Phoenix Urban Gardening Course – Sow & Grow. Chapter 1

In an attempt to prevent our members from missing out, we’re bringing Ruth’s expert Phoenix Urban Gardening Course into your homes in instalments over the coming weeks.  First up: Sow & Grow: all you need to know to get those veg plants off to a roaring start!


1. WHAT should I grow? (see Planting Guide)

Plan & prepare.  Understanding the space you are growing in will help you choose the right plants.

  • SITE: Aspect: SUN, WIND, (shelter?) Freedom from: weeds, pests, disease.
  • WATER: tap, butts, drainage (water well weekly)
  • SOIL type, texture, structure, pH, organic matter content, fertility;
  • US: time, energy, experience, holidays, WHAT WE LIKE TO GROW & EAT

These grow fast: peas, beans, radishes, salad crops, some brassicas

These take ages: onions, garlic, turnips, parsnips, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower

2. WHERE? (use our Planning Grid to help you plan and keep track of what you’ve planted where)

Crop needs:

  • Sun (minimum 6 hours/ day)
  • Soil: well drained, moisture retentive, nutritious.  Only dig when necessary (spuds, perennial weeds).
  • Space: Beds: ideal size, no more than 2 metres wide so it is easy to reach middle without standing on soil, and accessible for picking, watering, weeding.  Veg that need picking often e.g. beans, courgettes, salads, must be easy to get at (near path).  Others e.g. spuds, onions, leeks, cabbage, can be further away & left until needed
  • Water
  • Warmth

These can stay in the ground for a long time: spuds, root veg, fennel, leeks

These need regular picking: peas, beans, tomatoes, leafy crops, courgettes

3. WHEN? (see crop chart)

Right time: temperature, how long til harvest?  Seed packets will tell you when to sow & how deep.

4. HOW?

Direct sown or planted crops e.g. spuds, onion sets, hardy veg can be sown from as early as February-April.  Crops that need to be raised in warmth either indoors, in a greenhouse or under cloches e.g. tomatoes, peppers, courgettes are planted out after being ‘hardened-off’ (kept out during the day and in at night for a week or so) and after any risk of frost is past – so usually May onwards.


  • Get Ready: What is going where? When does it go in? How do we do it?
  • Get Set:
    • Seeds sorted.
    • Spuds chitted (left in a cool place until they start to sprout from their ‘eyes’).
    • Sets (onions).
    • Beds weed-free.
    • Soil good: compost, fertilised
  • GO:
    • Propagate: sow: depth, in situ or protected indoors.
    • Plant: Depth & spacing, (crop rotation, companions)
    • Protect: PLANTS from cold, wind. PESTS (when seedlings). Protect SOIL: mulch (green manure on beds not needed til late May).

If you have just started on a plot

  1. Don’t try to do it all at once!
  2. Start with best bit: sun, soil, water
  3. Cover empty beds with cardboard or grow green manures or spuds
  4. Only grow easy stuff that you like to eat
  5. Look at your neighbours’ plots;
  6. Don’t plant perennials til all weeds out
  7. Don’t panic

Also check out our BHOGG post on tips for an organic approach to tackling that plot

Watch out for Sow & Grow Chapter 2 which will concentrate on Planting Out and Potting On as your seedlings take off.


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