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Best expert advice on growing veg plants

Kale ‘Rainbow Candy Crush’ (New) from Suttons

Growing your own fresh produce using plug plants or ready-to-go vegetable plants is quick, easy and saves windowsill space if you don’t have a greenhouse. To help you enjoy a bountiful return from your veg patch, we’ve searched the internet to bring together the best vegetable growing advice from expert gardening bloggers. Here’s a wealth of top tips to help you grow great veg!

Contents

Best reasons to grow vegetables from plants not seeds

Cauliflower can be difficult to raise from seed but is easy to grow from garden-ready plants
Image: Cauliflower plants ‘Romanesco Continuity Collection’ from Suttons

While many serious gardeners take enormous satisfaction in growing their veg from seed, there are many reasons why choosing plug plants could be the best option for you. Buying plants that are ready to grow on takes the guesswork out of your veg garden planning. 

Growing veg from plug plants delivered straight to your door is a big advantage for the gardener who is short on time, according to Katharine, aka The Teabreak Gardener. They’re ideal if you have limited growing space but want to grow small amounts of different varieties, and they can bail you out if you’re late sowing your seeds or they fail to germinate. What’s more, if you’re new to vegetable growing, she says they can help to build your confidence while you learn, which is really valuable. 

If you don’t have a greenhouse, or a reasonably sunny spot indoors, germinating seeds can be tricky, as Katy in the Garden confirms. With only a small kitchen space to play with, she explains why she thinks veg plug plants are brilliant and how they’ve saved her on several occasions when she missed the boat for sowing or her own seedlings were devoured by slugs. She reckons to grow around 60 per cent from seed and the rest from plug plants. 

With the initial germination and growth stages already completed, plug plants take some of the sweat out of the veg growing process. If you’re simply feeling a little lazy about summer seed sowings, we thank the Two Thirsty Gardeners for kindly reminding us that there’s no need to feel guilty about buying plants! They recently tested out veg plug plants for autumn, delivered by mail order. Opting for a mixed vegetable collection that included the notoriously tricky-to-grow romanesco cauliflower, they were impressed with the results.

Best advice on where to grow vegetable plants

Raised beds are the ideal place to grow courgettes
Image: Courgette plants ‘F1 Partenon’ (supplied as 3 super plugs) from Suttons

In his excellent Beginner’s Guide to Growing Fruit and Veg, David Domoney says you can grow veg plants in any sized garden as long as you have an area where they’ll get a bit of sun. He reckons it’s best to have a separate narrow veg bed with short rows for ease of management and weeding – and plug plants will make it simpler – but if you’re really stuck for space you can always tuck veg plants into your flower border or in pots.

A raised bed can be the ideal place for growing veg plants in a mixed garden. If you don’t already have one, you could follow Anna Greenland, who grows organic veg for Michelin star chefs, and her great idea to create a new raised “no dig” veg plot on a patch of lawn. She killed off the grass with rotted mature, leaving the soil ready to plant out kohlrabi, chard, squash and courgettes.

The 3 Growbags share some great tips for the novice in their how to create your veg bed article as part of their lovely chatty beginners’ #DigYourOwnaForCorona series. They agree that a raised bed is a good place to start from scratch when growing veg plants and lead you step-by-step through the process of making one, with tips to help manage soil preparation and weeds. And buying young veg plants will fill it up nicely if your seed sowing goes awry!

Self-sufficiency champion Liz Zorab over at Byther Farm has always believed in planting veg intuitively rather than making a grand plan of what goes where for the whole year. Never one to say never, she debates her hotchpotch method vs Huw Richards’ organised approach in her No Rules Gardening vs Vegetable Planting Plan video. 

Best advice on what vegetable plants to grow

Salad leaves are a great starter crop – and they taste incredible picked fresh to order
Image: Lettuce plants ‘All-Sorts’ Mix (supplied as 20 plug plants) from Suttons

“Grow the vegetables that you want to eat,” is the very wise advice from Alexandra of The Middle-sized Garden in her really informative article: Growing veg – the 8 mistakes you can easily avoid. It sounds obvious, but she says not to try and grow too many different veg plants to begin with – take time to master one or two, as Alexandra did with the spinach she loves so much. 

David Domoney suggests writing a long list of your favourite veg, fruit and herbs, then hone it down by crossing off the things that you can buy really cheaply, and any that will grow too big for your plot, or aren’t right for your soil type or depth, or for the region you live in. That should narrow down your choices.

Most veg plants like a reasonable amount of sunshine to thrive, but if your only space available to grow veg plants is in permanent shadow, The 3 Growbags remind us that you can still successfully grow veg plants in shady spots – like lettuce, peas and spinach, for example.

Best advice on growing vegetables in containers

Tomatoes look beautiful and grow happily in patio containers
Image: Tomato plant ‘Veranda Red’ from Suttons

Amongst her no-nonsense beginners’ tips on growing vegetables, Carol, The Sunday Gardener, says containers are a good option for growing veg plants if you have limited space. You just need to be aware that they’ll dry out more quickly than an open bed and will need extra watering. Her recommendations for veg plants to grow in containers include lettuce, chillies, tomatoes, cucumber and beans.

Kirsty at My Little Allotment may have a larger space to grow vegetables at the allotment, but she still loves to nurture veg plants in a wide variety of pots and tubs, making use of every available space in her small back garden in Lincoln. She even grows salad plants in hanging baskets, saying it’s a great way to keep the slugs away.

Container grown veg plants not only provide lovely healthy produce for the table, they can look very attractive too, especially if you make a feature of them like Sarah at Digging the Earth. Her pea plants in containers look so pretty, as well as clearly promising to produce a brilliant crop.

If you need any more inspiration for growing veg plants in containers, then head over to Mrs Bees Garden in Cornwall. Debbie’s beautiful images show salad leaves, spring onions and pea shoot plants flourishing in a repurposed metal drawer, next to tubs filled with carrots and potatoes. It’s incredible what can be achieved in a very small space.

Best advice on succession planting for vegetables

Broad Bean ‘The Sutton’ (supplied as 12 garden ready plugs) from Suttons
Broad beans remain a popular choice in succession planting schedules
Image: Broad Bean ‘The Sutton’ (supplied as 12 garden ready plugs) from Suttons

When one veg plant’s growing season ends, freelance chef Daniel, aka Allotment Chef, swiftly replaces it with another, making maximum use of every inch of space at his allotment. When his cabbages finished in September, he cleared the raised bed and popped in some coriander plants for a quick autumn harvest, before replacing those with beans over winter.

No dig guru Charles Dowding documents a whole year’s succession planting in a single, experimental raised bed of only 1.2m by 2.1m. In his easy to digest, informative video, he demonstrates the productivity and versatility of growing a variety of vegetables and quickly filling in the gaps with new veg plants. As he says: “Spot a gap, pop in a plant, and have fun with that.”

In a detailed video of which veg plants can follow each other when you’re adopting succession planting, Kelly of Kelly’s Kitchen Garden takes you on a fascinating trip around her Scottish allotment beds. For example, where there was garlic, she’s putting lettuce and beans, and when the onions come out, the squash plants will go straight in.

Liz at Byther Farm shares lots of tips on making the garden more productive in her short video on succession veg planting. It’s fascinating to see how her plot is completely transformed in the middle of the summer season.

Best advice on companion planting for vegetables

Squash is often grown with corn and beans using the ‘three sisters’ companion method
Image: Squash plants ‘Crown Prince’ (supplied as 3 jumbo plugs) from Suttons

Like humans, vegetable plants have their own special friends they like to hang out with, and neighbours they don’t take to who can affect how well they grow. Sue at The Bridge Cottage Way explains this in charming fashion in her article about companion planting. Squash plants, for example, are not that keen on potatoes, while courgette plants are great pals with nasturtiums or borage. She uses a chart by the Herb Society UK to find out who gets on best with who.

Plants are team players, explains Tony at Simplify Gardening in his persuasive article What is companion planting and its benefits to gardeners, so how you plant them is important. They bond and support each other naturally, he says, focusing on the Native American “three sisters” planting combination of corn, beans and squash.

Matt at Grow Like Grandad found out that if he planted French marigolds close to his tomatoes or Brussels sprouts, he would have had less trouble with sap-sucking white fly – the scent of marigold repels them. He consults Suttons’ pictorial guide to companion planting which focuses on the friends and foes of broccoli, carrots and potatoes, amongst other varieties.

Planting and harvesting your own vegetables is something immensely satisfying that every gardener can enjoy, regardless of the size of your plot or your level of experience. Follow these great tips, and pop in some quality veg plants this season. You won’t regret it!

Lead image: Kale ‘Rainbow Candy Crush’ (New) from Suttons

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