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Hints & Tips

Growing Ambitions

With the dark days of winter behind us, if you tentatively poke your nose out of doors you’ll catch an enticing and much welcome hint of spring in the air.

For vegetable gardeners everywhere, it signals the time to start thinking about getting down and dirty in the soil. Green fingers itch to pick up gardening tools, from spade and fork to secateurs or strimmer, and do some honest toil in the open air.

As every gardener knows, spring also brings with it a host of chores to set the garden up for the coming year. With the muddiest and most unpromising of plots suddenly springing to life, it’s time to pull on those wellies and gloves; and head outside armed with our Going for Growth Action Plan

Clean up your Act

As the weather gets warmer it’s time to do a little spring cleaning on your veg patch to prepare it for the coming growing season. Clear the ground of any weeds, old leaves and dead plants, then fork over the area.

16451649-583-450x600Sow What?

As we head into spring and the ground begins to warm up, the time is ripe to get sowing. Keep any eye on the weather for frost warnings and, if conditions allow, why not try sowing some of the following crops:

  • Peas
  • Onions
  • Turnips
  • Rocket
  • Carrots
  • Broadbeans
  • Salad leaves
  • Tomatoes (in green house or under cold frame)
  • ‘Chitted’ main crop potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Late summer cauliflowers

Mucking About

Any gardener who knows their onions goes all weak at the knees when thinking about a steaming pile of manure. Packed with goodness for the soil, it helps to retain its structure, nutrients and water, making it more fertile. And the best bit about it is you don’t have to be affluent to pick up some effluent! Plenty of people will give it you for free.

Growing Circle of Friends

If you want to get some great insider information and tips from experienced vegetable growers, why not start a thread in our forum or consider joining you local allotment group or the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG), who have given us these handy water-saving tips.

Water, Water everywhere…

A constant supply of water is essential for growing healthy fruit and veg, but knowing what to water and when is the key to a good crop. Rakhi Arora from the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners gives some advice to vegetable growers about watering their plants.

Rakhi says, “Something that new allotment holders and some experienced allotment holders tend to overlook is the issue of which plants need to be watered and how often. So let’s discover some ways that you can save yourself some money!”

When watering crops in the dry season, bear these tips in mind:

  • Carrots should never be watered as this will lower yield and affect taste.
  • Jerusalemartichokes should never be watered as this encourages the formation of leaves and not tubers.
  • Parsnips and swedes – there are no beneficial effects from watering
  • Onions – in a very dry season, water the ground before planting to get your sets off to a good start.
  • Turnip – in a dry year, floor the bed about a month before harvest
  • Cauliflower (winter), cabbage and calabrese – if the soil is very dry, puddle in to help them get established.
  • Cauliflower (summer) – continuous watering to stop plants running to seed
  • Potato (main crop) – water only when the flowers have just opened – at any other time it will lower the yield.
  • Potato (early) – regular watering will extend harvest.
  • Spinach – regular watering will extend harvest.
  • Tomato (outdoor) regular watering will increase yield but may reduce flavour.
  • Cucumber – water through growing season to improve both yield and taste.
  • Courgettes and marrows – Water when fruits start to swell then water copiously.
  • Leeks – the more you water the bigger the crop!
  • Lettuce – water from sowing to harvest, encouraging rapid tender growth.
  • Spring onion – once you start to water you cannot stop!
  • Peas – water throughout the life of this crop.
  • Runner beans – continuous watering and crop may still fail.
  • Celery – huge volumes of water required.
  • Chinese cabbage – any shortage of water will cause it to fail and run to seed.
  • Sweetcorn – watering when plants are young and the earth is dry can increase yields.

Rakhi says, “In relation to watering and saving money, let grass grow longer as it will stay greener. Avoid sprinklers as they use more water in one hour than a whole family uses in a whole day! Do not over water herbs as many come from hot climates and can endure long hot spells.

“All of the tips given above will save you a great deal of money, time and effort. The greatest thing is that it is in the interest of your vegetables to follow the tips above so that you can grow food which has excellent quality.”

The NSALG is the recognised national representative body for the allotment movement in the UK. The society is owned, managed and funded by its members to protect, promote and preserve allotments for future generations to enjoy. The Society helps its members to get the best out of their allotment plots for a fee of just £2 per year.

For more interesting information visit or follow the NSALG on Twitter at

Zoe Allison

Zoe Allison

Writer and expert