I have written this with a particular friend in mind who really wanted to know how to get started with no experience. It is aimed at complete beginners so if you currently grow your own vegetables you will know this stuff already. I've picked five easy to grow, low maintenance vegetables to get you started.
If you love tomatoes, there's nothing better than picking your own fresh from the garden and eating them on the way to the kitchen. I've chosen 'tumbler' varieties because they don't need the side shoots pricking out, nor do they need staking and tying in, so they really are low maintenance. The seeds can be sown in seed trays or small plant pots in March or April ready for planting outside in late May. Alternatively, if you don't have window sill space or are running late, you could buy small plants from garden centres or car boot sales.
Transfer the seedlings when they are about 15-20cm tall into larger pots at least 30cm in diameter.
Some of my fellow allotmenters consider the Whitsun bank holiday a safe date to put out frost tender plants such as tomatoes. If you have the plants in pots you could put them in sheltered sunny spot any time in May. If a late frost is forecast just bring them indoors for the night or put a bag over their heads.
Plastic pots are best for water retention (tomatoes are hungry, thirsty plants) and if you get good sturdy ones are not too eco-unfriendly as they be re-used year after year.
When the flowers have just turned into baby tomatoes feed them the following the manufacturers recommendations on the bottle.
Pick your tomatoes regularly to encourage more grow and enjoy.
Varieties: 'Tumbler F1', 'Tumbling Tom'.
You can buy packets of seeds containing mixtures of 'cut and come again' varieties. These are very economical as you just pick what you want for your tea that night and the rest of the plant keeps growing.
Run your trowel in a straight line through the soil to create a drill about 2cm deep. Sprinkle the seeds in the drill, watching out for hungry blackbirds. Then you just need to spread the soil back over by running your finger and thumb along the edge of the drill. Don't let the ground dry out and water once a day when its dry and sunny.
If you want a constant supply over the summer months, start in May and sow in succession every 3-4 weeks.
Varieties: 'Salad Bowl', 'Lollo Rossa' or any salad leaf mixture.
Radish are a great confidence booster for new gardeners as they germinate well and grow very quickly; they can be picked about 4-6 weeks after sowing.
Sow and water in the same way as for salad leaves.
Varieties: 'Cherry Belle' - mild flavour, 'Sparkler' - two tone red and white to brighten up your salads.
Beetroot can be sown from April to July straight into the ground. Baby beets are great in salads and any surplus can be pickled.
Sow them in drills about 2 cm deep. Try to space the corms about 5cm apart to reduce the need for thinning.
Varieties: 'Bolthardy', 'Boldor F1' - unusual orange beetroot.
I've chosen dwarf beans as a low maintenance option because they don't need staking.
Sow from April to July in drills about 5cm deep and 10cm apart. Keep well watered and pick regularly to encourage more beans to form.
Varieties: 'The Prince' - sweet and stringless, 'Orinocco' - yellow in colour and a heavy cropper.