When it comes to healthy eating, dieticians and nutritionists tend to agree that upping our intake of fruit and vegetable is crucial.
Even better if the veggies are homegrown, harvested just yards from the kitchen door and fresh as they possibly can be.
That may sound tricky if you have a small patch of garden or, even tougher if you live in a flat.
But according to seeds specialists Garden Seeds Market, which delivers top quality seeds and flower bulbs sourced from around Europe, it is possible to enjoy the fresh, natural flavours of your own vegetable harvest whatever space you have.
Border, box or pot?You don’t need that much space to create a vegetable garden that will supply tasty, fresh veggies for the whole family.
Something as compact as a 3 x 3 m patch of land is enough to accommodate a few vegetable patches and even a small collapsible greenhouse for growing tomatoes and cucumbers.
Try to set up vegetable borders along a south or east-facing wall of the house. That way thermophilic, sensitive plants will be protected from the cold wind.
Wooden boxes or plastic tubs are also ideal for a smaller space like a balcony or patio.
A broad selection of plants, including cherry tomatoes, chilli and habanero peppers, lettuce, rocket, lamb’s lettuce, chives, leaf parsley and dill, can be raised from seed and grow well in pots.
Choose a container with elevated edges for field tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, radish, broad beans, pea, French beans, lettuce, celery, leek and cabbage.
If there’s no real garden space, opt for a window box planted with dwarf carrots, peppers, lettuce or spinach.
You could even nurture your own fresh herbs and salad greens in a hanging basket.
Key to success
Choosing premium quality seeds will boost your chances of reaping a delicious harvest.
Check when your seeds will be ready for harvest; aim for a crop that runs from early in the season right through to late harvest varieties.
Consider where your veggies will grow. There are field varieties intended for growing in the open air and greenhouse varieties that require cover, including the thermophilic species such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, watermelons and cantaloupes.
Some varieties will be best eaten straight away, others are ideal for preserves or can be frozen or stored long-term.
Make a show of it
You don’t have to sacrifice a pretty garden for veggies. Your crop can look as good as it tastes.
Create a colourful display of tomatoes: choose varieties of green (Green Zebra), yellow (Citrina, Jantar, Yellowstone, Zloty Ozarowski), orange (Akron, Figiel, Jokato, Tigerella) and even black (Black Prince, Noire de Crimee) tomatoes.
They differ in shapes, too. Look for elongated (Scatolone 2, S. Marzano 3, Szejk, Zyska) and pear-shaped (Perun, Radana, Yellow Pearshaped).Vegetable sowing timeSow broad bean, pea, carrot, radish, lettuce and spinach seeds from the second half of March, until end of April.
In the second half of May – after the last spring frosts – sow seeds of the vegetables that are sensitive to temperature drops such as squash, bean, cucumber or rocket.
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, watermelon, tomato and bell pepper can be grown from seedlings produced at home early in spring and transferred to the garden at the end of May or in the first half of June.
Some veggies’ seeds – including radish, lettuce, endive and lamb’s lettuce – may also be sown in summer for the autumn harvest, while the winter-resistant ones, like kale and spinach, are often sown in autumn for winter and spring harvest.
All the necessary sowing and growing accessories that you will need are here.
Radish has the shortest vegetation period – some varieties, like De dix-huit-jours – yield crops in the third week of cultivation. If you want a quick hit, choose butterhead lettuce, dill, spinach, watercress and rocket which are all fast growers.
By July, you could be harvesting mangold (beetroot leaves), young carrots, early cucumbers, French beans and the earliest pea cultivars.
Tomatoes, bell peppers, courgettes, cabbage and the later cucumber varieties ripen during the second half of summer.
By autumn, it’s time to pick cabbage, giant squash and root vegetables for storing away. Stock up the larder with late carrot and parsley varieties, celery, beetroot and late turnip cultivars.
If you’re ready to grow, Garden Seeds Market offers a huge range of high-quality vegetable, plant and flower seeds sourced from some of Europe’s finest producers, and all the equipment needed to get going.
Find out more here.