How to grow leafy vegetables
Leaf vegetables are especially rich in iron and vitamins, but are prone to a wide range of pests and diseases therefore it is always important to rotate your leafy crops each year to avoid pest and disease build up in the soil.
Leafy vegetables need soils rich in nutrients and poor soil quality will lead to low production levels.
Spinach is very nutritious and easy to grow throughout the year. Swiss Chard is also a type of spinach that is hardier than normal types and has a large broad leaf.
Spinach likes a rich, moisture-retentive soil. Sow your seeds in seed trays in a protected place such as a greenhouse in late winter. The seedlings can be planted outside in early spring, setting them 15cm apart in rows 30 cm apart.
When you harvest spinach just take a few of the biggest outer leaves from each plant to enable the plants to continue to grow. You will need to twist the leaves at the base to get them off the plant and not to damage it.
It is also possible to harvest cabbages throughout the year but make sure you plant a type that grows well in the season you want to plant them as there are different types for different types of the year.
Cabbages can be grown in seed trays or planted directly into the ground in shallow rows and covered with 8-10mm of soil. Plant them out or thin the rows to eventually be 30cm apart in rows 50cm apart.
Make sure you keep the growing plants moist but don’t water the heads once they are becoming firm to prevent splitting, so water the roots with a watering can. Cut the heads of the cabbages off once they are firm and the stumps can be pulled up and thrown on your compost heap.
Cauliflowers are some of the most difficult crops to grow successfully.
There are different types of cauliflowers, those that produce in summer, autumn and winter-spring so choose the type you need to mature in the season you want to plant them.
Cauliflowers need very rich soils and will not produce good heads in poor soils. Plant the seeds in seed trays in a greenhouse until they are strong enough to be planted outside. Transplant them into the ground 45cm apart in rows 60cm apart.
Once the head is 7,5-10cm across cover the head with the large outer leaves to prevent it being in the sun. You could either just bend the outer leaves over the head or tie them up over the head. But keep checking on the heads often and cut it when it is fully ready and before branching occurs.
Broccoli is easy to grow but is greatly attacked by pests. The plant also takes up a lot of space relative to the amount of crop you can eat.
Sow your seeds in seed trays in early spring and plant them outside about 45cm apart with 60cm between rows. Try to keep control of the pests using an organic pesticide. Cut the central shoot first while it is still green to encourage the production of side-shoots. Then harvest the broccoli heads off the side-shoots until they stop producing.
Harvest the broccoli beds when they are fully swollen but unopened and still compact. If cutting is delayed, the buds will open and losses will occur.