Planting tips

Edible Flowers

There are far more edible flowers than you might think. See this guide from Thompson and Morgan.

 Cardoons vs Globe Artichokes – what’s the difference?


Chitting Potato

Chitting Potato

First Early Potatoes

  • – These are generally best if you want to grow small, new potatoes.
  • – Plant up from the end of February to late May.
  • – First early potatoes are ready to harvest approximately 10 weeks from planting date.
  • – First early potatoes will benefit from ‘chitting’ prior to being planted.

Second Early Potatoes

  • – These are generally best if you want to grow small, new potatoes.
  • – Plant up from March to late May.
  • – Second early potatoes are ready to harvest approximately 13 weeks from planting date.
  • – Second early potatoes will benefit from ‘chitting’ prior to being planted.

Maincrop Potatoes

  • – Maincrop potatoes tend to produce larger potatoes which are ideal for baking and roasting.
  • – Plant up from March to mid May.
  • – They are ready to harvest approximately 20 weeks from planting date.
  • – Maincrop potatoes will benefit from ‘chitting’ prior to being planted.

Chitting Potatoes

Seed potatoes, particularly earlies and second earlies, benefit from ‘chitting’ prior to being planted. This process encourages strong shoots to sprout over several weeks to encourage faster growth and heavier crops once they in the ground. From late January/ February, ‘chit’ your seed potatoes by setting them out in seed trays, shallow boxes or empty egg cartons in a cool, bright, frost free position (10C/ 50F) to allow them to sprout. You will notice that the immature ‘chits’ are all at one end (called the rose end). Place the rose end upwards. Sturdy ‘chits’ will form and should attain up to 25mm (1”) in length.

Planting and Aftercare

Planting times are largely dependent on weather, soil conditions and regional variations.

Dig a trench to a depth of about 10cm (4”) and place the seed potatoes into the trench with the rose end facing upwards. Fill the trench with soil to cover the potatoes. An application of potato fertiliser can be scattered along the top of the trench if required.

It is important to ‘earth up’ potato crops as the shoots emerge above ground, to protect them from frosts which blacken the shoots and delay production.  Simply draw some soil over the top of the shoots to cover them again.

First early and second early crops particularly require plenty of water during prolonged dry weather especially when tubers are starting to form.

When the stems reach a height of 23cm (9”) above ground they should be earthed up again to prevent tubers near to the soil surface from turning green.

Broad Beans

Broad Bean

Broad Bean

Sow seeds from early autumn to late winter in an open sunny site preferably on ground which has been manured for a previous crop. Sow in double rows 7cm (2in.) deep, 23cm (9in.) apart in the row. The double rows should be spaced 23cm (9in.) apart and a distance of 40-60cm (18-24in.) should be left before the next set of double rows.

Hoe regularly and cut off the tops of the plants as soon as four clusters of bloom are showing. Harvest the beans when the pods are well filled and the seed still soft.




Plant garlic in rows in any well drained soil in full sun.  It is important that the soil does not become waterlogged so incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost to improve drainage and feed the soil.  On particularly heavy soils, plant garlic in raised beds. Carefully split the bulb into individual cloves. Plant each clove at a depth of 2cm (1”) below the surface of the soil and 10cm (4”) apart, leaving 45cm (18”) between each row.




Plant onion sets in rows in any firm, well drained soil in full sun. Prepare the planting area several weeks in advance by incorporating some well rotted garden compost to improve drainage and soil fertility. Avoid planting onions on freshly manured soil.  On particularly wet ground, try growing onion sets in raised beds. When growing onions from sets, plant the bulbs so that the tip of bulb is just protruding through the soil surface.  Leave a space of 10cm (4”) between each bulb, and 30cm (12”) between each row.




Summer Fruiting –

Grow summer fruiting raspberry plants in a sunny position in any well drained soil. Prior to planting, incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost into the soil. The stems of summer fruiting raspberries will require support. Before planting, prepare a framework of wires stretched horizontally between two sturdy 1.8m (6’) posts.

Plant raspberry canes in a row against the wire supports, allowing a distance of 60cm (24”) between plants. Water well. Canes should be pruned to 15cm (6”) above ground level immediately after planting to encourage more shoots to be produced.

Autumn Fruiting –

Grow autumn fruiting raspberry plants in a sunny position in any well drained soil.  Prior to planting, incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost into the planting hole.  Plant raspberry canes in rows allowing a distance of 60cm (24”) between plants. Firm in and water well. Canes should be pruned to 30cm (12”) immediately following planting to encourage more shoots to be produced. Autumn fruiting varieties do not require supports for their stems



Carrots are normally sown outdoors between March and July and harvested throughout the summer and autumn.

Before sowing carrots, remove any weeds and dig your soil to a fine tilth, breaking up any large lumps. Make drills in the soil with a trowel or by laying an old broom handle or bamboo cane across the ground and gently pushing down. Aim for a depth of 1cm (½in), leaving about 30cm (12in) between each drill. Sprinkle your carrot seed thinly along the drill – sowing too thickly will make the seedlings difficult to thin out later on! Gently draw soil from the edges of the drill back over your seeds so they are well covered. Water the area well with a fine-rose watering can to minimise seed disturbance. Keep the soil moist until germination, which should take about 10-20 days.


Once your carrot seedlings are large enough to handle they will need thinning out to allow each carrot room to grow properly. This is best done in stages so that you have spare seedlings should slugs attack! For the first thinning aim to leave one seedling every 2-4cm, pulling out any in-between. About four weeks later you can further thin your carrots to a final spacing of 10cm (4in) – the thinnings taste delicious in salads. If you’re growing finger or baby carrots then a final spacing of 5cm will be sufficient.


Watering should be kept to a minimum once seedlings have emerged – only water when the soil is dry. Make sure your carrot plants are kept weed-free to reduce competition for light, nutrients and water. If the shoulders of your carrots poke through the soil then they can be earthed up slightly to prevent them turning green.



For greenhouse cultivation: sow from February to March.

For outdoor cultivation: sow from March to April.

Sow seeds on the surface of a good, free-draining, damp, seed sowing mix and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place seed trays in a propagator at a constant temperature of around 15-20C (59-68F) until after germination, which takes 7-14 days. When seedlings gain 2 true leaves, transplant into individual 7.5cm (3″) pots of compost and grow on at a minimum temperature of 15C (59F).

When growing in a heated glasshouse tomato plants may be transplanted at the end of May or when the first flowers are showing, if earlier. Allow 3 plants per growbag, or one per 25cm (10″) pot, or plant tomatoes directly into the greenhouse soil.

When growing tomatoes outdoors, wait until all risk of frost has passed before transplanting tomatoes. Gradually acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7 – 10 days before planting out from early June when tomato plants are 20cm (8″) tall. Choose a sheltered position in full sun on fertile, reliably moist, well drained soil, and transplant at a distance of 60cm (24″) apart. Drive a (5′) cane into the soil adjacent to each plant to support them as they grow, and tie each main stem to its support with soft garden twine.


Water tomato plants frequently, to keep the compost evenly moist. Feed tomatoes regularly with a high potash plant food once the first truss of fruit has formed.

Tie the main stems to their supports and remove any sideshoots that develop between the main stem and the leaf stems. Once the plant has produced 6 or 7 trusses, pinch out the top of the main stem. This process of “sideshooting” and “stopping” will increase the availability of light and air movement around the developing fruit, and focus the plants energy on producing a good crop of high quality tomatoes. Tomatoes can be harvested as they ripen from July to September.



Direct sow outdoors at a depth of 1cm (½”) from late March to April into a well prepared seedbed, for transplanting to their final positions later on. Alternatively sow leek seed indoors from January to February at a depth of 1cm (½”), in modules using free-draining, seed sowing compost. Place in a propagator or seal container inside a plastic bag at a temperature of 10-15C (50-59F) until after germination which usually takes 14 -21 days. Once germinated, grow leek plants on in cool conditions until all risk of frost has passed.

When leeks are at least 20cm (8″) tall, gradually acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over 7-10 days before transplanting them into the well prepared, rich fertile, well drained soil in sun or semi shade. Plant leeks at a distance of 23cm (9″) between plants and 30cm (12″) between rows. Alternatively grow leeks in patio bags of good quality compost. Using a large, thick dibber, create each planting hole to a depth of 15cm (6″) and lower the leeks into the holes ensuring that they reach the bottom. Fill each hole with water, washing sufficient soil around the plants to ensure that they can establish. This planting method will produce leeks with well blanched stems. Cover with a protective netting or fleece to prevent attack from birds and insects. Water the plants thoroughly after planting


Leeks should be watered regularly until fully established. Once established, they will only require watering during very dry periods. Hoe between rows of leeks to destroy weeds and bring insect larvae to the surface. Leeks can be harvested from autumn onwards; however they stand well in the ground and can be lifted when required throughout the winter and spring. Lift leeks by levering them out of the ground with a spade or fork.