Growing vegetables effectively is all about making sure that you create the conditions so that the bit of the plant you want to eat is promoted at the expense of other bits of the seed cycle.
So – if you want to eat leaves you need to stop the plant from flowering. Since many plants are affected by the day length it’s not a good idea to plant something like pak choy in the spring when the days are rapidly lengthening. Because that’s a message to the plant to hurry up to flower and fruit.
Water stress – underwatering – has a tendency to make plants hurry on in their seed cycle. Great for Tomatoes and Peppers – terrible for lettuce. I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture.
The truth is that understanding a little bit of the plant science behind the garden can make a great difference to the quality and quantity of the vegetables that you’re able to produce. It’s possible to get quite a lot out of quite a small space if you go about it the right way.
One thing you can do is to start many vegetables off in propagation equipment – we are offering root blocks and some propagation kits so that you can grow seeds to seedling stage on window sill or in greenhouses so that you can extend the growing season. That means that you can get early crops of lettuce, chard and other welcome greens early in the spring. Growing under glass or in polytunnels can also really extend what you can do. When we had a small holding in Shropshire we had a small polytunnel which was about 2 x 5 metres and this kept us in lettuce throughout much of the year – we went on to use it for tomatoes in the summer.
Vegetable production, however is a balancing act between all of the things that a plant needs to grow, light, water ,space, nutrients, soil condition. We are trying to encourage the plant to grow to suit our agenda rather than its own so there’s a bit of pushing on and pulling back that needs to be carried out if we are to get leaves instead of fruits – or indeed fruits instead of leaves.
You can learn more about these ideas in the pages under this heading.