera

Not such an ugly duckling: Celeriac

Sweeter than the average: Sweet potatoes

Chapter 10: Growing a Selection for All Seasons

Growing Tangy Leaf Crops

Something to end up with: Endive

Two of a kind: Chicory and radicchio

Enjoying Flavoursome Summer Crops

A bit saucy: Tomatoes

Spicing things up: Peppers

Feeling hot: Chillies

Deep purple: Aubergines

Cool as a . . .: Cucumbers

Smashing Pumpkins and Squashes

Prolific producers: Courgettes

Get ready for a glut: Marrows

Not just for Halloween: Winter squashes and pumpkins

Chapter 11: Planting Pods and Grains

Nurturing Nutritious Beans

Healthy and hardy: Broad beans

Going continental: French beans

Sprinting up the canes: Runner beans

Producing pleasing pods: Peas

Growing Glorious Grains

Sweet as sugar: Sweetcorn

Something different: Amaranth and quinoa

Chapter 12: Branching Out: Growing Unusual Vegetables

Achieving A+ Artichokes

Going global: Globe artichokes

Gone with the wind: Jerusalem artichokes

A taste of the east: Chinese artichokes

Growing Culinary Treats

The highlight of spring: Asparagus

Stick to it: Celery

Beside the seaside: Seakale

Trying Something Different

A blast from the past: Cardoons

Going gumbo: Okra

Pretty and dainty: Asparagus peas

Part IV: Growing Your Own Fruit Salad

Chapter 13: Fruit in a Flash: Planting Quick-Growing Fruit

Creating Summer Treats

Succulent and summery: Strawberries

Fruit for the masses: Raspberries

Growing Fruit from Seed

Not just a pretty face: Cape gooseberries

Unfamiliar but useful: Huckleberries

More varied than you might think: Melons

Crunchy and juicy: Watermelons

Chapter 14: Very Berry! Growing Berries, Currants and Nuts

Growing Healthy Berries

Dark and delicious: Blackberries

It takes two: Loganberries

Not to be left out: Gooseberries

Everyone’s favourite: Blueberries

Time for Christmas: Cranberries

Scandinavian delight: Lingonberries

Coaching Currants

Better than blueberries: Blackcurrants

Summer jewels: Redcurrants and whitecurrants

Trying Something New: Growing Unusual Fruits

Getting going with Goji berries

Here we go: Mulberries

Scents of pride: Quinces

Much maligned: Medlars

Going Nuts

A long-term challenge: Walnuts

Ideal for smaller gardens: Hazelnuts

Chapter 15: Caring for Slow-Growing Tree Fruit

Looking at Seed and Rootstocks

Deciding on Tree Types

Cordons

Standards and half-standards

Bushes

Espaliers

Stepovers

Fans

Anchoring Apple Trees

Rummaging around rootstocks

Keeping the doctor away: Growing apples

Planting Pears

Rooting around with rootstocks

Pear-ing up: Growing pears

Sweet success: Stone Fruits

Taste of summer: Plums, gages and damsons

Summer loving: Cherries

A surprise in store: Apricots

A nice pair: Peaches and nectarines

Chapter 16: Growing Greenhouse Fruits

Cultivating Climbing Fruit

Fruit of the vine: Grapes

The Chinese gooseberry: Kiwi fruit

Getting a Zest for Life – Growing Citrus and Other Exotic Fruits

Sunshine fruits: Oranges, lemons and limes

The taste of paradise: Figs

Growing brightly: Pomegranates

Getting loved up: Passion fruit

An acquired taste: Tree tomatoes

Totally tropical: Pawpaws

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 17: Ten Tips for Planting a Herb Garden

Growing Herbs from Seed

Growing Herbs from Cuttings

Cheating with Cheap Young Plants

Finding the Best Herbs for Shade

Choosing Lookers

Keeping Herbs Healthy in Pots

Pruning Your Herbs to Keep Them Young

Keeping Mint in Check

Choosing the Best Mints for Flavour

Keeping Your Bay Tree in Tip-Top Condition

Chapter 18: Ten Projects for Your Plot

Growing a Few Salad Leaves

Growing Three Different Beans in a Pot

Grow Pumpkins, Beans and Sweetcorn the Native American Way

Growing Strawberries Without a Garden

Preserving Herbs

Adding Colour with Edible Flowers

Sprouting Seeds on the Windowsill

Growing Carrots on the Patio

Going Up the Wall: Wall Planters

Aiming High: Hanging Baskets





				Growing Your Own Fruit & Veg For Dummies®

				by Geoff Stebbings



				Growing Your Own Fruit & Veg For Dummies®

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				About the Author

				Geoff Stebbings got hooked on gardening at the age of eight and soon knew that he wanted to make it his career. He had weekend gardening jobs while at school, as well as working for a greengrocer. He trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and has worked in garden centres and in a specialist nursery before becoming a Head Gardener, restoring a historic garden. It was while working here that Geoff became closely involved with the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens and he had responsibility for the National Collection of Award-Winning Iris.

				In 1989, to try and get others interested in gardening, Geoff became a gardening writer and worked for Garden News, Garden Answers, Practical Gardening and The Garden – the journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. He then worked as a freelance writer for ten years and has written several books, including The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Irises, The Year-Round Garden and Spring Bulbs.

				Geoff also lectures widely and is a member of the Garden Roadshow, which travels around the country visiting major flower shows and answering people’s problems. He is a keen gardener and grows a wide range of plants in his garden, greenhouses and on his allotments. His passions are iris and growing tasty food – especially tomatoes – but he says that he could never be a specialist because he loves growing anything and everything – except pampas grass!

				Geoff is currently Editor of Garden Answers magazine.

				 				 			 				Dedication

				This book is dedicated to everyone who wants to discover the satisfaction of growing some of their own food. It’s a voyage of discovery that never ends.

				Publisher’s Acknowledgments

				We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at www.dummies.com/register/.

				Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

				Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

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		 			 				Introduction

				Gardening is an exciting journey. Every year is different: growing something new, experimenting with new varieties, and experiencing all that the British weather can throw at you (perfect weather one year and rotten weather the next!). No matter how many years you spend in the garden, you never get to know everything and you can always improve. But with every year you gain more experience, and the successes you have make your yearning for knowledge get even stronger.

				Growing your own crops gets you outside in the open air and gives you plenty of exercise. More importantly, growing crops gets you back in touch with the seasons and with nature – something that modern living has moved us away from. You experience the near miracle of seeds germinating. You nurture your seedlings and young plants, do your best for them, battle against their enemies, enjoy the abundance of your plants, and finally feed your body with food that’s fresh and richer in nutrients than anything you can buy.

				Growing crops is fun and rewarding for all ages. Traditionally the domain of the retired, allotments are gaining more and more popularity with younger people. Children usually enjoy gardening where the results are quick and dramatic – fortunately many vegetables fit this description. Kids can also be proud to help provide food for the table. Gardening provides them with so much that they can’t discover in the classroom.

				Whether you’ve decided to grow your own crops because you want to know what you’re eating, because you care about food miles, because you want to appreciate the differences in the seasons, or because you want to save money, you’re bound to enjoy the experience. You’ll never know everything, but after all, the journey and not the arriving is the real pleasure.

				About This Book

				Growing Your Own Fruit & Veg For Dummies enables you to get started in the adventure of growing your own food. I’ve packed each chapter with the information you need to get the best results and avoid common mistakes. I’ve written the book so that even if you’ve never grown anything before, you’re able to get started, understand what you’re doing, and know what to expect.

				Gardening is a huge subject and the plants in this book are as varied as any in the flower garden, but getting to grips with the principles of growing fruit and veg stands you in good stead for growing anything. You can grow plants in as many different ways as there are gardeners and because most plants simply want to grow, sometimes very odd methods give good results. A book like this can’t possibly deal with all the different ways to grow plants, so instead I concentrate on tried and trusted ways to sow, plant, grow and prune. As you become more experienced you may discover that you can cheat sometimes and still get good results, but follow the tips in this book and you’re well on your way to success. Treat this book as an experienced friend guiding you as you enter the exciting world of growing your own food.

				Conventions Used in This Book

				To help you get the most from this book, I follow a few conventions:

				Italic emphasises and highlights new words or terms that I define.

				Boldfaced text indicates the action part of numbered steps.

				Monofont text displays web addresses.

				I give all measurements in metric (so that’s centimetres and metres rather than inches and feet).

				Foolish Assumptions

				In writing this book, I made a few assumptions about who you are:

				You may be completely new to gardening, and don’t know a propagator from a pumpkin! Or maybe you do, but just don’t know where to start. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner. Everyone has to start somewhere and even gardeners who’ve been growing for decades are beginners with plants they’ve never grown before.

				You may have some experience of gardening, but of the flowers and shrubs kind, and want to get clued up about fruit and veg.

				You may have been growing your own food for years, but want to try something new.

				You don’t have a garden the size of Wembley Stadium; you may not even have a garden at all.

				You have a stronger-than-usual fondness for mulberries and have noticed that I include them in this book!

				As you can see, even seasoned gardeners can find what they need to know to grow unfamiliar crops within the lovely yellow and black covers of this book.

				How This Book Is Organised

				I’ve organised Growing Your Own Fruit & Veg For Dummies into five parts. Each part covers a range of subjects to get you growing your own food and is split into chapters to help you easily find the information you want.

				Part I: Getting Going with Growing

				Before you even consider sowing a seed you need to know certain basics. This part helps you to understand why growing crops makes sense and to identify what tools you need to do it; it teaches you about the soil and the different places you can grow crops (including containers, raised beds and in the greenhouse); and it explains what to look for when buying plants and seeds and the best way to plan your plot for health and efficiency.

				Part II: Prepping Your Plot

				Here I tackle the basic principles you need to understand to get the most out of gardening. Feeding and watering and pests and diseases are all here. I start by looking at soil: how to work out what type of soil you have, how to test and improve it and how to make compost. I go on to explain the various types of fertiliser, what they do and how to use them, and the secrets of watering and why your crops may need extra water. I put forward the case for organic gardening, looking at the advantages and disadvantages and considering whether going organic makes sense. Lastly, I look at what gardeners dread – all those pests and diseases that seem bent on destroying your crops – along with ways to keep the damage to a minimum.

				Part III: Growing Tasty Veg

				From the mundane and everyday to the exotic and unfamiliar, this part covers the delicious vegetables you can grow. I look at leafy vegetables that crop all year round, and which are packed with good things to make you healthy. You can also read about the root crops that people traditionally enjoy over winter, although you don’t have to wait for the cold weather to arrive before you enjoy them. To add a dash of sunshine, this part goes on to look at summer crops that can make you believe you live in the Mediterranean. I then take a look at the useful and productive pods and grains that are the joys of the summer plot, many of which are easy to grow in the smallest garden, before exploring some of the more unfamiliar veg that you can grow on your plot.

				Part IV: Growing Your Own Fruit Salad

				With all the fruits that I guide you through in this part, you can soon find yourself throwing together the most varied and exotic fruit salad you’ve ever eaten! I start by helping the impatient gardener, who wants something tasty to eat in the shortest time, to avoid going hungry! You can then find advice about growing the soft fruits, currants and berries that really are the taste of summer, as well as the fruits that you can plant for the future – trees and shrubs that will feed you for many years to come and still be cropping for your children. Finally, I take a look at fruits that feel the cold and need the sunniest, most sheltered spot in your garden or a cosy indoor spot in a greenhouse or conservatory.

				Part V: The Part of Tens

				At the back of the book, I offer up a couple of fun chapters with some projects for you to try out and some tips for growing those herbs that some meals just can’t do without!

				Icons Used in This Book

				Scattered throughout this book are icons to guide you along your way. Icons are a handy For Dummies way to draw your attention to special bits and pieces of information.

				 Keep your sights on the target for tips and suggestions from one who knows!

				 Remember these important points of information to stand a better chance of success on your plot.

				 Plenty of things can go wrong in the garden – from insects that are even more partial to your crops than you are, to weather conditions that can play havoc with your plans – and these icons help you to identify the potential spanners in your works.

				 You grow food because you want to eat it, right? This icon lets you know where I have some tasty ideas for using your crops in the kitchen: not recipes – just suggestions.

				 Fruit and veg are good for you: fact. This icon lets you know when I’m telling you just how good.

				 Maybe you became interested in growing your own fruit and veg because you’re interested in the idea of organic gardening. If so, keep an eye open for this icon, which highlights places in the text where I have some info for you.

				Where to Go from Here

				I’ve organised this book so that you can just dip in and out of it as you like. You can read it from start to finish if you prefer, but you can also look up what you want to read about in the Table of Contents and jump straight in at that section. You can use this book in whatever way suits you best. If you’re not sure where to start, you may want to turn to Part I. It gives you the basics for getting started from scratch, and points to places later in the book where you can go for more detailed information.

				Good luck, and happy gardening!





		 			 				Part I

				Getting Going with Growing




In this part . . .

				As with any new subject that you tackle, the first problem you’re likely to come across is that you don’t know where to start. You’ve decided that you want to grow some of your own food but want to get off on the right foot without making any silly mistakes. Well, gardening is all about discovering and although some firm rules need to be followed, others are more flexible.

				You may have lots of reasons for wanting to grow your own fruit and veg, but whatever your reason, this part is all about the basics. This aspect includes having reasonable ambitions to start with and working out what you can reasonably grow in the area you have and what crops grow best where.

				Just as importantly, you need your armoury of tools. You may be tempted to go out to a garden centre and spend a fortune, thinking that you need a wide range of tools to stand a chance of being successful. The truth is that you need surprisingly few tools, and that you end up rarely using half the tools you buy whereas the other half get worn away in no time!

				Last but not least, you need to understand what you’re growing and how some of the crops are grouped together – in this book and by gardeners – so you can find them in shops and catalogues. When you’ve grasped this information, you’re ready to grow!





		 			 				Chapter 1

				Becoming a Grow-Your-Own Gardener


In This Chapter

				 Reaping the benefits of growing your own

				Gathering the tools you need

				 Assessing your plot

				 Deciding what crops to grow

				So you’ve decided to grow your own fruit and vegetables. Congratulations! Few activities in life are more rewarding than producing your own food. You’ll discover that nothing beats the satisfaction of picking a sun-ripened tomato and popping it straight in your mouth, or sitting down to lunch knowing that you grew all the veg yourself.

				As you start down the road of growing your own, be prepared for a few twists and turns, and some highs and lows along the way. You may find some plants more challenging than others, and not everything will go to plan. But if you start with the simple things and follow the basic rules – which is where this book comes in – your successes are sure to outweigh any failures.

				First of all, though, you need some real reasons to get growing – incentives to help you through the tough patches, a few tools, a plot of land, and an idea of what you want to grow. Let’s go.

				Recognising the Advantages of Growing Your Own

				More and more people are becoming aware of the different benefits of growing your own fruit and veg. These vary from reducing your food costs and improving your health and diet to doing your bit for the planet through lower food miles – the distance food has to travel between where it grows and where it’s eaten. People are acting upon this awareness, too; just look at the ever-growing waiting lists for allotment plots and the increasing sales of seeds of edible plants. Even people without access to a large plot are now discovering that their own gardens and patios can produce useful crops.

				Saving money

				Many people decide to grow their own fruit and veg because they think they’re going to save money. Think carefully if you’re one of these gardeners. Whether you actually save money depends on where you live and what access you currently have to fresh produce. For example, if you have a local market selling fresh produce you may already be able to buy cheap veg.

				How you think about growing your own has a bearing on saving money, too. If you see it as a chore and cost in your labour, your fruit and veg may work out expensive. However, if you enjoy pottering, digging and generally being out in the open air, you can forget about including labour in with the costs.

				For most people, and with careful planning, growing some types of crop yourself definitely can save you money. For example, you pay the same amount in a supermarket for a bag of salad leaves as you pay for a packet of seeds that produces dozens of bags of leaves. And because you can grow most vegetables from seed, doing so saves you more than if you buy them as plants.

				 With some crops, such as asparagus, you can choose between growing them from seed and buying a ready-grown plant. With other vegetables, however, such as Jerusalem artichokes or potatoes, you don’t have a choice other than to buy them as ready-grown plants, roots or tubers.

				Similarly, fruit trees won’t save you time or money, at least until the tree is well established. For example, if you buy an apple tree to grow in a pot, the tree doesn’t start turning a profit for many years because it can carry only small crops.

				Eating fresh

				Without a doubt, the fact that you can eat fruit and veg as fresh as nature intended is a huge benefit of growing your own. Picking and eating crops within minutes not only feels good, but it’s also healthy for you.

				Fruits that are fully ripe don’t just taste great; they’re packed with nutrients, too. Some crops, such as apples and pears, don’t deteriorate much as they’re transported and stored, but most do start to lose nutrients as soon as you pick them, especially leafy, green vegetables that contain a lot of vitamin C. Some crops, such as chard, deteriorate so quickly that shops rarely sell them. Sweetcorn, too, loses its sweetness quickly after harvesting and growing your own is the only way to discover its raw sugary tenderness. Soft fruits such as currants, raspberries and strawberries also travel badly and are worth growing yourself. Similarly, the longer you store fruit and veg and the more they’re processed, the more nutrients are lost.

				You are what you eat, as the old saying goes, and so eating produce fresh from your own garden gives you the nutritional best from your crops, and your body is much better off as a result.

				You’ll also discover just how much tastier fruit and veg can be when really fresh. For example, did you know that when ripe, gooseberries aren’t hard and acidic but soft and sweet? And have you ever eaten a peach fresh off the tree when the flesh is so juicy you need a napkin? Or have you eaten an apricot just as it’s perfectly ripe, with flesh as sweet and juicy as a peach? All these treats, and many more, are yours to experience when you grow your own.

				Growing food metres, not miles, from your doorstep

				 With concern about the welfare of the environment at an all-time high, you have a huge environmental advantage in growing your own fruit and veg. You can sidestep the issues of over-packaging, chemicals, fertilisers and food miles – where crops are flown and driven around the world – and reduce your own negative impact on the environment. You may not be able to grow all your needs but you can produce at least some crops within metres of your back door. Aside from keeping Mother Nature happy, just think of the convenience of being able to pop out and pick fresh tomatoes, salads or herbs.

				Experiencing more variety

				You rarely see certain crops, such as leaf beet, Swiss chard, purslane, mizuna and many more in the shops. They just don’t travel well enough. If you’re lucky enough to have a good farmers’ market near where you live, you may be able to find some of these crops there when in season, but you can do without the risk by growing them at home. Many other crops, such as sprouting broccoli, rocket and asparagus peas cost a fortune if you do find them, and yet you can easily grow them yourself.

				Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and redcurrants are also expensive to buy, and are often damaged when you buy them. Because of this, soft fruit really is worth growing yourself, and you can grow different and often better varieties than you find in the shops. Did you know, for example, that gooseberries come in red and yellow as well as green? Commercial growers pick their varieties based on how consistent they are in size and shape, whether they have heavy crops, and whether they travel well. They often pick fruit unripe in order to transport it, and so you can never buy some fruits that are fully ripe. You can, on the other hand, choose varieties that have the best flavour, need fewer chemicals to produce (or none at all), are resistant to disease, or crop out of season, extending the time you can eat them.

				Feasting without chemicals

				 In recent years consumers have become more concerned about additives and chemicals in food. Growing your own returns power to the consumer – you have the choice of what chemicals to put on your food or you can choose to grow crops entirely without using chemicals. You can grow some crops easily without having to spray them with chemicals, but others are more difficult. The cabbage family, for example, can be a challenge to grow well without resorting to some chemicals, but at least you choose what you apply to your crops and what you use. You can also select varieties that are resistant to disease so you have an easier time when growing organically.

				Looking at the broader picture

				Growing your own isn’t just good for your finances and for the planet; growing your own is good for you, too! Gardening is a healthy activity, and helps to keep you fit. (An hour of digging can burn 500 calories, so just a little active gardening each week can boost your health in more ways than just providing vitamins!) You also get out in the sun (at least, when it comes out to play) and you’re more in touch with the seasons and seasonal produce – qualities that are impossible to cost, but are really priceless.

				Tooling Around: Kitting Yourself Out

				Like any activity, gardening is more rewarding and a lot easier if you have the right tools and equipment. Choose wisely, and remember the old saying ‘buy cheap, pay twice’. You may be able to pick up bargain tools, and some cheap tools can be good value, but well-made tools serve you better in the long run. Nothing is more annoying than setting aside time to hoe or dig and your tool breaking halfway through the task.

				 Always inspect tools before you buy. Check handles for balance and smoothness. Check the materials and the weight – you may find working with light tools easier. Buy tools that suit your size and build. Never be afraid of buying a smaller tool if you can’t manage a large one – you work faster and more efficiently when you’re comfortable.

				Certain tools you need only once or twice a year, and so try not to get carried away filling your shed or garage with a huge armoury. Here’s a rundown of the basic essential tools.

				Spades and forks: You can buy two basic sizes: the digging and border (or ladies’) sizes. The digging versions do as their name suggests. The border versions are great for general planting and soil cultivation, where their smaller size is an advantage.

				 • Spade: You need a spade mainly for digging, but also for planting, harvesting some plants, and moving soil around. Prices vary hugely, as does design, but expect to pay around £20 for a decent stainless steel spade. Shaft length varies as well, so pick up and test the ‘fit’ of the spade before you buy. Some have treads on the blade, where you put your foot, to make digging easier, and the bottom edge of the blade should be sharp. Make sure that you see no rough splinters or protruding metal where the shaft fits into the ferrule, or tubular socket, on the blade because these may cut your hand. I recommend buying stainless steel spades – their highly polished blades don’t just look the business, they’re easy to clean and use, too, especially in heavy, clay soils.

				 • Fork: You need a fork for digging, breaking up clods (lumps) of soil, loosening the soil surface in preparation for planting, and digging up plants and root crops such as carrots and potatoes. Forks are especially useful in soil that’s very heavy (for example, clay soils) or full of stones, where getting a spade into the soil may be tricky. The fork to buy is the general digging fork that has four, evenly spaced tines (spikes). You can also buy a ‘potato fork’, which has broad, flat tines that are less likely to ‘spear’ the tubers as you lift them, but this is a luxury. A good fork costs about £20.

				Rake: A garden rake (not a grass or wire rake) is essential for levelling soil and removing stones and large lumps from the surface when preparing seedbeds and for evenly spreading fertiliser. You can purchase rakes as part of a multi-tool system. Prices start from as little as £10.

				Measuring line: You need a line of string for making sure your lines of seedlings are even and straight. You can buy a line or use two canes and some string. Nylon string is less likely to rot in use than natural twine.

				Hoe: You need at least one type of hoe to help you control weeds. The two basic, popular designs are the Dutch or push hoe and the French or draw hoe. If you buy only one hoe, and unless you’re growing potatoes (which you can easily ‘earth up’ with a French hoe), the Dutch hoe, with a straight, sharp blade pointing away from you, is the most useful and versatile. When using, you keep the blade as horizontal as possible and push it just under the soil surface to chop the tops off weeds, which should then wilt and die. The French hoe has a curved ‘neck’ so the blade, tucked under the head of the tool, faces you and cuts through the soil as you pull the hoe towards you. With a French hoe, you can easily control the path of the blade and weed more accurately, with less risk of chopping off and damaging plants. Prices start from about £10.

				Trowel: You need a trowel for planting. A trowel is like a small spade with a pointed blade to make planting holes. Thin trowels are useful for weeding but most have the same basic shape. When choosing a trowel, make sure that the handle is comfortable and not sharp or rough. The only time you may be able to do without a trowel for planting is when you plant brassicas, because those plants prefer well-firmed soil, and a dibber (a solid, usually wooden shaft with an angled handle) is therefore better. You can pick up a good trowel from as little as £5.

				Multi-headed tools: Many systems offer a range of interchangeable handle lengths and tool heads. These enable you to have a variety of tools without buying lots of handles. Be aware, though, that you usually can’t mix ’n’ match tools and handles from different systems, so make sure that you choose the system offering the tools you need before you start to buy and commit yourself. Prices vary enormously but expect to pay £10 for a handle and about the same for most small tools.

				Sprayer: A good sprayer is useful; even if you intend to garden organically you’re probably going to need to use some organic sprays to control common pests. Trigger sprayers, where each pull of the trigger releases a burst of spray, are cheap but hard work to use if you have to spray a lot of plants. Pressure sprayers, where you pump the handle to produce pressure in the container to produce a continuous burst of spray, cost more but are far easier to use.

				 Buying a sprayer means that you can buy and dilute concentrated chemicals. You don’t have to buy ready-to-use chemicals, which, although convenient and handy when you start growing your own, are the most expensive way to buy chemicals. Ready-to-use chemicals also involve a lot of waste because you’re buying diluted chemicals and a spray bottle with every purchase.

				Propagator: A propagator is useful for raising seedlings earlier than you can outside. A basic propagator consists of some sort of waterproof tray and a transparent lid. You can easily make your own but most gardeners buy one. Unheated, basic propagators, however, have limited use. Light is essential for seedlings so you need to place an unheated propagator in a greenhouse or on a windowsill, and without extra heat you’re limited in what you can successfully grow. An electrically heated propagator without a thermostat is useful because it provides constant heat, but the temperature inside depends on the outside temperature, which is a problem when the weather’s cold at night and too hot on a sunny windowsill. Heated propagators with a thermostat are considerably better, and can help to avoid overheating and damage to seedlings. Prices start from about £25 for a good thermostatically controlled propagator.

				Pots: The variety of pots and trays you need depends on what you intend to grow. You can sow many crops directly into the soil outside but you need to sow others, such as courgettes and other squashes, some brassicas, tomatoes and cucumbers, in pots and place them to start growing in warm conditions such as on a windowsill or in a propagator. For most purposes, 8-centimetre pots are ideal for sowing small quantities of seeds and for growing tomatoes and so on. Small seed trays are also useful for sowing seeds and growing micro-greens such as cress. Cell trays, divided into 6 or 12 individual cells, are also useful for sowing seeds individually and growing seedlings.

				 Use clean or new pots and trays for sowing seeds to reduce the risk of fungal diseases that harm seedlings.

				Compost: Potting compost comes in three basic types but don’t confuse them with the compost from the heap at the bottom of your garden. Garden compost has its uses but is far too variable to use for sowing or growing in pots and best kept for mulching and use in the open garden.

				 Throughout the book, when I refer to compost in the context of raising plants, I mean one of these types of potting compost:

				 • John Innes compost is the traditional choice, available in four grades from seed sowing through Nos 1, 2, and 3 for plants as they get progressively bigger. John Innes composts are based on sterilised loam (soil) and contain some peat (partially decomposed organic matter with minimal plant nutrients). Their quality varies according to the loam and they aren’t 100 per cent recommended for growing young plants. But No 3 is excellent for any plant you’re growing in a pot for more than one year, such as fruit trees.

				 • Multipurpose composts were, until recently, based on peat, but with environmental concerns coming to the fore, most are now ‘reduced-peat’. These composts are ideal for seed sowing and growing young plants but they contain enough nutrients for only a few weeks of growth, and so you then need to give them some supplementary feed.

				 • Peat-free composts are increasingly common and popular but they vary enormously, depending on their origins. Many are made of recycled products, and others are based on coir (coconut husk). You can achieve satisfactory results with most of them, but many contain less nitrogen, among other nutrients, and you may need to alter your watering and feeding regimes if you’re used to peat-based composts. Peat-free composts are probably not ideal if you’re just starting out with growing, especially for more difficult plants such as peppers and basil.

				 Buying cheap compost can be false economy. Buy from an outlet that stores compost under cover and never buy bags that have faded print or are soaking wet: use only fresh compost for seed sowing.

				Clothing: You can buy a range of clothing for gardening but in most cases old, stout clothing suffices. However, you do need gloves – especially when pruning thorny fruit such as raspberries and gooseberries – and stout footwear is essential when digging.

				 Be sure to use gloves and goggles when you’re using a line trimmer (for trimming grass and vegetation), and when spraying always wear protective clothing as the product manufacturer recommends. Garden accidents are regrettably frequent but with some common sense you can avoid getting in harm’s way.

				Getting the Plot

				Now you’ve decided to grow your own fruit and veg, you need to decide where to grow them. How much space you have doesn’t matter, in fact, a big plot can sometimes be overwhelming. Whether you have a patio or a field you can make a start right away. All you have to do is make sure that what you want to grow and how you intend to do it suits your circumstances.

				Back garden

				People are sometimes put off growing their own fruit and veg because they think they need a lot of space or have to give over their attractive flowerbeds to vegetable plots. The fact that you don’t need a dedicated vegetable garden to grow your own crops may come as a surprise. Having a dedicated plot does make things easier for you, and simplifies crop rotation (avoiding growing crops in the same soil every year), but isn’t essential, and you can grow many crops among flowers. Nor do you need a large space – you just have to be more selective in what you choose to grow. Winter and spring crops usually occupy the ground for the longest periods so you may want to concentrate on fast-growing summer and autumn crops. What’s more, you don’t always have to sacrifice a good-looking garden when growing your own: fruit bushes and trees are often almost as attractive as ornamentals so you can easily incorporate them into your borders.

				 If you can give over an area of your garden to grow fruit and veg, a convenient way is to make raised beds. Chapter 2 tells you all you need to know about creating them.

				Pots and containers

				Maybe your garden is just too small to have flowerbeds or perhaps you’ve paved it over. Maybe you live in a tower block with just a windowsill available to you as a space for growing produce. No matter – pots and containers enable you to grow your own fruit and veg even when space is really limited. Growing in this way can save you time and even enable you to avoid some common problems.

				Growing in pots and containers may seem a novel idea, but it’s really not new at all. For centuries, miners in the north of England grew fruit in pots and developed pot leeks in their small backyards, though for showing rather than as food. You can do this, too. You don’t need special containers; just find a container with drainage holes and if it doesn’t have any drainage holes, drill to make some. Drainage holes are essential to ensure that the compost doesn’t get waterlogged in wet weather. The size of the container is also important because small containers that hold a small volume of compost dry out quickly and aren’t so easy to look after. But aside from these considerations, you may be surprised at what you can grow fruit and veg in: old compost bags, rubbish bins, wheelbarrows, old boots… Just use your imagination!

				Chapter 2 is the place to go for more information about growing in containers.

				Allotments

				Allotments (and large plots) enable you to grow a wide range of crops and staple crops such as potatoes in large quantities. They come with their own advantages and problems, though. Previous growers have often cultivated allotments for many years so you may find that you have good, well-worked soil, or else stumble upon lots of pests and diseases already present on or near the plot. You may equally find that your allotment plot has been neglected and needs a lot of work to get into a usable state. But a good allotment plot is great to have, gives you more options when choosing what to grow and enables you to pick the brains of and have some laughs with other people gardening at the same allotments. Chapter 2 has the lowdown on acquiring and looking after an allotment.

				Knowing What You’re Growing

				So you’ve decided that you want to grow your own. But do you know what fruit and vegetables actually are? From a botanical perspective, vegetables are the stems, roots and leaves of plants, whereas fruits are what results from a flower. So rhubarb is a vegetable and tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and chillies are fruits. But gardeners define things differently, and have a different perspective: to gardeners, vegetables are savoury and fruits are sweet!

				Growing tasty veg

				When you start to grow your own food you soon discover what a huge range is available. Your usual weekly shop will probably influence your choice of what veg to grow at first; looking through catalogues can open your eyes to many more crops. Take it steady, but don’t be afraid to try something new.

				Leaf crops

				Leaf crops are important and healthy vegetables because of the nutritional value of their leaves. They are low in calories but high in other nutrients. The most important group are the brassicas, which include broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, oriental greens and sprouts. All brassicas prefer an alkaline soil (check out Chapter 4 for a full rundown of soil types), partly because they suffer from a soil-borne fungal disease called clubroot, which thrives in acid soil. The wealth of brassicas available means that you can harvest crops at any time of year. Many brassicas prefer heavy, clay soils but Oriental cabbages grow best in light soils rich in humus. Because other leaf crops, such as salad leaves, lettuce, chicory and leaf beet (chard), come from plants that are unrelated botanically, and tolerate a wide range of conditions, something is sure to thrive in your conditions. Salad crops are generally quick to grow and ideal for small gardens and for impatient gardeners.

				Chapter 8 tells you all you need to know about growing leaf crops.

				Root crops

				Root crops – which include carrots, parsnips and swedes – count among their number some of the most important crops you can grow. Traditionally, root crops were important because they store well and provide food through the winter. Root crops are biennial plants, which means that they grow one year, flower the next, and then die. To help their flowering, early in the second year they store food in their roots – this store of sugars and starch is the bit that we eat, halfway through their lifecycle. Most root crops, onions and leeks included, grow best in light soils because heavy clay can impede the growth of the roots through the soil. Heavy manuring and stony soil can cause twisted, branched and misshapen roots.

				I talk about how to raise your own root crops in Chapter 9.

				Potatoes and other tubers

				Potatoes are a staple crop and if you have a large plot you can easily grow large quantities to use throughout the winter. But you can also make use of even the smallest space to grow a few. Potatoes are grouped in various ways, such as by usage and skin colour, but usually by their time to maturity. So you can choose from earlies, second earlies, and maincrop. Of these varieties, earlies tend to have smaller tops (haulms) and because they mature before blight, the most destructive disease of potatoes, is widespread each summer, they are the easiest to grow. Earlies are also something of a treat, and so all in all they make the best use of space. Other tuber crops, such as Jerusalem and Chinese artichokes, are even easier to grow but less adaptable in the kitchen.

				Head to Chapter 9 for the lowdown on growing your own spuds.

				Greenhouse crops

				Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers all need warmth to grow well. Each crop has varieties suitable for outdoor growing but they depend on good, warm weather and you need to provide them with shelter and careful positioning for them to thrive. Even so, they remain some of the most popular of all home-grown crops and are suitable for growing in containers. All greenhouse crops are far better in quality and taste if you grow them at home, and so make them top of your list of crops. Tomatoes, peppers and cape gooseberries make excellent choices for beginners.

				I cover growing greenhouse crops in Chapter 10.

				Pods

				Peas and beans are worth growing, not just because they’re better fresh than the ones you buy in shops but also because they add nitrogen, one of the main plant nutrients, to your soil. Runner beans are the most popular with home gardeners for a worthwhile crop, because the ones you buy in the shops are poor quality. French beans are equally popular, easier to grow, and you can get good crops. Broad beans take up a lot of space and are possibly not worthwhile in small gardens but are delicious if you pick them young. Peas are a luxury crop – they take up a lot of room, can be difficult to grow well because of the many problems that affect them, and frozen peas are, honestly, just as good as fresh peas if you cook them. But mangetout and sugarsnap peas are worth the effort if you have room to grow them.

				Chapter 11 is the place to go for pod planting.

				Herbs

				You can grow a wealth of different herbs for adding flavour to your cooking and beauty to your garden. Herbs are a diverse group of plants that vary from fast-growing annuals to shrubs, and many flourish in gardens. They need a wide range of conditions and although some, such as basil, can be difficult to grow well, others like mint can become almost weed-like if they find cosy conditions in your garden. Start off growing herbs that you’re likely to use, such as parsley, thyme, sage and mint and then try some of the more unusual herbs, as well as edible flowers such as nasturtiums.

				Head to Chapter 17 for more info about herbs.

				Planting luscious fruit

				Fruits are generally divided into two categories: soft and top fruits. Soft fruit includes raspberries, strawberries, currants and gooseberries, which growers tend to harvest in midsummer, as well as blackberries, loganberries and blueberries. Most soft fruits are small plants and are well suited to growing in a limited space. Most are tough, frost-hardy, and not difficult to grow. Some, such as blueberries and strawberries, grow well in containers and so are worth considering if you don’t have much space. Soft fruit plants are fairly quick to produce a crop, with most starting to crop in their second year onwards, so you don’t get too hungry waiting to pick your own fruit! (Head to Chapters 13, 14, and 16 if you’re looking to get started growing your own soft fruit.)

				Fruits such as apples, pears, plums, cherries and peaches are all known as top fruits. They are large plants and most take two or three years before they start to crop. As well as needing more space than other fruits, they also come with other complications because most, apart from peaches and some special varieties, need another tree of a different variety to pollinate the flowers to get a crop. This means they need a fair amount of space but with careful training you can grow many varieties even in a small space. (Chapters 15 and 16 tell you all you need to know about growing top fruits.)

				Fruits from seed

				You can’t grow many fruits from seed because they don’t breed true to type, unlike vegetables, but those that you can at least give you a quick crop while you’re waiting for your apple trees to start cropping. Cape gooseberries are a good fruit to grow from seed in a greenhouse or on the patio, giving you a tasty and worthwhile crop. The adventurous can try garden huckleberries, which need cooking to make them edible. You can grow other fruits such as strawberries and rhubarb from seed, but most are better bought as plants.

				Buying plants

				Most fruit plants crop for many years, and because you’re investing a lot of time and space in them it pays to invest in good stock. Where possible, buy fruit from specialist nurseries that can supply you with detailed growing information as well as the latest varieties best suited to your needs. Most soft fruit sold by reputable nurseries and specialists is certified free of the yield-reducing viruses to which these fruits are prone, giving your plants the best possible start in life. Never accept old plants from other allotment holders in case they’re infected with disease (the plants, not the gardeners!).

				You can buy most fruit when dormant in winter but potted plants are available all year round. Potted plants generally cost a little more and you may not have such a wide choice of varieties.





		 			 				Chapter 2

				Assessing Your Territory


In This Chapter

				Making the most of your plot

				Preparing plots

				Growing crops in containers

				Gardening under cover

				Controlling weeds

				So you’ve decided to become a grow-your-own gardener. You’ve come to the right book! But before you get started with your crops you need to think about where to grow them because not all vegetables grow everywhere. Farmers grow specific crops in different parts of the country because different crops suit certain areas better than others. You don’t need to worry about whether your vegetables meet farmers’ exacting standards, but sensible preparation of your site, or matching the needs of a vegetable or fruit with your conditions, does make growing easier and more satisfying. Whether you decide to get an allotment or are restricted to your own back garden, you can choose from a wealth of crops to try and grow.

				This chapter delves into preparing whatever site you have available for the fruit and veggies you want to grow.

				Making the Most out of Your Back Garden

				Not many people have a walled kitchen garden or a spare hectare or two to hand for growing crops. But you can produce worthwhile crops even in a small plot, so don’t think you need vast tracts of land to grow your own food. You do need to be more discerning in what you grow and to use your ground intensively, but even if you have no soil, you can still be successful – just use your imagination.

				Working with raised beds

				Many beginners believe that you can only grow veg if you have raised beds; TV gardeners are never without them! But raised beds aren’t essential. What they do provide, however, is a tidy, organised way to grow plants without the need to trample over the soil. Raised beds also enable you to increase the depth of fertile soil (useful when the natural soil in your garden is poor), to organise your space effectively, and even to grow crops on areas of hard surface without any natural soil (make sure you fill these to a minimum depth of 30 centimetres). Raised beds are easy to control and far less intimidating than a whole plot, and are ideal for children to look after. You can also easily cover them with protective fleece and the soil in them warms up more rapidly than soil at ground level, so raised beds are especially suitable for raising early crops. Planting in raised beds is usually intensive and you can plant right up to the edge and spill over the path.

				You can make raised beds from wood, brick, railway sleepers, or with lightweight, off-the-shelf, raised bed kits. Although you can construct them to be waist high (useful for gardeners who find bending down to soil level difficult), most raised beds are 15–30 centimetres above soil level (most vegetables need a soil depth of at least 30 centimetres). 1-metre-square beds are practical, but any length or shape of bed no wider than 1.2 metres will enable you to reach across it without treading on the soil. Make paths between the beds about 45 centimetres wide.

				You need to fill your beds with some sort of soil. One option is to take soil from somewhere else in the garden, but do make sure that it’s good quality. Don’t use infertile subsoil taken from deep in the ground, for example when digging a pond. Or you can buy good-quality topsoil from a garden centre, but make sure to specify that you need it weed free and always check a sample before ordering. Buying soil, however, is an expensive way to fill your beds.

				Another possibility is to use recycled compost from your local waste-recycling centre, but this can be high in woody material and may be too free-draining and coarse for good growing. Therefore, recycled compost is best used to add to existing soil to lighten or enrich it rather than as the sole growing medium. Similarly, you can use reduced-peat or recycled multipurpose compost, but again as an additive to the soil rather than to fill beds, because it has low amounts of nutrients and decomposes in the beds, which shrink over a few years. When you’ve filled the beds they need regular topping up, with garden compost, well-rotted manure, leaf mould or used growing bags. Most gardeners don’t dig the soil in their raised beds, but forking it over to incorporate organic matter is still worth doing.

				When ready to use you can easily rotate your crops each season, growing root crops in one bed, brassicas in another, and so on (Chapter 3 has more on crop rotation). You don’t need to plant in traditional rows but can sow or plant clumps or squares of crops.

				 Raised beds are naturally very well drained so you need to make sure that they have a source of water or your crops suffer in summer. If your raised bed sits of a hard surface you may need to be especially careful to irrigate them intensively in summer. You also need to maintain the state of your beds and keep any weeds that appear under control (jump ahead to the ‘Perennial weeds’ and ‘Annual weeds’ sections for more info).

				Gardening in containers: Pot training

				You can grow most fruit and vegetables, for a while at least, in containers. Fast-growing salads are the obvious choice, and potatoes are just perfect for containers. A group of pots in a corner of the garden can be productive and attractive and is the sensible option if you don’t have much time or space. You do need to buy compost to fill them with, making the crop relatively expensive, but although not the cheapest way to grow crops you can be assured of their freshness, so the cost is worthwhile. Some plants benefit from all the attention you lavish on them in their pots and, because they’re likely to be in the warmest area of your garden, perhaps on the patio, tender plants such as basil and peppers tend to thrive. Having your pots near the house saves you having to wander about in the dark for that last-minute bunch of herbs too!

				 Not all vegetables are very productive, though, and so may not be the best choice for growing in containers. For example, a globe artichoke plant, which needs a container at least 45 centimetres deep and wide and which produces a maximum of only five or six artichokes, isn’t a sensible proposition unless you’re desperate for garden-fresh artichokes! And the fact that you need to water your crop constantly, and probably feed it too, means that growing in containers isn’t always as labour-saving as it first seems.

				Because you can fill pots with special compost, you can grow fruit, such as blueberries and cranberries, which need the acid soil rarely found in gardens. The fact that the soil surface is well above the ground is also a benefit when you grow carrots. Their most serious pest is carrot root fly but the adults, seemingly scared of heights, rarely fly more than 45 centimetres above the ground, and so your pots of carrots may well escape damage without any extra effort.

				Although many fruit bushes and trees can become large and take up space for a long period, you can use a few tricks to squeeze them into a small space. For example, you can grow red- and white currants and gooseberries in pots and as standard plants on a tall, single stem, and grow other plants around the base. You can buy peaches, pears, apricots and apples as dwarf varietiesand grow them in pots, too, and against walls and fences. Strawberries, though not without their problems, grow almost anywhere, including hanging baskets and growing bags. So wherever you garden and no matter how small your plot, you still have plenty of options open to you.

				Types of container

				When growing short-term crops such as salads, carrots and most other vegetables, it really doesn’t matter what shape or size of container you use. Recycled containers such as plastic barrels, buckets and tubs are all suitable and though they may not look attractive they are perfectly good enough for your plants. You can even use compost bags. When you turn them inside out, with the black inside showing, the tops rolled down, and with some holes in the base for drainage, they make great containers for growing – especially potatoes! You can even use bags of compost in the same way as growing bags, cutting out on the container altogether if you make sure that you cut slits near the underside to prevent waterlogging.

				Terracotta and other ceramic pots look good and their sides offer insulation to roots, but if they are unglazed the sides lose water and the plants need extra irrigation. Make sure that you buy frost-proof pots, which don’t break in cold weather: frost-resistant pots aren’t frost-proof. Odd-shaped pots with curved sides or incurved tops split after frosty weather if the wet compost expands as it freezes.

				Plastic pots are light, which can be useful when moving them around, but is a disadvantage if they contain tall, shrubby plants that may blow over. Their sides are usually thin and so give the roots no protection from frost or summer heat. Modern designs, in many colours, are often indistinguishable from stone or terracotta, and look attractive.

				 The ideal container for most crops is at least 30 centimetres wide and deep. Whatever container you use, make sure that it has holes in the base for drainage. Although plants need water, none of them flourish if the container fills with water and the roots drown. You can place the pot on a saucer, to help with watering in dry spells, but the pot must have holes to allow excess water to flow away.

				 Small pots and containers that are less than 15 centimetres in depth dry out infuriatingly quickly, and so are best reserved for baby leaf salads. When you grow permanent plants such as fruit trees, fruit bushes and perennial or shrubby herbs such as bay, which may need to be moved to a bigger pot after a year or two, use containers that have straight sides and are wider at the top than the base or you’ll have problems re-potting them. When planting any shrub in a pot, move it in stages from its original pot to its final pot. Small plants often struggle to cope when surrounded by a mass of new compost. For example, if a gooseberry is in a 20-centimetre-wide pot, plant it in a 30-centimetre pot for the first year or two, move it into a 40-centimetre pot, and then into a final, larger pot. Apples and other tree fruit eventually need half barrels or other large containers.

				Types of compost

				For most vegetables you can use a basic multipurpose compost. However, paying for a good-quality compost rather than the cheapest is always worth the expense. Most composts are based on peat or, increasingly, contain a proportion of recycled materials or are wholly composed of recycled materials. All these composts gradually decompose in the pot but are suitable for several crops, over a period of about a year.

				 After filling, you can grow an early crop of salad leaves and, after you pull them up, grow a crop of maincrop carrots for harvesting in autumn. The following year you need to replace the top layer of compost but after that remember to replace all of the compost. You can use the discarded compost as a mulch or planting compost in the garden so you put it to good use. These composts contain enough nutrients for about four weeks of growth, unless otherwise stated on the bag, so you’ll need to feed your plants after that period (see Chapter 5 for more about keeping your plants well fed and watered).

				 Plant anything that will be in a container for more than a year, such as all fruit bushes, trees and shrubby herbs, in a soil-based compost such as John Innes compost. These loam-based composts don’t decompose over time or lose their structure, so keep the roots healthy, and their heaviness gives the tall plants stability. Loam-based composts also retain nutrients better, so regular feeding, though beneficial, is not so vital.

				Growing in bags

				Growing bags were originally developed for commercial growers of tomatoes, and are now very popular with home gardeners. They vary greatly in price and quality, with the cheapest bags containing poor compost – and not much of it! Growing bags are suitable for tomatoes and peppers but the small volume of compost means the plants can dry out fast in summer so water them with extreme care. Unless you buy premium-quality bags, the plants will also need feeding three weeks after planting because they contain few nutrients. Remember also that you need to provide the right growing conditions for your plants so you can put the bags outside for tough crops or in the greenhouse if your plants need more warmth. The other thing to remember is to limit the number of plants (no more than three tomatoes or two courgettes per bag, for example) so they have enough room for roots and tops to grow.

				Nurturing vertical gardens

				 If space is really at a premium, don’t forget that you can use vertical spaces for lots of crops. Hanging baskets and window boxes are perfect for this but you can also, with some ingenuity, hang up growing bags, cutting holes in the sides for plants. You can even use large catering tins, banging holes in the base for drainage, attached to trellis or fence posts. A sunny wall or fence is best for most crops but remember that the reflected heat from a wall dries out pots and baskets quickly so you need to pay particular attention to watering. A west-facing wall may be more successful than one that gets sun all day. Small baskets and other hanging containers, with small volumes of compost, dry out more rapidly than large containers.

				Small, short-term plants are the best choices for hanging baskets and window boxes and any multipurpose compost suffices for these plants. You can buy special container compost that usually contains both controlled-release fertiliser and water-retaining gel to help prevent the compost drying out so quickly. You can buy both these products and add them to ordinary compost if you prefer. Unless you’re able to water frequently, investing in an automatic watering system run from an outside tap is worth consideration. These systems, controlled by a battery-powered, computerised timer, aren’t expensive and are useful for your containers too, taking the worry out of watering.

				Ideal crops for hanging baskets and window boxes include:

				Bush and trailing tomatoes

				Most herbs, especially thyme, parsley, sage, basil and chives

				Leafy salads, including lettuce, rocket and baby leaf endive and chicory

				Strawberries

				Growing under Cover

				One factor you can’t rely on when gardening is the weather. A greenhouse or polytunnel allows you to control growing conditions a little, which means that you can produce plants and grow crops that are unreliable outside. The other benefit is that you can get gardening early in the season and when the weather is too cold or wet to do much outside.

				Growing in a greenhouse

				Growing under cover expands the range of plants you can grow and extends the growing season. Even in an unheated greenhouse you can grow tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and other summer crops with greater reliability, and the possibility of fresh grapes, peaches and nectarines becomes a reality. You can also raise your own plants more easily and reliably, which gives you control over what varieties you grow.

				Size matters

				 Always buy the biggest greenhouse you can afford or can fit into your plot. First, you’re sure to fill your greenhouse quickly, with crops or ornamentals, especially if you heat it in winter, and second, maintaining good growing conditions is far easier in a large greenhouse than a small one. Small greenhouses get very hot in summer and excessively high temperatures can damage plants.

				Siting your greenhouse

				 Ideally, choose an open, sunny spot for your greenhouse. Although you may want to hide it for aesthetic reasons, placing your greenhouse under trees or beside a hedge limits light and thus plant growth; in addition, you run the risk of falling branches damaging the structure. If you want to heat the greenhouse with electricity you need to place it near your main dwelling.

				If the axis of the structure runs north/south, both sides get equal light; if it runs east/west, the south side is sunnier and the whole house is generally hotter in summer.

				 If your greenhouse is made of glass, be aware that stray balls and children may pose a risk to safety.

				Cold frames

				Cold frames are mini-greenhouses that make a useful addition to a greenhouse. You can use cold frames to acclimatise your plants to outside conditions in late spring and also for growing early and late crops of salads. Cold frames vary in price and materials – look out for wooden sides or ‘twin-skinned’ polycarbonate glazing, which retain heat better than aluminium and glass or thin plastic.



				Other things you need

				Most greenhouses include only minimal roof vents. You need to buy extra to make sure that you can keep the greenhouse cool in summer. Adding louvre vents at the base in a few places aids air circulation. Adding automatic vent openers (which need no power supply) also makes life easier because they ventilate your plants even when you’re not there. You also need staging, at least in some places, so that your young plants are easier to tend. A supply of water is essential, and a heater of some kind and a propagator enable you to raise your own plants, saving money and gaining satisfaction. Finally, you also need pots and trays.

				Growing in a polytunnel

				If you take the plunge and decide on a polytunnel (a hooped, temporary structure clad in flexible polythene), you won’t regret your decision. Some plants grow better under plastic than in a greenhouse and even on a cold, windy spring day you can feel as if you’re in a different country in your polytunnel, protected from the wind. Polytunnels can be cold in winter because they aren’t insulated and are not airtight, so heating them isn’t practical, but they warm up quickly in spring.

				Planning for your polytunnel

				When choosing your tunnel, consider the following:

				Buy the biggest polytunnel you can afford. They come in various widths and a tunnel measuring 3 metres or more in width is most sensible. Smaller polytunnels are available but the minimum practical size is about 2.4 x 2.4 metres. You need a path down the middle and this size leaves sensibly wide beds both sides. Some polytunnels have more vertical sides than others and these allow more growing room.

				Choose a tunnel of strong construction. Allotment sites can be windy. The polythene ‘skin’ of polytunnels generally needs to be replaced after three to five years. You can choose from v