Vegetables F - Z

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 Updated 16/05/2017

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The second part of our guide to some of the most popular vegetables to grow in the garden. Here the vegetables range from florence fennel to turnip, while the first part covers A - E.

Florence Fennel

Latin name: Foeniculum vulgare.

Family: Umbelliferae.

How to grow: Florence fennel is a fleshy bulb with an interesting aniseed flavour. it can be steamed or boiled and served with a creamy sauce or used raw in salads.

Sow florence fennel in mid spring to late summer in shallow drills 18 inches apart. As the seedlings become large enough to handle thin them to 8 inches between each plant. It is best to sow Florence Fennel seeds successively in small quantities.

Keep the plants well watered. When the bulbs begin to swell to about 2 inches in diameter, earth them up.

Cut and use florence fennel about 3 weeks after earthing up.


Latin name: Brassica aleracea acephala.

Family: Cruciferae.

How to grow: Sow kale seeds in mid or late spring in shallow drills 6 inches apart. When the seedlings are large enough to plant out space them 18 inches apart. Choose a fairly sheltered site.

Keep weed free by hoeing and mulch the beds to further reduce weeds.


Sow kohl-rabi seeds in March and April in shallow drills 6 inches apart.

When the seedlings have formed a third leave transplant them into a deeply-dug, well manured bed.

Place the seedlings 15 inches apart each way and try to transplant them in wet weather.

Keep well-watered and hoe regularly.

The kohl-rabi should be ready for use in about 2 months.


How to grow: Sow thinly in shallow drills in mid-march.

When the seedlings can be handled, transplant into a bed pf rich soil 4 inches apart.

Keep them watered in dry weather.

When the seedlings reach 6-9 inches, they need to be planted out. Make a trench and put a generous amount of rotted manure into the soil and fill the trench again. make holes 9 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart.

Trim the tops of the leaves off each seedling and drop one into a hole just to the base of its first pair of leaves. Then do not fill in the hole but pour water in to fix the roots. (Leeks can also be grown in trenches as for celery).

Leeks need plenty of water and they can be blanched in late August by draining a little soil up along each side of the rows.

The leeks are ready for use from early September onwards.

Also see: Grow Your Own Leeks.


How to grow: To be able to cut lettuce in early May sow seeds in a warm greenhouse in February.

Sow the seeds very thinly and just cover into a sprinkling of soil. Transplant the seedlings into trays and harden off in a cold frame.

Transplant to a sunny place in the garden at the end of March.

Make outdoor sowings in early March in a warm place.

Sow every fortnight until the end of August for a supply of lettuce until the beginning of winter.

Once grown the seedlings can either be transplanted to a prepared bed or simply turned out and left to mature.


Latin name: Cucurbita pepo.

Family: Cucurbitacaea.

How to grow: Marrows are basically mature courgettes.

Grow as for courgettes but leave to grow bigger (about 15 inches long).

Water and mulch well.


Latin name: Cucumis melo.

Family: Cucurbitacaea.

How to grow: Sow melon seeds inside in mid spring. Put 2 seeds in a pot and thin out the weaker of the two as necessary. Prepare a bed for the melons by digging a generous amount Plant out in late spring under cloches, leaving 3 feet between each plant. Water the melons regularly.

When three leaves have grown on the plant pinch out the growing shoot. Then do the same to any side shoots that develop after they have put out three leaves. When fruit forms let only two leaves remain beyond the fruit.

Cut the melons for use when the the ends of the fruit "give" when pressed.


How to grow: Onion sets (small onion plants) can be bought for use in the Spring and Autumn.

Push them carefully into the soil until only the tops are showing. In Autumn leave 30cm between each plant and each row and in Spring leave 15cm for medium sized onions and 25cm for larger ones.

Harvest when the tops are dry and brittle.

The Autumn sets when harvested will not store beyond 3 months.


How to grow: Sow in a deeply dug bed in early March in drills of 1 inch deep and 15 inches apart.

Sow three seeds at 1 foot intervals along the drills.

As the seedlings grow thin out the two weaker ones of the three and keep the surrounding soil well hoed.

Never use stable manure for parsnip as this can lead to the roots becoming forked.

Lift them as required in the Autumn, if possible, leaving those parsnips needed for later use in the soil.

It takes about 26 weeks for a parsnip to reach maturity.

Also see: Grow Your Own Parsnips.


How to grow: Prepare a shallow trench about 5cm deep and 15cm wide.

Sow three rows of pea seeds slightly staggering the rows. Do not sow seeds less than 3 inches apart along each drill.

Peas can be sown from the middle of February until July depending on the variety of pea used. Be guided by the pea seed packet.

Traditionally peas were grown up sticks but now pea netting is available.

In dry weather peas need plenty of water.


Latin name: Capsicum sp. Solanaceae.

How to grow: Sow pepper seeds in pots or trays in a greenhouse or windowsill in early spring.

Harden the seedlings off in a cold frame. Prepare a bed in a sunny position by digging in plenty of manure or compost Plant out the melon plants under cloches in late spring.

Leave 2 inches between each plant. Keep well watered.

The peppers can be tied up to canes once they have reached 6 inches in height. Before tying them up pinch out the growing tip. Any side shoots can then be tied in as they appear.

Pick the peppers as they reach a suitable size.


Seed potatoes need to be bought early in the year. They should be stood upright, blunt end uppermost in old cardboard boxes or fruit boxes. Keep them in a light but frost-free place for about 6 weeks before you want to plant them.

They need to be planted out in a sunny, well-drained position in deeply dug rich soil. Early and late-early potatoes are generally speaking more disease and pest resistant than the later maincrop.

Earlies and late earlies should be planted from early spring (traditionally on Good Friday) and the maincrop from mid to late spring.

Plant them when the shoots are 0.5-0.75 inches long and put them into the soil shoots uppermost to a depth of 3-5 inches about 12 inches apart for earlies and 15 inches apart for maincrop.

The rows should be 20 inches apart for earlies and 30 inches apart for maincrop. As the shoots appear above the ground earth them up. This protects the growing potatoes and prevents them from turning green.

Potatoes can be harvested from early summer to autumn. They are usually reckoned to be ready for digging when they flower.


Sow the seeds on their edges half an inch deep in pots of good compost in early April indoors or in a heated greenhouse (alternatively pumpkin seeds can also be sown outside in May straight into the ground).

Put the pots outside into a cold-frame in May. Meanwhile make half as many mini compost heaps as you have pumpkin plants and cover them in soil.

At the end of May plant two pumpkin plants in each. Keep the plants well-watered. If you want really big pumpkins let only one develop on each plant.

Harvest them before the frosts come and store in a warm room to get really ripe.


Latin name: Raphanus sativis.

Family: Cruciferae.

How to grow: Sow radish seeds in a bed which has had plenty of compost or well rotted manure dug into it. Sow the seeds thinly in rows 6 inches apart and choose a site which allows full sunlight in spring and autumn but affords some shade from full summer sun.

Radish can be grown as a catch crop between rows of slower growing vegetables.

A first sowing can be made under cloches and then further sowing can be done at weekly intervals until the middle of summer.

Water when dry and keep the soil weed free. the radishes can be harvested when they reach the size of a hazelnut. Do not allow them to grow too big or they become woody and over hot in taste.


Latin name: Scorzonera hispanion.

Family: Compositae.

How to grow: Scorzonera provides an unusual vegetable throughout the winter. The leaves, stem and roots can be used.

Sow scorzonera seeds in mid spring in drills about 1 inch deep keeping them 12 inches apart. when the seedlings are large enough to handle thin them to 6 inches apart. Keep the bed weed free.

In the autumn the roots can be dug up and stored in boxes of moist peat or they can be left in the earth and dug up as required.

Alternatively the leaves and stems can be cut away leaving the roots in the ground. Use the leaves and stems and leave the roots in the ground, well covered with earth.

The roots can be left until the following spring when the blanched leaves can be used.


Latin name: Spinacea aleracea.

Family: Chenopodiaceae.

How to grow: Sow spinach seeds in late winter in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. Sow two spinach seeds in a pot at a time and then thin out the weaker of the two as necessary.

Spinach prefers a lime soil which is rich in moisture retaining organic matter.

Plant out the small spinach plants in early spring under cloches keeping the plants 6 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart.

After this first planting sow spinach seeds outside in shallow drills 12 inches apart and thin the seedlings to 12 inches apart. Continue sowing at intervals of about 4 weeks until mid summer.

Keep well watered and weeded.

Pick a few leaves from each plant without disturbing the roots. The plants will continue to grow and leaves can be picked as and when needed.


How to grow: Sow Swedes outside in early spring or summer.

Put the seeds into the ground 1 inch deep and keep the rows 16 inches apart.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out leaving about 8 inches between each.

Swedes can be dug up for use between Autumn and mid-winter. They are one of the root vegetables that are supposed to taste better after the first frost.

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


How to grow: The seeds can be sown in early April in a heated greenhouse and then hardened off in a cold-frame. Otherwise the seeds can be sown in 2 inch drills at a distance of 1 foot between each seed. 

If you have more than one row keep the rows 2 feet apart. Keep the plants well-watered.

Cobs will be ready for use after 16 weeks.

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


Latin name: Brassica rapa rapa.

Family: Cruciferae.

How to grow: For an early crop of turnips sow turnip seeds in late winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in early spring on a well manured site under cloches.

Turnip seeds can be sown outside from mid spring to mid summer. Sow them in shallow drills keeping the drills 12 inches apart. thin seedlings out to leave 6 inches between each plant.

Weed the bed very well using a hoe. Water as needed and mulch between the rows of turnip.

Pull the turnips for use when about 3 inches in diameter. Do not allow them to get too big or they will become woody and have a strong flavour.

Lift all the remaining turnips in mid autumn. Twist off the leaves and store the turnips in boxes of peat in a frost free shed.


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