In your garden: Grow a garden good enough to eat

The summer months are a busy time for the edible gardener. Crops need to be checked regularly for pests and diseases and dealt with accordingly, and the weeding never ends. Plants need watering – even in this weather crops growing in containers, sheltered positions or greenhouses can dry out. Our edible gardening project team at the Botanics have also been busy harvesting and planting out.

We harvested our early potatoes this week. It’s important to approach this task with some caution as it is very disappointing when you dig your fork into the soil only to find that you have speared some of your precious crop. The trick is to gently dig deep under the plant to avoid damaging the potatoes. Make sure you collect every potato from the soil, even the tiny ones. As well as being an annoyance if they grow back in the middle of the next crop, they can also harbour disease.

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Many new growers struggle to know when to harvest their vegetables, but stay vigilant so that crops are not wasted. With early potato varieties, such as Swift, harvest just as the flowers begin to open. Another crop ready around now is garlic. The leaves start to turn brown, indicating that the bulbs are mature.

This is the time of year to plant out winter brassicas. The plants already need to be fairly established, having been started off in pots. We have planted out kale, Brussels sprouts, Savoy cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Do remember to protect them from greedy pigeons and net them immediately after planting. Leave the job to the next day at your peril or you may well find some sad looking stalks in the morning. The winter brassicas can go directly into the spot just vacated by early potatoes as part of your crop rotation – a good use of space and maximising the productivity of your garden.

n Jenny Foulkes is manager of The Edible Gardening Project based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which aims to teach people the skills and knowledge they need to grow their own food. It is run jointly with the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery.