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Weighing up which veg to grow

Potato Jazzy growing in tiny 8l bags – a space-saving solution

Choosing vegetables to grow can be a minefield it is unwise to randomly dive into.

What you grow, and why you grow it, is going to be dictated by five major things:

  1. The amount of time you have;
  2. The space available to you;
  3. Your level of experience and knowledge;
  4. How much money you want to save;
  5. The climate where you live.

Let’s take this one at a time (I’d like to point out I routinely ignore any sensible advice when plant/seed-buying frenzy takes me).

  1. Time is precious. If you work full time and have an active social life, then taking on a run-down allotment isn’t the best idea. Try some easy salad crops and potatoes in bags before committing to something you will kick yourself for. However, if you have time on your hands, feel free to experiment.
  2. Space is an issue that is a constraint – but it also encourages new ideas. I don’t have room for a proper veg garden, so tend to stick to unusual or high-value crops I can’t find in the supermarket. I have a long, thin conservatory, so I make the best use of that by growing cordon tomatoes, as they are long and thin.

    Conservatory packed with tomatoes in June
  3. I may have a lot of gardening experience and knowledge, but that does not equal common sense. I bite off more than I can chew every year, always to the detriment of something. You’ll be doing a much better job if you recognise your own limits.
  4. Grow loads of potatoes if you have an allotment, as they taste great but take up a lot of room and the usual root crops to store over winter. If you’re challenged for space, concentrate on the expensive stuff in the shops or things that are unavailable.
  5. Know your climate, weather, and microclimate. I could never grow tomatoes outdoors here and ordinary courgettes only succeed in a good summer. However, I can grow tomatoes under glass; parthenocarpic courgettes set even in dull weather, as do runner beans with white flowers.

Sadly, there’s no room for sentimentality when it comes to gardening.

You need to make informed decisions about what’s best for you to grow, never mind what the horticultural industry tells you is THE thing to have this season.

Obviously, I fail to do this all the time. Witness the gallery below – I’m not that keen on peppers or chillies but insisted on growing them and grew Green Zebra tomatoes based on what I’d read, not on what my family would like to eat.