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Vegetable Growing A to Z

VEGETABLES A to Z

Most of the Following Information is Relevant to UK Growing Conditions
With Basic Details

Artichoke (Globe) require a rich moist soil with a pH of approx 6.5, which has been deeply dug with plenty of organic matter added. Protect Artichokes from frost. Artichokes can be sown from seed either in the warmth in late Winter for planting out in Spring or sow seeds direct in Spring. Artichokes can also be propagated from roots (suckers). Regular mulching is a good idea. Harvest when plants are young & tender.

Diseases/Pests = Botrytis, Leaf Spot, Crown Rot, Earwigs, Slugs & Snails.

Artichoke (Jerusalem) prefers a light or sandy soil with manure added. Plant the tubers 4 to 5 inches deep (10 to 13cm) & 18 inches, (46cm) apart. In hard frost areas, dig up the tubers when the tops have died & store them.

Diseases/Pests = White Mould.

Asparagus (is a perennial) and prefers light loamy soil with a pH of around 6.5 with plenty of manure and composting. Asparagus can be grown from seed or from crowns. Plant out in trenches spacing the plants approx 2 feet (62cm) apart. Don't harvest for at least 2 years.

Diseases/Pests = Asparagus Beetle, Rust.

Aubergines prefer deep rich soil with a pH of about 6, plenty of warmth and moisture in the soil. Sow pre-soaked seeds into compostable pots containing potting compost. About 12 weeks after germination, provided the planting area has warmed sufficiently, plant them outside, 3feet (92cm) apart.
Aubergines do not like frost, keep them protected if necessary.

Diseases/Pests = Flea Beetle.

Beetroot enjoys well drained humus rich soil with a pH of 6.5 but doesn't like fresh manure. Sow the seeds thinly 3/4 inch (2cm) deep and thin out later to about 4 inches (10cm) or more depending on the beets size. Growing beetroot does not like dry conditions. When harvesting, twist the tops off rather than cutting.

Diseases/Pests = Leaf Miners, Beetles.

Bean (Broad) Likes most soils if they are well composted & contain Potash, pH around 6.5. Broad Beans can be sown in Autumn or early Spring. Sow in drills 4 inches (10cm) deep, make the drills about 2 feet (60cm) apart & space the seeds 6 inches (15cm) to 8 inches (20cm) apart. Keep them weed free & mulch if the weather is dry.

Diseases/Pests = Chocolate Spot, Mildew, Rust, Black Fly, Pea Bean Weevil.

Bean (French) Not fussy about soil, they like compost & a pH of about 6.5 Sow in drills with each drill 2 feet (60cm) apart with seeds 10 inches (25cm) apart in the drills. I have found that the French Beans I have sown, prefer being sown directly into warm soil & I have had little success when sowing in pots/trays prior to planting. Keep your plants weeded & hoed regularly.

Diseases/Pests = Flea Beetle, Cut Worm.

Bean (Runner) (Perennial) Runner Beans like a rich moist soil pH 6.5. Sowing in trenches (pre-filled with compost) is usual. Sow seeds 3 inches (8cm) deep and 10 inches (25cm) apart. I have always had good early germination of Runner Beans, by sowing in pots using potting compost, keeping the pots in a cold frame or shed for planting out after the last frosts into wetted soil. Runner Beans are thirsty plants. They are tall and will need strong supports.

Diseases/Pests = Fungal Disease, Halo Blight, Mosaic Disease, Black fly.

Broccoli (Purple & White) Not really fussy about soil but firm ground with lime added will help Broccoli. Sow in Spring 18 inches (45cm) between plants and 2 feet (60cm) between rows. Keep mulched. Repeatedly pick the flowering heads as they develop.

Diseases/Pests = Not Many.

Brussel Sprouts Like good well manured/composted soil firm but not acidic. Sow your seed into deep seed trays during the Winter. Plant them out into rows approx 28 inches (71cm) with 28 inches (71cm) between each plant. Many Sprout varieties are tall, staking may be needed if windy conditions are apparent. The flavour of sprouts is usually improved by frost.

Diseases/Pests = Club root, Cabbage Root Fly, Cut Worms, Caterpillars, Leather jackets. Cabbage Moth.

Cabbages are greedy, they prefer soil with plenty of organic matter, lime and nitrogen in it. They need plenty of water and nitrogen and prefer firm soil. Keep them earthed up as they grow. Cabbages can be grown all year round.

Spring Cabbage--- Sow seeds in midsummer or plant early Autumn.
Summer Cabbage--- Sow in  early Spring
Winter Cabbage--- Sow seeds in early Spring and plant out when the plants are about 6 inches (15cm) tall.

Diseases/Pests = Club root, Cabbage Root Fly, Weevils, Cut Worms, Caterpillar's, Cabbage Moth, Leather jackets, White fly.


Cauliflowers prefer moist humus and potash laden soil which is firmed down. They do not like acid soil. Seeds can be sown in winter in trays indoors, planting out as soon as the planting area has warmed up outside. Sow seeds for later harvesting direct in rows. Discard any plants that do not develop heads in their centres. Keep caulies well watered but always water around the plants not over them. Mulch with well rotted compost. Protect the curds from direct sunlight as they develop.

Diseases/Pests = Club root, Cabbage Root Fly, Weevils, Cut Worms, Caterpillars, Cabbage Moth, Leather jackets, White fly.


Cardoons are thistles grown as annuals. Sow seeds, after preparing compost filled trenches, at about 3 feet (92cm) apart with the trenches about the same distance apart. Keep the plants watered but not too wet and earth them up.
The stems should be blanched before harvesting them.

Diseases/Pests = None normally.


Carrots can be sown throughout the year in most climates, they are essentially a cold climate crop. They do not like fresh manure and prefer a deep soil with a pH of about 6. I sow my carrot seeds in drills filled with potting compost and cover them with it too. Try and keep the drills damp after sowing. Thin out the carrots to promote larger ones or pull unthinned carrots for smaller specimens. Try not to disturb the earth around carrots or damage them as this will attract Carrot Flies. If you have trouble from Carrot Fly try keeping your crop covered with fleece or fine mesh, or grow carrots in containers taller than 3 feet (92cm) above surrounding soil levels.

Diseases/Pests =  Mainly Carrot Fly, Sometimes affected by fungal disease.

Celery requires a humus rich dampish soil which is acidic. Sow seeds in composted trays in early spring. Keep celery moist at all times. Plant out after the last frosts. Planting into deep humus rich trenches is a good method spacing each plant about 6 inches (15cm) apart. Earth up the plants as they grow and/or cover the stalks to keep them out of the light.

Diseases/Pests = Celery Fly (leaf miner), Leaf Spot (blight), Damping Off (young seedlings/plants).

Celeriac (As for Celery)

Chicory likes a neutral deep rich soil. Sow seeds in succession 1/2 inch (1cm) deep and 4 inches (10cm) apart with rows 18 inches (45cm) apart. Pick as required for salads.

Diseases/Pests = Few if any.

Cucumbers (Outdoor/Ridge) prefer deeply dug soil which has plenty of well rotted manure or compost added, this should ensure good drainage which they need. I slightly mound up the soil along the rows before sowing the seeds or sow the seeds in pots of potting compost prior to planting. Although Cucumbers do not like soggy ground they like moisture, spraying the leaves with water usually helps them along. A sunny position for Cucumbers is advisable. They need plenty of space to grow and climb. Do not remove male flowers from Ridge Cucumbers.

Diseases/Pests = Cucumber Beetle, Mosaic Virus, Mildew.

Endives are not particular about soil but a neutral Ph is advisable. Sow seeds into shallow drills starting in early Summer then every few weeks until late Summer. Thin out to about 10 inches (25cm) apart. Keep plants shaded and moist whilst they are growing.

Diseases/Pests = Slugs, Snails.

Florence Fennel is Perennial or Annual, most parts of the plant are edible and it prefers well dug soil and manure. Sow seeds thinly in Autumn or Spring and thin to 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20cm).

Diseases/Pests = Few if any.

Hamburg Parsley likes well dug/turned, manured soil. Seeds can be sown in Spring or Autumn, thinly in drills. Thin the plants out to about 6 inches (15cm). The leaves can be used as a herb. The roots can be stored.

Diseases/Pests = Canker.

Kohl-rabi is a brassica which grows with a swollen stem. Sow seeds thinly in drills in situ. Keep the plants moist and thin to approx 6 inches (45cm). Pick when the swollen stems are about the size of a snooker ball, if they get larger they will be stringy.

Diseases/Pests =  Same as Cabbages.

Kale requires a fertile moisture retentive well draining soil with plenty of compost or manure in it. Sow seeds in May & plant out in June into firm soil, add lime if the soil is acidic. Kale is very hardy and does not usually suffer from pests & diseases like other Brassicas. There are several types.

Diseases/Pests = Few if any.

Leeks will tolerate most well drained soils but they will need plenty of manure, compost and moisture and a high Ph. Leeks do well grown in trenches. Seeds can be sown indoors (late Winter) and kept at about 15 degrees centigrade or sow in drills in early spring. Plant out into dibbed, water-filled holes about 6 inches (15cm) apart. Keep Leeks well watered and earthed up. Harvest as required through Autumn/Winter.They will survive the cold except for severe frosts.

Diseases/Pests = Onion Fly, Leek Moth, White Rot, White Tip, Leek Rust.

Lettuce will grow almost all year round. They will be damaged by frost. They prefer moist cool conditions and soil rich in humus. They can be sown in trays indoors or in situ in drills. Depending on variety, space plants about 12 inches (30cm) apart and the same between rows. Thinnings can be used in salads, or replanted fairly easily.

Diseases/Pests = Cut Worms, Slugs and Snails, Caterpillars.

Marrows like plenty of manure humus and water and a high Ph. My advice is to plant them on a compost or manure heap which is where I sow my Pumpkin seeds. (Pumpkins have some similar characteristics to Marrows). Seeds can be sown directly outdoors if the weather is warm enough or sow indoors in pots for planting out after the ground has warmed up. Marrows need plenty of space to grow.

Diseases/Pests = Mildew, Mosaic Virus, Slugs.

Okra is native to Africa & grows best in warmer climates than UK, it can be grown undercover though, use well composted soil. Sow seeds 1/2 inch (1cm) deep & 3 inches (7cm) apart in rows, soak seeds before sowing and thin to about 2 feet (60cm). Water but do not soak Okra. Harvest while young and tender on completion of flowering.

Diseases/Pests = Not many.

Onions need rich firm soil which has been manured the year before planting, they need both cool followed by hot weather. Onions can be grown most of the year round. In Summer (late) sow in drills of compost and thin to about 6 inches (15cm), protect over winter. In Winter sow seeds in trays of compost and plant out in Spring. I don't recommend sowing onion seeds in Spring. Onions sets are easier to deal with. Space onion sets at about 6 inches (15cm) apart in firm soil. Keep onions well weeded and if any flowers develop pinch them out immediately.

Diseases/Pests = Several fungal diseases, Onion Fly.

Parsnips like well dug soil with a neutral Ph and are better in cooler climates. Sow in drills about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep & thin out to approx 8 inches (20cm) apart. Keep plants moist & weed free as they grow.

Diseases/Pests = Canker, Sclerotina Rot, Leaf Spot, Carrot Fly, Celery Fly, Wire worm.

Peas usually do better in well composted or manured ground prepared the year before sowing with a Ph of around 6.5 so lime if required. It is usual to sow peas into drills approx 5 inches (13cm) wide & approx 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8cm) deep in the shape of the 5 on a dice (die) with a couple of inches (5cm) between each seed. Firm the soil back into the drill after sowing and soak well with water. Peas can be sown in succession every few weeks from March onwards depending on weather conditions. Peas can also be sown in Autumn. Protection from birds is advisable, as is frequent watering.

Peas Asparagus (as for peas, protect from cold).
Peas Mange Tout (eat the lot) (as for peas). Pick when young, and continue picking.

Diseases/Pests = Pea Moth, Pea & Bean Weevil, Pea Thrips, Mildew, Birds, Rodents.

Peppers (and Chillies) can be grown outdoors in warmer temperate climates. It is probably better to start them off undercover. Sow indoors into pots or trays, water and keep covered with polythene. When they have germinated remove the covering & keep the compost moist, plant out after the last frosts & the ground has warmed up. The growing plants will need supports, regular watering & feeding.

Diseases/Pests = Anthracnose, Cut Worms.

Potatoes require an acid soil lower than Ph 4.5 therefore plenty of manure/compost in the soil is beneficial. Deep well dug soil is also helpful as the tubers need space to develop. 2 main methods of planting are usual, either plant the tubers into flat ground and "earth up" as the plants grow, or make trenches for planting into.
 The trench should be about 5 inches (13cm) deep & each potato10 to 12 inches (25 to 30cm) apart for EARLIES. For MAIN CROP potatoes 12 to 15 inches (30cm to 40cm) apart. Drills/trenches should be 20 to 24 inches (50 to 60cm) apart for EARLIES & 30 inches (75cm) apart for MAIN CROP.
  Potatoes must be regularly "earthed up" as they grow, to prevent the tubers coming into contact with sunlight.
 "Chitting" potatoes (allowing the stems to form from eyes) is advisably for earlies. I normally "rub out" all but 2 stems before planting, eyes up. Do not plant diseased or badly damaged potatoes. When the foliage appears above ground, remember it is frost tender. Potatoes can be grown in containers such as pots, barrels, dustbins etc.
Early potatoes should be lifted soon after flowering but main crop potatoes can be left in the ground longer after the foliage has started to die down. Beware of waterlogged ground though.

Diseases/Pests = Blight, Scab, Eel Worm.

Pumpkin seeds can be sown indoors prior to planting out, or outdoors undercover, without cover in Summer when the weather has warmed up. Try sowing Pumpkin seeds into compost inside cardboard boxes with drainage holes in their bases. Place the boxes up to their rims into your manure heap and keep well watered.

Diseases/Pests = Few.

Radishes can be grown for most of the year in succession and like cool moist conditions in an acidic soil. Sow thinly in drills, they will mature quickly within a month or so.

Diseases/Pests = Flea Beetle.

Rhubarb prefers acid soil in a cool climate, keep it in a permanent bed. When planting the "crowns" dig deeply and add manure before planting each crown. Mulch around the growing plant, add manure around each plant over the Winter. Large crowns from older plants can be split (without damaging the roots) for propagation. First year plants will be weakened, if more than 2 or 3 stalks are pulled. If flower heads appear on a plant cut them out straight away.
Leaves are high in acid content, DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES.

Diseases/Pests = Few in UK.

Salsify is a root crop, the seeds can be grown in Spring or Autumn and prefers cool weather conditions when growing. Sow seeds about 1/2 inch (1cm) deep & thin to about 4 inches (10cm) apart in rows 18 inches (45cm) apart. Keep them moist as they grow & protect over Winter if severe cold is expected.

Diseases/Pests = Few if any.

 Swedes & (Turnips) despite their appearance are brassicas, usually growing better in cooler climates and preferring a neutral soil. Turnips can be sown in Spring (or late Summer for bigger specimens). Swedes can be sown from late Spring through to early Summer. Sow reasonably thinly and if not thin out to about 10 inches (25cm) apart, in rows (my choice) 24 inches (60cm) apart with lettuce in between the rows which helps to keep the soil moist.

Diseases/Pests = (See Cabbages/Caulis), Flea Beetle, Boron Deficiency.

Spinach prefers dampish soil with a Ph of between 6 to 6.5 which contains well composted materials. Sow seed 3/4 inch (2cm) deep in drills 12 inches   (30cm) apart, thin seedlings out to 6 inches (15cm) between plants. Mulching of Spinach is a good idea to keep the surrounding soil damp. Pick the leaves as required for cooking & eating.

Diseases/Pests = Very few.

Swiss Chard/Red Chard require soil with a Ph of around 6.5 are not particular about soil but like well rotted manure or composted materials added. Sow seeds about 4 inches (10cm) apart & 1 inch (2.5cm) deep. Space rows at least 18 inches (45cm) apart in Spring. Chard can also be sown in Summer if the weather is likely to be mild over Winter.

Diseases/Pests = Very Few.

Sweet Corn (probably my favourite grass), it requires humus rich soil and several months of sun to ripen the cobs. Previously manured ground is good for growing Sweet Corn in. I prefer to start Sweet Corn off early in March in pots of compost, sowing the seeds about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep. Keep the pots undercover until the plants reach about 6 inches (15cm) in height. I then transplant out in blocks, spacing of about 18 inches (45cm) all round & place plastic bottles over each plant until the risk of frost has gone. Keep Sweet Corn well watered but don't wash soil away from the base of their stems. In fact "earthing up" around the base of the stems is a good idea to keep the shallower roots covered. Their are many types of Sweet Corn and many of them can cross-pollinate, sometimes spoiling taste & flavour. They are wind pollinated plants. The cobs are usually ripe when the tassel's have turned brown or dark brown.

Diseases/Pests = Earwigs, Smut.

Tomatoes need warm weather & approximately 4 months of sun during the Summertime if grown outside. They can also be grown in a greenhouse or poly tunnel using various growing methods such as grow bags. Well composted or manured soil is required for them. In Spring sow seeds thinly in trays or pots of compost & keep it moist. Harden plants off before planting out. Most Tomato plants require supports after they have been planted out about 2 feet (60cm) apart. As the plant grows pinch out the side shoots, then after 4 or 5 trusses have formed pinch out the growing tip. Water regularly & add a liquid feed, but don't water log the plants, don't allow the surrounding soil to dry out completely either.

Diseases/Pests = Aphids, Blight, Cut Worms, Damping Off,
Fusarium Wilt, Blossom End Rot, Splitting. 


















































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