Vegetables A - E

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 Updated 11/05/2017

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Here's the first of two pages explaining the basics of growing vegetables in your garden. Hopefully it'll help you start your journey to self sufficiency. Some of the vegetables have a dedicated Q and A page with solutions to some common problems. The second part of our guide cover F - Z. If you have any other qustions, please leave a comment.

Artichoke, Chinese (Crosnes)

Latin name: Stachys tubifera.

Family: Labiatae.

How to grow: Plant tubers in March to April in a sunny position. The soil should be well drained. Place tubers nine inches apart and four inches deep. Space rows eighteen inches apart. Water well if weather is dry and keep weed free. Dig artichokes in October. They can be stored in sand if necessary.

Uses: Boiled or mashed as a hot vegetable or raw in salad.

Artichoke, Globe

Latin Latin name: Cinerary scolymus.

Family: Compositae.

How to grow: Plant seeds in March to April. Rich soil is essential for this plant so dig in plenty of home produced compost during the autumn prior to sewing seeds.

Young offshoots of older plants can also be propagated. Traditionally globe artichokes are planted in clumps of three, one and a half feet between each plant and each clump four feet apart.

Usable artichoke heads will not be produced until the second year. In the autumn the dead leaves should be cut away and the crowns covered with a light dressing of manure.

Uses: Boiled or mashed as a hot vegetable or raw in salad.

The artichokes should be cut leaving a few inches of stem on the head. After being washed thoroughly they should be boiled until tender in salted water.

Artichoke, Jerusalem

How to grow: This is very easy to grow but does especially well in light soil in a sunny position. Dig the patch as early as possible before planting the tubers in February or March. Put them in six inches deep, two feet apart and leave three feet between the rows.

Weed during the summer. Dig the crop in November or leave the tubers in the ground and use as required.

Uses: The artichokes should be well scrubbed and peeled. Boil them in water and a little lemon juice (so that they do not become discolored). They are delicious raw and make extremely good soup.

See also: Jerusalem Artichoke Soup Recipe.


Latin name: Solanum melongena.

Family: Solanaceae.

How to grow: Sow these seeds in a hotbed or greenhouse in early March. When 3 inches high transfer the seedlings to boxes or pots of light compost, taking great care not to disturb the roots too much. They will need to be kept under glass and repotted into a rich soil mix again taking care not to damage the roots.

In early June the plants can be put either outside in their pots or planted out into a sunny position. As soon as the first aubergines are set, mulch the plants well with compost and keep the whole plants well watered.

If you have a question about aubergines, have a look at our reader's question page on Aubergine.

Beans, Broad

Latin name: Vicia faba.

Family: Leguminosae.

How to grow: Plant tubers in March to April in a sunny position. The soil should be well drained. Place tubers nine inches apart and four inches deep. Space rows eighteen inches apart. Water well if weather is dry and keep weed free. Dig artichokes in October. They can be stored in sand if necessary.

These can be sown in October/November for harvesting the next year or in January/February the year after. The earlier they are sown the less likely they are to become infested with black-fly.

The chosen site should be dug over thoroughly and well manured with home made organic compost.

Sow the beans/seeds in double rows 9 inches apart and 6 inches between each bean leaving 4 feet between each double row. The sowing can be done either in a 3 inch deep trench or in individual holes at the distance shown above.

A really early crop can be achieved by sowing in boxes in the greenhouse in January and hardening off the plants in a cold frame in March.

Uses: The beans should be used while still tender. Some people like to boil and eat the whole pod when it is small but it is usual to grow them to a reasonable size, remove the beans from the pod and boil them.

As long as the tops of the plants have been kept free of black fly they can also be boiled and used as a vegetable.

Also see: Grow Your Own Broad Beans.

Once you've grown your crop you can make delicious broad bean soup.

Beans, French

Latin name: Phaseolus vulgaris.

Family: Leguminosae.

How to grow: Sow in a sheltered position in late May or early June. Some caution is needed since these beans are very susceptible to frost, slugs and snails. Place seeds in double rows 6 inches apart, 3 inches deep and keep the double rows 3 feet apart.

They can also be brought on in a greenhouse in April and moved to a cold frame when the first leaves are fully formed.

Plant out towards the end of May if the weather appears suitable. Keep beds weed free and do not let the plants dry out.

Uses: The pod is used whole, boiled in salted water and served as a hot vegetable or cold in salad with an oil dressing.

Haricot Bean: Haricot beans are a type of dwarf French bean and they are grown in exactly the same way, except that they are left on the plant until it dies back in the autumn.

Before the first frost they should be hung up to dry in bundles. Once the pods become brittle the beans can be removed and stored in a dry place.

They are used just like any dried pulse.

Beans, Runner

Latin name: Phaseolus multiflorus.

Family: Leguminosae.

How to grow: These beans are best sown in light soil i.e. not clay soil, in a sunny position.The bed should be dug deeply and dressed with organic manure. Outdoor sowing should not be done before mid-May and then the seeds should be sown 3 inches deep, 4 inches apart with six feet between rows.

The beans can also be bought on in pots indoors or in a greenhouse and then planted out.

Because these beans climb, they need some support. Canes can be used for this, giving each plant a support of its own. Make sure the plants do not become too dry or too wet.

A collar made from an old yogurt pot and placed over each plant can help to discourage slugs and snails while the plants are small and vulnerable.

Uses: The beans should be picked while still tender. Remove the stalk and stringy side parts. Slice lengthways and boil. Serve hot.

See also: French Salad Recipe.


Latin name: Beta vulgaris.

Family: Chenopodiacae.

How to grow: These are best sown in a bed which has previously been used for celery or potatoes. They need a rich, well drained soil but manure should not be added to the soil just before sowing.

Sow in mid-May in drills 2 inches deep and 1.5 feet apart. Scatter the seeds thinly in the drills. The tiny seedlings that emerge some 2 weeks later may need protecting from the birds.

Thin the seedlings when they reach 2 inches tall into groups 6 inches apart.

About 10 days later thin to obtain single plants 6 inches apart. Try not to do this in full sun.

The beetroot should be ready from late August onwards. Lift the roots carefully and do not cut the leaves off but twist them off 3 inches away from the top of the beetroot.

Uses: Boil the beetroot until tender but do not cut tops off until after cooking. Cool and use for salad.

Also see: Grow Your Own Beetroot.

Some tasty recipes containing beetroot to try:

Beetroot Cake
Beetroot Chutney Recipe
Borshch Recipe


Latin name: Brassica oleracea botrytis.

Family: Brassica.

How to grow: Sow broccoli in March or early April (under glass if necessary) in order to harvest it from September to December. When the are about 3 inches high plant them out into a prepared bed. The small plants should be set about 6 inches apart. Plant them out into their permanent beds in early June.

Sow as above in early May for cropping in January to April. These plants will have to stay in the soil throughout the winter.

Their heads may need to be protected with straw or by folding the leaves over the heads.

Brussels Sprouts

Latin name: Brassica oleracea bullata gemmifera.

Family: Brassica.

How to grow: Sow outdoors in early April. Just throw the seeds across the bed and cover lightly with fine soil. When the seedlings are about 3 inches high transplant them into a prepared bed where they can stay until you have room in the main vegetable bed. Plant them 4 inches apart.

When putting them into their permanent place make sure you take a good amount of soil around the roots and bury them right down to the first pair of leave sand firm the soil very securely aroundthe roots. Plant them at least 3 feet apart each way.

In the autumn remove any yellowing leaves. Pick the sprouts after the first frost and pick from the bottom of the stalk upwards.

Uses: The sprouts are broken off the stems. The tough base of each sprout is cut off and then a deep cross is cut across the remaining base to allow the boiling water to cook the sprout evenly. Any damaged or tough outer leaves are removed. 

The sprouts should be cooked in boiling salted water until just tender and then thoroughly drained. Allow about 6 sprouts per person.

Also see: Grow Your Own Brussels Sprouts.


Some varieties (white cabbage for example) can be grown all year round.

Sow seeds outside in March and April and plant the seedlings in their permanent position in June and July. These cabbages should be ready for use in August and September.

If you make a second sowing in mid April they can be cut from October to January.

A third sowing in August will produce cabbages which be ready in January.

Different cabbages are suited to growing at various times of the year so consult the seed packet to see which type will suit you best.

Generally speaking cabbages require deep, rich well tilled soil. The seeds can be either broadcast or sown in drills 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart.

When the seedlings have developed their third leaf they can be transplanted 6 inches apart each way and left to mature.


Latin name: Daucus carota.

Family: Umbelliferae.

How to grow: For a very early crop carrots can be sown in a hot bed in early February. The earliest outdoor sowing can be made from February onwards. The soil should be well tilled and friable. Never use fresh animal manure for the carrot bed.

Sow the seeds in drills and cover them with half an inch of soil. If sowing early a few bushy twigs laid along the drills will keep the seeds warm and induce germination.

When the seedlings come through thin them out to at least 1 inch apart. Thin out further (some of the tiny carrots can be used) until the plants are 8-9 inches apart.

Lift the final crop in November and use through the winter, storing in a clamp.

Different varieties of carrot are suitable for different types of soil so be guided by the seed packet or seed catalogue.

Also see: Grow Your Own Carrots.


Latin name: Brassica oleracea botrytis cauliflora.

Family: Cruciferae.

How to grow: For cutting in late May sow in a heated greenhouse or hot bed in early February. Sow the seeds very thinly in rich soil with the addition of coarse sand to ensure good drainage.

When the seedlings have formed two leaves and look fairly sturdy, transfer them to small pots. Harden them off by placing in a cold frame and then plant out in a sunny position in early April.

Do not attempt to sow cauliflower outside until mid April and even then choose a position in full sun.

A second outdoor sowing can be made in May and plants from this will give cauliflowers until Christmas. A sowing in August can provide plants to over-winter in a cold frame which can then be moved to a sunny position in early April.

Never allow the seedlings or plants to become dry and when planting out allow about 2 feet between each plant.


Latin name: Apium graveolens.

Family: Umbelliferae.

How to grow: Celeriac is a vegetable grown for its fleshy roots which have a delicious celery flavour. It can be steamed or boiled until tender or grated and used in salad.

Sow celeriac seeds in mid spring in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. Thin out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and harden them off in a cold frame. Plant the celeriac seedlings out in late spring in a water retentive soil which is rich in organic matter. When planting out make sure that the swelling at the base of the plant is at soil level. Put the small celeriac plants 12 inches apart in rows that are 15 inches apart. Keep well watered if the weather is dry. Mulch with well-rotted manure.

In early autumn draw the soil up around the stems to blanch the celeriac.

The celeriac should be ready in mid to late autumn. Once lifted from the soil they can be stored in a clamp or in boxes of moist peat in a shed which is protected from frost.


Latin name: Apium graveolens.

Family: Umbelliferae.

How to grow: Sow in a heated greenhouse in early February for a crop in early September. Only cover the seeds very lightly with fine sand or soil. Water very carefully and when the seedlings develop, water only with tepid water.

Leave them dry-ish rather than over watering. When two leaves have formed transfer the seedlings to seed trays filled with a good compost allowing 2 inches between plants.

Stand them in a shady position and as they get stronger expose them to more sunshine.

Plant them in their final place in early May.

For a winter crop follow the same method sowing in the middle of March but plant the seedlings out in a cold frame planting 2 1/2 inches apart.

Keep them well watered and they should be ready for outdoor planting in the middle of June.

For the final celery bed, the soil should be trodden down very firmly.

Plant the celery using a trowel allowing 8-12 inches between the rows. Keep the celery well watered.

About six weeks before the celery is required blanch the plants either by earthing up or by tying a cardboard collar around each plant. In frosty weather the celery should be given extra protection in the form of straw or fleece.

Chard, Swiss

Latin name: Beta vulgaris cycla.

Family: Chenopodiacea.

How to grow: Swiss chard has large, dark green leaves with broad, white stems.

Both the stems and the leaf are eaten as vegetables.

Swiss chard seeds should be sown in shallow drills in mid spring. Groups of 2 or 3 seeds should be sown 12 inches apart in rows which are 15 inches apart.

When large enough to handle the seedlings should be thinned out.

Make another sowing in mid summer in order to secure a winter crop. Weed and water the plants regularly. The later crop may need some protection in winter but chard can withstand a little frost.

Pull the leaves as you would rhubarb in mid summer (from the early sowing). Harvest the leaves from the outside of the plant leaving the centre growing for use in a few day's time.


Latin name: Chicorium intybus.

Family: Compositae.

How to grow: Chicory is a very attractive, crisp winter salad leaf. It has a refreshing, slightly bitter taste and is well worth growing as it can be expensive to buy.

Sow chicory seeds in early summer in shallow drills 12 inches apart. Thin the seedlings to 9 inches apart. Keep weed free and watered.

There are two types of chicory. One needs to be blanched and the other does not.

Where blanching is needed dig up some of the crop in the autumn. Twist off the leaves to within 0.5 inches of the root and put the root into a deep box of moist peat. Cover the chicory root with about 9 inches of peat. Pack the peat down well and keep in a warm place.

After 5 weeks the roots will have grown chicory of about 6-8 inches. Cut and use.

Discard these roots and dig up some more from the garden. Repeat the process and you can eat fresh chicory all winter.

Harvest the chicory types that do not require blanching when the hearts are nicely plump.


Latin name: Cucurbita pepo.

Family: Cucurbitaceae.

How to grow: Sow courgette seeds in early spring. Put two seeds in a pot. Later thin out the weaker of the two seedlings if necessary.

Transfer the courgette plants to a well composted or manured site and position them at least 2 feet apart. Do this when all danger of frost has passed.

To save space zucchinis can be trained up canes.

Harvest regularly when zucchinis are about 5 inches long.


Latin name: Cucumis sativus.

How to grow: According to the variety chosen, cucumbers can be grown outside or in a greenhouse.For outdoor types sow in a very sheltered spot in late Spring. The soil needs to be well drained and rich. Dig in plenty of organic compost.

Sow three seeds in each drill and later choose the sturdiest looking plant to keep. Protect this with a cloche or an upturned plastic bottle with the bottom cut off.

The outdoor varieties can be started off in a greenhouse or a heated propagator (21-24 degrees Centigrade) and then planted out when all threat of frosts has gone.

In the outdoor bed the final plants should be about 30 inches apart. They should be ready to cut in mid to late Summer.

If you have a question about Cucumbers, have a look at our reader's question page on Cucumbers.

Also see: Grow Your Own Outdoor Cucumbers.


Latin name: Chicorium endivia.

Family: Compositae.

How to grow: Sow endive seeds in shallow drills 12 inches apart. Choose a semi shaded position with rich, moisture-retaining soil.

Endive seeds should be sown in early summer in the place where they are to grow to maturity.

Thin out the seedlings when they can be handled. Keep weed free and regularly watered.

After about 3 months of growth cover the rows of endive with black polythene to blanche. Before doing this make sure that the plants are dry or the leaves may rot. The endive should be ready to eat in 3 weeks.

The late crop will need protecting from frost before it reaches the blanching stage.


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