It’s often the case that despite desires for half an acre of glorious grassy field behind your house, staring you in the face is an odd-shaped piece of muddy back garden. Surely this can’t suffice to provide produce for a couple or family? Here are 5 vegetables that say it can.
- Courgettes. Last year I had one plant in a hanging basket, another in a pot, and a third in my flower border. Not only did they look spectacular, but they provided us with enough courgettes to roast, fry and stew all summer long, and even a few to pickle for the autumn. They do tend to spread quite intrusively, but once they are fully grown you can expect a plentiful supply; the more you pick, they more they produce! Sow seeds once the weather is warmer – around May – and plant in their final position once all chance of frost is gone (beginning of June in Lincolnshire usually).
- Chard. Walking around my garden last week, the realisation hit me that not only had my chard plants survived, but they had been consumed frequently over the autumn and winter months, seemingly unaffected by the cold weather. Chard is full of vitamins and is so easy to add to pasta dishes, curries and stir-fries. It picks like lettuce and cooks a little like spinach. It is also a vibrant wonder to observe in your garden; go for the varieties with pink or orange stems such as ‘Rainbow Chard’. Sow seeds any time from February/March onwards.
- Carrots. They aren’t as good as courgettes and chard in terms of yield quantity, however the taste of home-grown carrots is simply too irresistible to count them out of your small plot. I have tried growing carrots in a number of different ways, but the best (and easiest) way is simply to sprinkle seeds thinly over raked soil and rake over once more. I have always grown ‘Nantes’ and find them not only delicious but also of a good size. Even if you only manage one row of carrots, it will be worth it I assure you!
- Early potatoes. By this I mean those that you can use as new potatoes early in the season. Last year we planted the classic ‘Charlotte’ variety and were extremely pleased with the creamy, soft taste compared to previous years. Although potatoes can take up a lot of room, you can also grow them in pots on your patio, freeing up space for other tempting edibles. Potatoes need chitting in a dark place (start in February) and should then be planted into the ground around Easter time. A top tip to improve the start of their growth is to line the holes with comfrey leaves; these are often found around the countryside or in back gardens and can be an excellent resource to plunder.
- Beetroot. I pondered long and hard whether beetroot or peas deserved the last spot. In principle, peas would have been miles ahead in terms of the enjoyment I get from them in my own garden; I eat them like sweets straight from the pods and relish in the sweetness only freshly picked peas can provide. However, they do take up an inordinate amount of space. We managed to be self-sufficient in peas from July until November last year, however this was the product of a 6m x 1m plot, evidently not the option for most. So beetroot got the spot, and I really do love beetroot. It’s got an earthy, wholesome flavour that is eons apart from the pickled beetroot you buy in jars. It’s easy to sow (exactly the same as carrots) and can be picked small for salads or large for roasting etc.
Eleanor is obsessed with stories. She writes for a number of online spaces including This is Your Kingdom, edits Creative Countryside, curates #aseasonalyear and teaches at Chalk House. In addition, she is currently studying for an MA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing. You'll find her roving the fields of the Lincolnshire Wolds or planning her next rural adventure.