The tips and facts you need to know when growing vegetables

In order to get the most sun, the rows in a vegetable patch should always run east-west or vice versa.

Potatoes produce more food per square yard than any other garden crop.

Grow fresh new potatoes from the first and second early varieties such as Foremost and Home Guard. First early potatoes grow quicker but you get fewer of them.

Encourage seed potatoes to sprout indoors by putting them out in disused egg cartons in January, in a light frost-proof shed.

Earth up the sides of the potato rows as they grow. Otherwise the young potatoes may come up to the surface, turn green and become inedible.

Move your vegetables around the plot each year. Different crops take different nutrients from the soil. Also rotating crops stops certain diseases and pests building up.

Never plant any brassicas (cabbage, sprouts etc) in soil which is infected with club root disease.

Sow broad beans in October for an early crop next year. Choose an overwintering variety like Aquadulce; put in a few extra seeds to take place of casualties. Otherwise wait until February to get your broad beans in, or catch up by starting them off indoors and planting them out later.

Runner beans need a sheltered spot with plenty of moisture in the soil, so dig in plenty of organic material. Like French beans they can be started off indoors.

If you don’t want to put up bean poles, pinch out the growing tips of runner beans and turn them into bushes instead.

Pick runner beans when they are very young; the plants will then go on producing until October.

Dig up a few runner bean roots at the end of the season, and bring them indoors. Dry them off, store them in a peat, then water and start them up again in the spring. You’ll have supplies of beans before anyone else.

Carrots like a light soil. Sow sparingly (mix the seed with a little sand when you do so to spin it out) and thin the seedlings out drastically or you will have rows of skinny carrots.

Onion sets (tiny onions) can be sown earlier than seed, are easier to grow and are not affected by onion fly. But they cost more.

Help yourself to spring onions by thinning out onion seedlings and using them in salads. They do not have to be a special variety.

Peas need a deep, rich soil with lime in it.

Enjoy peas from May to October. Grow several types maturing at different times.

Grow very early peas- choose a dwarf variety such as Meteor, then put cloches over the plants to bring them on.

You cannot buy tomatoes more cheaply than you can buy them, but they will have a much better flavour.

Try the bush varieties with small cherry fruits- Gardeners Delight, for instance. These can be grown in tubs and hanging baskets.

Use your compost heap temporarily to grow marrows. Put a pocket of soil in the side and shove in a plant. Courgettes are merely baby marrows.

Pinch out the tips of trailing marrows to encourage side shoots, especially if you want to grow courgettes.

Help yourself to lettuce all summer by making regular sowings of little Gem, a tiny cos lettuce.

Never pull an entire lettuce out of the ground: cut it, leave the roots in place and they will sprout again to give a supply of green lettuce leaves.

Leave parsnips in the ground all winter; they are better after the first frosts.

Cauliflowers and broccoli look the same, but cauliflowers are more difficult to grow. Protect both from frost by folding their surrounding leaves over the curds in autumn.

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