Growing your own veg Six of the best
Many of the fresh fruit and vegetables we eat travel many miles before they reach our plates, and often come with excessive packaging.
The easiest way to have veg that are chemical-free, as fresh as possible and without any packaging is to grow your own. And the only distance they will travel is from your garden to your plate.
Growing your own is much simpler than you might expect. To get started, all you need is a couple of pots or a patch of soil and you can make a contribution to your family's five-a-day portions of fruit and veg.
We've picked six of the easiest and most rewarding veg to start off with. They'll take up hardly any room in the garden and will give you a rich supply of fresh produce.
A supermarket favourite that's easy to grow yourself
- Buy packs of ready-mixed salad seed in garden centres or buy separate packs and mix your own. Try 'Little Gem' lettuce, red chard, salad rocket and mizuna. You can add other flavours such as cress, sorrel or mustard. For more ideas see our review of baby salad leaves
- Starting in April, scatter seed thinly. Cover with a dusting of compost and water regularly
- When plants are 4-6cm high, cut enough for a meal, about 2cm above the compost. This should be after about six weeks
- We like Stumps should regrow for second or third cuts. Sow plants a fortnight apart to get regular pickings all summer
Some salad leaves can be grown in winter. For more, see our guide to growing your own winter salad.
If you prefer whole lettuces, see our guide to growing iceberg lettuce
You may find growing these in the ground tricky, but it's easy in pots
- Choose an early variety such as 'Early Nantes', which will produce baby roots in six to eight weeks
- Scatter the seed thinly (aim for roughly 2cm apart) and cover with more compost. Water regularly but not too much
- Baby carrots can be pulled out as soon as they reach about 1cm across. Pull up as many as you need for a meal and then leave the rest to grow on. They'll push each other apart until they fill the pot
- Worth knowing When you get the hang of this, baby beetroot and radishes can be grown in the same way
You should be able to get up to 30 fruits off a single plant
- Buy small plants from a garden centre in late May. Or grow our Best Buy courgettes from seed in early May.
- They're very sensitive to frost, so wait until the end of May before you put them outside in colder parts
- Courgettes can make large, lopsided patio plants. They're easier to manage in the ground but need a square metre to themselves
- Give them a good soaking once a week in hot weather to ensure a constant supply of fruits
- Pick when they reach about 15cm or they'll turn into marrows and stop producing
- Worth knowing When disease strikes in late summer, leaves die off and then it's time for the compost heap
Supermarket beans are expensive and are often imported
- Runner beans are easy to grow from seed. Choose one of our Best Buy runner beans.
- Make a teepee of 2.4m garden canes for them to grow up and push a couple of seeds by each cane in late May or early June.
- They should keep cropping for months if you pick the beans every other day.
- You can also grow dwarf French beans, often sold as Kenyan or fine beans in supermarkets. Choose one of our Best Buy dwarf beans.
- Sow short rows monthly from late May through July for a regular supply.
- Sow seeds every 10cm directly into a shallow trench made with a hoe or trowel. Plants are bushy and shouldn't need support.
- They take about eight weeks to mature and then crop for about a month if you pick the pods regularly at about 10cm long
- We think Why bother buying them when they're easy to grow and taste better fresh?
An obvious choice for a patio pot but worth growing in the garden, too
- Discover our Best Buy tomatoes for growing outdoors
- Start to raise from seed in March on a warm, well-lit windowsill. Alternatively, buy plants from a garden centre in May
- There are two main types, bush and cordon. Read more about types of tomato.
- Provide a cane or stake and train cordon varieties by nipping out side shoots at the base of the leaves to leave a single main stem and tie this in
- Bush varieties are easier; they need no training and are ideal for containers or hanging baskets
- Worth knowing Let the fruits ripen fully in the sun to enjoy unrivalled flavour
Easy to grow, even in patio pots
- Pick an early or salad variety. Find out about our Best Buy potato varieties.
- You'll need one seed potato per 10-litre pot. Buy 'seed' potato tubers from a garden centre to avoid disease.
- Half fill the pot with compost and push the potato almost to the botto.m
- As shoots start to grow, gradually fill up the pot with more compost.
- Potato foliage is sensitive to frost so cover it on colder nights
- We like Plant in early April and by late June or July, you'll have lots of egg-sized new potatoes
Don't bother with...
Vegetables in the cabbage family are prey to pests. Pumpkins and marrow take over a garden, given a chance, while even experienced gardeners find celery a challenge.
For more on growing your own vegetables, buy our book Growing Your Own Vegetables Made Easy