A beginner’s guide to growing veg

If you’re planning to grow a variety of vegetables, it’s a good idea to consider ‘crop rotation’ from the off. Not as complicated as it might sound, it simply means thinking about veg in terms of four ‘families’, then dividing your plot into four beds. Every year, you move each family to the next bed along – and by avoiding growing the same plants in the same place each year, you avoid a build-up of pests and diseases. The four areas look good divided with paths and each one edged with low-growing plants such as lavender, to create a traditional ‘potager’ look.

Family 1

Roots such as potato, beetroot, carrot, chicory, artichoke, parsnip

Family 2

Leafy greens, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower plus swede and turnips

Family 3

Peas and beans, including runner, broad and French beans, sugar snap peas and mangetout

Family 4

All other vegetables and salad crops, including all varieties of lettuce, herbs and tomatoes

Include some low-maintenance veg crops

Much of the veg in a kitchen garden needs to be sown and regrown annually, so it’s good to include a few plants that will happily go on giving you a harvest year after year with very little attention

What is companion planting?

Gardeners of old were very familiar with the principle of ‘companion planting’ – growing certain plants together to help banish pests, ward off disease and get bigger harvests. So why aren’t more of us still doing this in our veg patches? Here are some easy ways to start:

  • Strong-smelling plants can be used to throw pests off the scent of precious crops. For example, peppery nasturtiums can help keep black fly off broad beans by attracting them towards themselves instead, while basil will keep aphids off tomatoes and could also improve their flavour too! The little-used but delicious herb, summer savory is also a good black fly deterrent for broad beans. If you’re growing carrots, interplant them with salad onions as the onion aroma can deter carrot root fly, and use mint to keep flea beetles off radish leaves.
  • Other plants can be grown as ‘sacrificial crops’, attracting pests away from key plants in the veg patch: try planting spare lettuce seeds around the edge of your plot so the slugs will go for that first.
  • If dill and fennel are allowed to flower they attract hoverflies which in turn will help to see off aphids, while sweet peas grown near any kind of bean will attract pollinators to them


Broad beans

Sow indoors Jan-Mar
(plant out Mar-Apr)

Sow outdoors Mar-Apr
or Oct-Nov

Harvest May-Aug

French beans

Sow indoors Apr-May
(plant out June-July)

Sow outdoors May-July

Harvest July-Oct

Runner beans

Sow indoors Apr-May
(plant out June-July)

Sow outdoors May-July

Harvest July-Oct


Sow indoors Mar-May
(plant out May-June)

Sow outdoors May-July

Harvest June-Oct


Sow indoors Sept-Oct
(plant out Nov)

Sow outdoors Mar-July

Harvest Apr-Oct


Sow indoors Feb-Aug
(plant out Apr-Oct)

Sow outdoors Mar-Aug

Harvest All year


Sow indoors NA

Sow outdoors Apr-July

Harvest Aug-Dec


Sow indoors Apr-May
(plant out May-June)

Sow outdoors May-June

Harvest July-Oct


Sow indoors Mar-May
(plant out June-Aug)

Sow outdoors Apr-July

Harvest Nov-Apr


Sow indoors Jan-Feb
(plant out Apr-Aug)

Sow outdoors Mar-May

Harvest Aug-Apr


Sow indoors NA

Sow outdoors Plant cloves
Jan-Mar or Sept-Dec

Harvest May-Aug