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Grow vegetables from seeds
Spinach to Turnips

This is a very rough guide to growing Spinach, Squash, Swedes, Tomatoes (outdoors) and Turnips from seeds in the UK, but even within the UK, the climate varies, so due allowance must be made for local conditions.

As well as variations in climate, there are also numerous different named varieties of the different vegetables - always read the seed packet for detailed guidance for particular varieties.

When sowing seeds, always mark the line of seeds to show the position and label the rows so that when the seedlings come up, you know what they are.


Terms used below:

Drill - a shallow depression into the bottom of which seed is sown - normally formed by pulling a hoe or a gardening trowel (backwards) through the surface of a prepared bed. Drills are used where the planting depth is relatively shallow and seeds are planted close together. Once the seeds have been sown, they are covered by pulling a hoe over the surface of the bed to fill the drills.

Seed bed - a specific area of the garden where seeds are sown for germination and later the seedlings are 'planted out' to other areas. The area is normally level and with a fine soil, this helps the young plants to grow and makes it easy to lift the plants for planting out.


Spinach

Where to sow Outdoors in open ground

 

Site/Soil Summer varieties: Best shown as catch crop between peas, beans or brassicas.

Winter varieties: Open, unshaded - well drained.

 

Sowing time

Summer varieties: mid March to late May (to harvest late May to the end of October)

Winter varieties: August to September (to harvest October to April)

 

How to sow Sow Spinach seeds very thinly in 2.5cm (1 inch) deep drills about 30cm (12 inches) apart.

Thin the Spinach seedlings as they grow to give spacing between plants of about 23cm (9 inches). Discard the Spinach thinnings as they will not transplant.

Pick off any Spinach seed heads to prolong cropping.

 

Time from sowing to harvest 8 to 14 weeks
   
 

Squash - see 'Marrow, Courgette, Squash and Pumpkin'

Swedes

Where to sow Outdoors in open ground

 

Site/Soil Open site - prefers light, humus rich soils, avoid dry soil. Also avoid acid soil, lime if required.

Soil preferably manured for previous crop.

 

Sowing time Late May to early June

 

How to sow Sow Swede seeds very thinly in 1.2 to 2.5 cm (/½ to 1 inch) deep drills about 37cm (15 inches) apart.

Thin the Swede seedlings as they grow to give spacing between plants of about 23cm (9 inches) apart. Discard the thinnings as they will not transplant.

Time from sowing to harvest 20 to 24 weeks
   
 

Tomato - outdoor

Where to sow Indoors in pots of compost (an alternative to growing from seed, is to purchase tomato plants late May/early June)

 

Site/Soil Sunny site sheltered from winds. In cold areas grow against a wall or fence. Keep away from the potatoes crop.

Well drained, fertile soil is essential. Preferably manured for previous crop, otherwise apply a general fertiliser about 2 weeks before planting. Do not apply fresh manure just before planting.

 

Sowing time mid March to early April

 

How to sow Indoors:

Method 1

Sow the Tomato seeds in shallow drills in seed trays.

When the Tomato seedlings are at the 3 leaf stage, prick out the seedlings and move them to larger containers allowing 5 to 7.5cm (2 to 3 inches) apart - alternatively, plant the individual Tomato seedlings in 5 to 7.5cm (2 to 3 inches) diameter peat pots.


Method 2

Sow 2 or 3 Tomato seeds direct into 5 to 7.5cm (2 to 3 inches) diameter peat pots or peat blocks - thin out the Tomato seedlings when they are at the 3 leaf stage.


Whichever of the above methods is used to grow the tomato plants from seed, when the Tomato plants are about 17 to 20cm (7 to 8 inches) high and once the danger of frost has passed (late May/early June), harden off the plants and plant them outdoors - alternatively purchased Tomato plants can be planted out at this time.

Plant the tomato plants about 45cm (18 inches) apart.

Provide a 120cm plus (4 foot) stake for each Tomato plant if they are a Tall or Cordon variety, as the plants grow, tie them to the stake at 20cm (8 inches) intervals.

When each tomato plant has developed 4 or 5 trusses, pinch out the growing tip to stop further growth.

It is important to water tomatoes regularly, but not to waterlog the compost. Irregular watering can result in the fruit splitting.

 

Time from sowing to harvest About 20 weeks
   
 

Turnips

Where to sow In open ground

 

Site/Soil Open site - prefers light, humus rich soils, avoid dry soil. Also avoid acid soil, lime if required.

Soil preferably manured for previous crop.

 

Sowing time Late March to early June

 

How to sow Early crop
  • Start sowing turnip seeds in March in 1.2cm (½ inch) deep drills, with about 22cm (9 inches) between rows. Sow thinly and cover. Repeated small sowing of turnip seeds every month until early July will ensure a longer season of fresh turnips than one sowing.
  • Thin out the turnip seedlings so they are about 5 inches apart.

Main crop

  • Start sowing main crop turnip seeds in March in 1.2cm (½ inch) deep drills, with about 30cm (12 inches) between rows. Sow thinly and cover.
  • Thin out the turnip seedlings as they grow so they are about 22cm (9 inches) apart.

 

Time from sowing to harvest 6 to 12 weeks
   
 
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