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Ready, steady, grow your own when the major growing season arrives each spring. When the danger of frost has passed, there's no time to waste down on the vegetable plot and the sooner you start growing, the faster your crops will be making their way to the kitchen table. Are you a newbie to kitchen garden vegetable growing?
Here's our selection of five easy crops that can be sown and grown now. How about trying some beetroot?
Beetroot has been described as a super food by health experts and there is certainly a huge difference between home-grown beetroot and shop bought. Crimson King and Boltardy are popular and successful varieties that don't bolt easily. Seeds can be sown now, through to July. Sow approximately two to three seeds at 10cm intervals, around 2.5cm deep at fortnightly intervals and you can enjoy a succession of tasty, spherical roots which have a wonderful flavour when quartered and roasted in oil. You can also eat the young foliage too, so there is very little waste. Harvest your roots after seven to 12 weeks between June to October but don't let them get big as they lose their tenderness.
Get your courgettes started now. Sow seed under glass until the end of May, or directly into the soil later in the month. Sow just two or three seeds around 2.5cm deep and if you are sowing outdoors in the kitchen garden, be sure to cover with cloches for at least two weeks after germination.
Thin the seedlings, leaving only the strongest one and allow up to 100cm of space per plant. Most courgettes are spreading veg that need lots of room. Once the courgettes appear, they will grow speedily so be sure to harvest regularly, when they are only around 12cm long. You can easily get up to 30 fruits per plant!
No summer is complete without runner beans!
Runner beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow but they don't like cold weather. Sow seeds indoors to start them off and move them outdoors once the weather is warm. The kitchen garden will look all the more decorative with a bean climbing frame support!
Varieties with pink or white flowers such as Painted Lady or Mergoles are often more reliable. Many people also pinch out growing tips when they are only around 15cm high so that they produce many more side-shoots. Give them regular water and a sturdy wigwam support so they can grow around 230cm tall or so. You will be enjoying runner beans for around eight weeks or more once the flowers are pollinated and the bean pods are set! Be sure to pick the beans before the beans inside begin to swell. Up to 20cm long is ideal, but don't allow them to become giants!
Growing salad crops
Growing salad crops such as lettuce is a superbly easy task because it sprouts so quickly and is simple to harvest. You can just snip the tops off the plants and take straight to the kitchen. Salad seed can be sown and grown in trays and containers and all you need to watch out for are the salad-chomping slugs! You don't even need to have a kitchen garden in order to grow salad crops.
Then there are herbs.
What could be easier than perennial herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme and mint? Grow them in your borders, in your kitchen garden, or create a herb garden near the kitchen door. They look decorative and can be harvested all year round. Herbs give you a burst of flavourful delight whenever you need it.
Thyme to appreciate this aromatic delight
Perennial herbs make charmingly decorative garden plants and you only need look at thyme growing around stepping stones to appreciate the versatility of this great little plant. Provided it's grown in fairly poor, free-draining soil in a sunny position, the Mediterranean creeping plant will thrive and add charm, scent, structure and character to a suitable space. Thymus comes in different varieties and apart from the dusky pink flowered variety there are thyme plants with white flowers and both golden and variegated forms such as the wonderfully citrus lemon thyme.
Thyme is sometimes referred to as always the bridesmaid but never the bride, just because it looks insignificant with its diminutive foliage and low, mounding form. However, not only does this plant excel in filling in cracks where many other plants would refuse to grow, but it has medicinal and culinary uses too.
It is said that thyme has the ability to help relieve stress, improve respiratory problems, boost the immune system, improve heart health and prevent fungal infections. What's more, it tastes good too. It can be used to add flavour to stews, stocks, stuffing, fish, lamb, chicken and more. Truly a plant with a pleasureful punch!