How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain

Written by peter mitchell
How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
Summertime is bumper crop time when it comes to seasonal vegetables. (Getty Premium images)

Despite Britain's often miserable winter weather, if you sow at the right times you could have seasonal vegetables almost the entire year. Of course, some northern parts of Scotland and elevated areas plummet to temperatures too low to grow in winter. But with a little planning -- and a suitable vegetable patch -- your kitchen will stay full to bursting with delicious seasonal veg.

Plan your plot

How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
Try raised beds if you don't have deep soil in your garden. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Before you can grow seasonal veg in Britain, you need the right plot. Pick a nice big patch, as large as you can make it, in a spot that gets a minimum of 5 hours of sunshine daily, according to the BBC. Any less sunlight and you risk growing stunted vegetables. Dig into the ground and drag out any stubborn weeds and rocks. If you have any compost, dig this back into the soil to spread some rich nutrients. If your soil is very sticky and thick, add a few scoops of garden-grade sand for better drainage.

Pick your packets

How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
Large garden centres have rows and rows of seedy goodness. (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Pick the right seeds for growing in Britain. Some won't thrive in the coldest parts of the country. For example, some bell peppers, chili plants and sweetcorn need lots of sun to ripen and grow properly. Even common UK vegetables such as cucumber, tomatoes and courgette might need a greenhouse to get going in more northerly parts of Britain. Check the back of seed packets for details on temperatures and specific sowing instructions. In colder parts of the UK, start your seeds off a little later, into mid-April if necessary.

As spring is sprung

How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
Plant potatoes now for a bumper crop later. (Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

With your patch dug and your seeds bought, you're ready to start growing. Spring marks the start of the growing calendar -- and is arguably the most crucial time for vegetable gardeners. A huge variety of seeds can be sown at this time for picking later in the year. For example, in mid-March plant onion, shallot, broad beans, potatoes and early carrots straight into the ground. Plant Brussels sprout seeds now for a winter harvest. Start off tomatoes and climbing beans indoors in small pots. Leave them on a bright windowsill to germinate and sprout.

Spring into summer

How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
Start tomatoes off in small pots until well established. (Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

As you move into June there's plenty more to sow. If you have room for large, spreading plants, sow courgette, pumpkin and squash seeds. Courgettes will provide a summer harvest, while squashes give you something to pick in autumn. Transplant your young tomato and bean plants into the vegetable patch. Climbing beans and vine tomatoes need a stake to support their stalks. At the tail end of spring and the first weeks of summer, plant some purple sprouting broccoli seeds and Castor variety leeks. Both will be ready for harvest in winter.

Summer lovin

How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
If you're feeling adventurous, deep-fry the yellow courgette flowers for a tasty snack. (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Summer is the first time to pick the seasonal vegetables in your new garden. Broad beans, courgettes, onions, peas and early potatoes all crop in Britain during summer. Eat them straight away for that delicious seasonal vegetable taste. You can still plant seeds for continual cropping. For example, plant carrots in July and you'll have some to eat in September. Salad leaves, radishes and beetroots can all be planted throughout summer. Continue watering, weeding and adding fertilizer to your plants over summer -- particularly if you have a dry spell in your area.

Autumn leaves are falling

How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
Pumpkins -- the classic autumn seasonal vegetable. (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

By autumn, your blooming, bountiful vegetable patch may be dying down. Nonetheless, there's still plenty to harvest, particularly in late September. Some tomatoes will ripen at this point. Late beans and maincrop potatoes will also continue to grow. By mid-autumn, most summer crops will turn brown and wither. Pull up any dying plants and add them to the compost heap. October time is when pumpkins and some squashes come into their own. Pick them when they're plump, evenly-coloured and the vine has started to wither.

Winter

How to grow seasonal vegetables in Britain
Seasonal winter sprouts, just in time for Christmas. (NA/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Winter may seem like a dead time, garden-wise. But, if you've planted your sprouts, purple broccoli and leeks in spring, you'll have seasonable vegetables right through until late December. Then, on the rare mild and dry winter days, sow seeds in winter for an early spring crop. Gardening expert Bunny Guiness suggests planting broad beans, garlic, onions and sugar snap peas for an early crop in March and April. Winter lettuce and lamb's lettuce will grow through most of early winter. At the end of your first year, continue the cycle to keep a regular supply of seasonal vegetables going in your garden.

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