KITCHEN GARDENS

Sustainable Gardening tips:

Improve soil condition and structure by adding compost and well rotted animal manure if available.

Conserve water by mulching bare areas of earth, using water butts and using drought resistant plants in the ornamental garden.

Protect wildlife by controlling slugs with biological methods or slug traps, protect plants from bird attack by netting where necessary.

Buy recyclable products for the garden wherever possible.

Maintain garden equipment.

NB Growing your own food reduces food miles, provides you with the freshest food you can eat and provides great exercise.

Growing Beautiful Vegetables:

Squash

Grow beautiful vegetables for a double crop - delicious, fresh produce and a beautiful allotment or kitchen garden. All squash are decorative, not only the inedible gourds. Try Turks Turban, a magnificent green and cream striped edible gourd. Sow seeds in a heated propagator at 16 degrees C in April (harden off gradually before planting outside) or in the ground where they're to grow, protected by cloches in May. Space 1 metre apart to give them room to trail and keep well watered. When gourds are ready to cut either eat straight away or dry well and store for up to 5 months.

Queensland Blue is another decorative, edible gourd. Handsome, green/blue ribbed fruit are large - reaching between 3 and 9kgs. They are delicious when cooked, store very well and crop in around 3 months. Sow under cloches in May or June or give a head start by starting them in a heated propagator at 16 degrees C in April/May (harden off gradually before planting outside). Space at least 1 metre apart - they are vigorous growers, water well and harvest from October to early November.

Butternut Squash are available all year round from greengrocers and the supermarket - grow them yourself and you can enjoy your own tasty Butternuts for around 8 months of the year. Sow from April - in a heated propagator at 16 degrees C (harden off gradually before planting outside), through May to early June, outdoors under cloches. These are not as rambling as the bigger squashes so can be spaced 60cm apart, but they do trail for 2 or 3 metres. Pick some to eat as soon as they are cricket ball size, allow others to grow bigger to harvest in late Autumn and then store in a cool dry place for enjoying through the winter. 

Patty Pan squash look like pies with a crimped edge - they can grow up to 15-20cm in diameter - when they're best used as decorative gourds. But when they're the size of a tangerine they're delicious baked, stuffed or sliced and fried. The hybrid, Sunburst, is a bright, egg yolk yellow. The seeds can be started early in a heated propagator at 16 degrees C in April (harden off gradually before planting outside)  or sown outside from mid May. Plant a couple of these on a compost heap and you'll get wonderful, decorative trailing vines with a good crop of attractive fruit.

Cucumbers

Growing outdoor cucumbers is easy, and if you chose a variety like Crystal Lemon adds a dramatic dash of colour to the vegetable plot. This yellow cucumber gives small round delicious fruits that are more easily digested than many of the usual outdoor varieties. Sow in April in a heated propagator at 16 degrees C (harden off gradually before planting outside) or sow outdoors from mid May to early June. Sow 2 seeds at each sowing station, when the plants have therir first 2 real leaves remove the weakest plant - if you're very careful you might well be able to grow this seedling on elsewhere. Cucumber plants need plenty of water to grow fast and give tender fruits. They will climb up trellis or wigwams if given a little encouragement.

Restina

This F1 hybrid cucumber is perfect for growing in and around the bottom of tall plants such as sweetcorn. It likes a warm, sheltered spot and in return will give high yields of small cucumbers best used as gherkins. It is quite robust and will succeed in less than perfect conditions, where it is a useful, quick growing green trailing plant but the yield will be less. Germinate in a propagator in late March, when growing well harden off gradually than plant out 80cm apart. Earliest fruits will appear in late June.

Climbing Beans

Runner beans will cover a fence, romp over trellis, grow over arches, or in the traditional way twist up bean poles in rows or wigwams. They are decorative, prolific and one of the fastest and most beautiful ways to temporarily cover an unwanted view or create a tall, flowerful display clambering up poles in a big pot.

Painted Lady is a traditional variety with  red and white flowers that are pretty enough to feature in a flower garden. Sow seed in pots, in a coldframe, in a greenhouse or on a windowsill during early April, alternatively in early May sow 2 seeds where you want a plant to grow, thin to 1 when the first true leaves have appeared. Start to harvest from July onwards - keep picking the beans as soon as they're ready because leaving them to mature means the plants stop producing and fewer beans.