Once the first green shoots start to appear in your garden, it’s time to think about what produce you’d like to grow for the summer.
When it comes to planning your fruit and vegetable patch, why not introduce a few herbs into the mix – they’ll make a delicious accompaniment to your other homegrown goodies.
Your spring herb garden
Spring is a great time to grow herbs as you can start planting early. Towards the end of March, herbs such as dill, chives, fennel, oregano and parsley can be sown directly where you want them to grow as all these herbs can tolerate low temperatures.
You can also dig in young thyme and rosemary bushes at this time.
Summer strawberries and raspberries
Strawberries will grow practically anywhere from beds and borders to containers and hanging baskets. Plant them in spring as they generally fruit in about 60 days. They are very unfussy and require little care; however, if you give strawberry plants a liquid potash feed such as a tomato food every 7 to 14 days during the growing season you’ll get a bumper crop.
Raspberries are just as easy to grow and can be planted in autumn or early spring. One of the best autumn fruiting varieties is ‘Autumn Bliss’, which can be planted in March and produces a heavy crop in late August to mid-October. This variety is perfect for smaller gardens or containers as it has short, sturdy canes that don’t require support.
Plant your potatoes
Potatoes fall into two categories: earlies or maincrops. As the name suggests, early potatoes are known as new potatoes and harvested much sooner than maincrops. Maincrops have larger tubers, produce a higher yield and are in the ground for much longer.
March is a good time to plant seed potatoes into well-prepared soil. Dig a shallow drill of about 15cm depth and lay your potatoes 30cm apart, making sure the ‘chits’ or shoots are pointing upwards. Always ‘chit’ seed potatoes first before planting; this means allowing them to start sprouting shoots – you should plant when the shoots are about 3cm long.
A second early and maincrop can be planted in April to give a plentiful supply later on.
Easy to grow Dwarf French beans
Dwarf French beans are simple to cultivate and perfect for introducing children to growing vegetables. As the plants only grow to about 45cm tall they won’t need much propping up. If you plant them in small blocks, the neighbouring plant will provide support.
French beans can be sown outside towards the end of May or earlier if you have a southerly garden. Beans should be sown 4cm deep with 15cm between plants and 40cm between rows.
Slugs and snails will happily try to munch their way through new bean shoots. Try to create a barrier with a circle of sawdust or crushed shells around the base of each plant.
Courgettes, cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins
May is the time when you can get down to planting frost-sensitive crops that may have perished if you’d attempted to sow them earlier and that includes courgettes, cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins.
All of these plants have large seeds, which makes them easy to handle and simple to germinate. Just place one seed in a small pot, cover with a thin layer of compost and spray lightly with water. To maintain the right atmosphere, cover each pot with a poly bag and secure with string or an elastic band to keep the plant sealed during the germination process.
Courgettes, cucumbers and squashes are of the same vegetable family, and it’s important not to overwater them until they become established. Small courgette plants can rot at the stem if the plant is overwatered. Once plants are established, they can be planted out and watered regularly at the roots, avoiding the leaves.
Courgettes produce plenty of fruits per plant. This means you can end up with a glut of courgettes come summer time. A tasty way to use them up is to make ‘courgetti’ by cutting ribbons of courgette using a julienne peeler or spiralizer. These swirls of courgette can then be cooked in a pan with garlic, lemon zest and seasoning.
Lettuce and other leaves
Once we’re well into spring and there’s no risk of a late frost, you can start the first sowing of your salad leaves. A small trough filled with a general multi-purpose compost is all you need, and successive sowings will give you leaves throughout the summer.
One of the main benefits of growing your own veg is the ability to pick the quantity you want, when you want it. This is especially true of salad leaves, as you can pick a few leaves at time – this saves you from buying packets of supermarket salad leaves, which are often left to go rotten in the fridge!
Don't forget to check out our 'Grow Your Own: Month By Month Guide' for a clear summary of all of the delightful produce you can plant in your British garden. Also be sure to check out the other articles in this series, including 'Grow Your Own This Summer'.