Veg You Can Start Growing In Summer
There is still plenty of choice in June and July, the best time of year for beginners to sow their first seeds, says TV gardener Frances Tophill
“We tend to think of late winter and early spring as the best time to sow vegetable seeds,’ says BBC Gardeners’ World Frances Tophill. ‘But in June and early July it’s still perfectly possible to get some delicious edible crops started.”
Because of her busy filming schedule, it’s often summer before she gets chance to sow some of her crops.
“Even if you have just a container or two or some spare space in a flower bed, if you start now you could be picking fresh, homegrown veg right through to the autumn and beyond,” she adds.
“What’s more, if you’re new to gardening this is a great time to sow seed for the first time as doing it now is far more straightforward than it is earlier in the year. The soil is warm enough in early summer to sow crops outside where you want them to grow, whereas in spring they need to be sown in small pots indoors or in a heated propagator, then the young plants have to be gradually ‘hardened off’ outside over a period of weeks before they can go into their final home.
“Now, though, all you need to do is rake over a space for them in the ground, or fill a pot with compost, then pop in your seeds and you’re off! Keep them well watered and protect the emerging shoots from slugs, and you should start to see results really quickly.”
Here are Frances’ top 10 crops to sow now:
Ready to pick within just a few weeks of sowing, salad leaves are among the quickest edible crops you can grow. Choose ‘cut and come again’ varieties and gather just a handful of leaves from each plant, then they’ll re-sprout up to three times more. To make sure you have a continuous supply of leaves right through summer, sow a fresh batch of salad leaf seed every few weeks from now until late summer
Radishes are super-speedy too, and are fabulous used in stir-fries as well as in salads (you can cook the leaves too – they make a lovely peppery addition to a stir-fry). Pick when fairly small as radishes become a little woody if they’re allowed to get too big.
Rocket is a must-grow if you like a kick to your summer salads, and you can choose either salad rocket (an annual) or perennial wild rocket which will come back year after year. Cover rocket with netting to prevent annoying flea beetle attacks, which leave holes in the leaves.
Sow kale now and you could be picking baby leaves in just a few weeks. They’re perfect for salads (try massaging olive oil and lemon juice into the leaves to make them super tender).
Spinach will produce delicious, tender baby leaves in a matter of weeks too - but go for perpetual spinach (also known as leaf beet) as standard spinach tends to go to seed too quickly if it’s sown in the summer months.
July is the last month to sow carrots, ready for a crop in the autumn. If you have heavy clay soil, they’re best grown in pots of compost rather than in the open ground, where they tend to ‘fork’.
Sow French beans now too – choose a dwarf variety as they will mature, flower and produce beans more quickly. Pick them regularly and they will go on producing beans right up until the first frosts.
Nothing beats homegrown peas eaten straight from the pod or cooked within minutes of picking, so it’s worth making yourself a tripod of bamboo canes tied together at the top, and sowing three pea seeds at the base of each. Leave just the strongest plant in each group once they germinate and discard the rest. If you can’t wait for the pods to form, pick some of the growing tips – pea shoots add a fresh taste to salads. Alternatively, look out for ready-planted pea and bean wigwams at the outdoor garden pods at your local Waitrose.
If you sow beetroot now, you’ll get two crops for the price of one: young homegrown beets, picked at the size of a golf ball, are unbelievably delicious, and the leaves can be used in salads too. There’s even a variety called Bull’s Blood that’s grown just for its attractive leaves – it looks as much at home in a flower border as it does in the veg patch.
If you’ve never tried ‘micro greens’, you’ve been missing out. They’re the immature plants of a range of veg, from broccoli and cauliflower to peas and radishes, snipped with scissors as soon as their first ‘true’ leaves appear – which means they’re ready to eat within just days of sowing. You’ll be amazed at the explosion of flavour you get from these tiny pickings. Sow the seeds in a shallow tray of compost and keep it moist but not wet.
Beetroot, French Beans, Rocket. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo