Gardening: How to grow your own veg in just three weeks
Gardening tutor Sally Nex offers her top tips to help you start a thriving vegetable garden
IF YOU dread facing the supermarket queues at the moment, now's the time to dig in and transform garden space into a flourishing veg patch – you could be harvesting in less than a month.
Gardening tutor Sally Nex, who teaches online lessons in self-sufficient veg gardening, says: "Judging from the unprecedented demand reported by mail order seed companies for veg seeds, seed potatoes, onion sets and compost, we have all had the same thought.
"You can get some pretty fast results if you start now, and pickings within about three weeks for the fastest-growing veg."
She offers her top suggestions for transforming outdoor spaces to beat the lockdown boredom and reduce reliance on the shops...
Getting your veg garden ready: Whether setting up a veg garden from scratch or scaling up an existing plot, gardeners will get far better results with good foundations, good soil and a favourable spot in the garden. Get this bit right, and the rest follows much more easily.
Consider raised beds: You can get raised bed kits mail order, or if you're handy with a hammer and some nails, make your own by nailing 15cm planks to four uprights made of 5cm x 5cm wood. One layer of planks will do, though two is better. The smallest useful size for a raised bed is 1.2m x 1.2m, though make them bigger if you can (1.2m x 3m is a good workable size if you have room). Start with one and you can always add more later. You can place your raised bed direct on the grass or on to your patio. Add the soil: a 50:50 mix of garden soil and garden compost.
Find some sun: You can grow veg among your ornamental plants, but if you're serious about feeding yourself, it's better to clear a proper veg patch or set aside a corner of your garden specifically for growing food. The best veg grow in sunny, sheltered spots. If your garden is exposed, put up a fence (temporary will do for now) on the windward side to keep the worst off.
Once you've cleared your site of weeds and large stones, tip on a barrow load per square metre of compost and fork this lightly into the top layer so it's ready to plant straight away.
Give care to containers and window boxes: Growing your veg supply in containers is possible, but they do need extra mollycoddling to give their best.
You can increase your chances of success by choosing your largest containers – 35cm diameter is a minimum to keep even smaller veg happy, as anything less dries out too quickly.
If you don't have a large container, make your own. Wooden boxes, old bread bins, even household furniture can be upcycled into veg gardens with a little imagination.
On windowsills, repurpose takeaway trays and household waste like plastic fruit cartons, yoghurt pots and ice-cream tubs, punch a few holes through the bottom and you're good to go.
What to sow now: For those itching to get sowing, Nex's top five quick-hit veg to start today will create harvests in as little as three weeks' time:
1. Peashoots: Sow thickly into takeaway trays on the windowsill or seed trays in the greenhouse, cover with more compost and within three weeks you can snip sweet pea-flavoured shoots for salads.
2. Rocket: The clue is in the name: sow direct into pre-watered drills in sun or shade, keep damp and they'll be up within two weeks - pickable as baby leaves within four.
3. Radishes: Famous for double-quick results, sow classic red-rooted radishes like 'French Breakfast' or 'Cherry Belle' today and you'll have seedlings by next week and roots in four weeks' time.
4. Cress: Worth growing just for the feel-good factor of watching your efforts pay off so quickly. Sow densely on to kitchen towel or compost and you'll have a harvest within a fortnight.
5. Plug plant salads: Cheating, I know, but don't believe those who tell you you'll have baby-leaf salads in four weeks from seed: it's six to eight weeks' minimum. So fake it and buy in plug plants - easy as pie and you'll be eating lettuces from your back garden within the month.
For more information on Sally's Self-Sufficient Veg Gardening course from Learning With Experts, and other courses, visit learningwithexperts.com.