Growing and Planting
All vegetables can be grown in pots if they are given enough space and nutrients. Raised beds are better and can be quite small but still grow many vegetables. Consider growing vegetables that normally would trail on the ground vertically so as to save space – cucumber, melon and pumpkins can all be trained to grow up a trellis so could still grow on a balcony or small patio. Seed spacing on packets of seeds usually include a row distance – this is only needed if your bed was so big that you needed to walk though the vegetables. Plant ‘rows’ the same distance apart as the plant spacing i.e. if packet suggests plant 10cm apart then do each row 10cm apart as well as along the line; this saves space allows you to fit more in to garden bed or pot.
All the plants listed below I have grown in my garden – outside without covers. It is hard to judge when the last frost will be in London as there is a big difference in weather between the weather station (Heathrow) and central London. If the temperature is above zero and the sky will be cloudy then you can probably expect no frost. If your garden patch/pot is under a balcony or dense trees then you will avoid most frost as you have some protection. This year we had below zero days in February and even though I saw ice in puddles there was no dew to freeze on leaves (this week a cold wave is coming!). Make sure you do not get the leaves of seedlings wet when watering, especially in the evenings, to avoid freezing the new growth.
Garden focused is a useful website – giving you dates for planting out relevant to your area (outside London) I found that changing the city to Penzance (top right hand corner) was the closest I could get to inner city London. The website is still very generous as it wants to avoid all frosts. This website shows that for Westminster the average is March 1-10 so Garden Focused is adding an extra margin on that to avoid all frost change. It is yet again a balance between avoiding damage and getting the longest growing season possible.
Collecting seed is easy for self pollinating plants as the seed will be the same as the parent (tomatoes and peas are the most common). Some plants will cross pollinated if other varieties are near by resulting in a seed that is not the same as the parent (all similar squashes will cross-breed) – this may be a good thing or a bad thing, you will find out when you germinate the seed the next year and end up with a nice tiny acorn squash or a strange new courgkin.
Vegetables that are actually fruits (tomato cucumber etc) have seeds inside the fruit in the same season that you planted. Vegetables that are true vegetables (kale, carrot, radish) will produce seeds the following season so you must over winter them and wait for them to ‘bolt’ and flower in spring (technically not bolting as they have done it at the right time) don’t collect seeds from plants that have bolted the same season as you don’t really want seeds that will produce plants that bolt easily.
The information below is gleaned from my own experience and a little bit from around the net. The plants listed below are ones that I have grown or currently are growing so I can let you how well they do in sunny London.
Starting next week I will post about individual plants; I have pictures of seeds and seedlings and will add pictures of fruit as it grows. I have grouped them in families but the list below is alphabetical in case you don’t know the family you are looking for. I’ll publish a new family each week and when I am finished you will find them all below.
Next week, perennials