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Vegetables & vegetable growing

Help solve your gardening problem. Here are the answers to some commonly asked gardening questions about growing your own vegetables and vegetable growing with hints, tips and advice.

If you are unable to find the answer here, then send me an e-mail


The front cover of the RHS Allotment JournalWhat is the best way to grow veg
- especially in a small space?

I would recommend growing vegetables in raised beds and using the square foot or block layout methods. This makes growing much easier and increases yields.

Find out more about square foot or block layout methods.

Introduction and getting started (139KB pdf)

Plant spacing, cropping time and yields (65KB pdf)

To make the most of this system and the most of limited space, always sow salad and quick maturing crops in succession. I always start seeds off in cell trays and then plant out young plants when space becomes available.

The RHS Allotment Journal (which I wrote and edited) and the RHS Allotment Handbook (below) may also be useful.


The front cover of the RHS Allotment Handbook, published by Mitchell BeazleyI've just started to grow my own vegetables.
Can you give me some help and advice?

Visit the extensive grow your own veg section on RHS Online. The A-Z veg profiles are my copyright and were given to the RHS when I worked there. There's no point in reproducing the content here on my website.

Or you can buy a copy of the RHS Allotment Handbook; again I wrote the vegetable content.


As I have a small garden, is it possible to grow vegetables in containers?

Yes, most vegetables can be grown in containers, but it is important to use as a big a container possible for most veg, apart from sald crops, which can be grown in small pots and even window boxes.

You can buy a range of suitable containers for vegetables from

I would like to grow miniature vegetables, but don't know where to get the seeds. Can you help please?

All the major seed companies sell seed of vegetable varieties that are suitable for growing as mini veg - and the packets are labelled as such; the varieties are grouped together as "Mini Veg Collections". Visit any good garden centre and you'll see them for sale or try any of the major companies that do mail order.

Also, most vegetables grow well in containers and by picking early - when they're young and have the best flavour - you'll also be able to achieve 'mini vegetables'.

Can you tell me what are the white marks on my marrow leaves?

Your marrow plants are suffering from the common disease powdery mildew, which proliferates in warm, dry conditions.

There are a number of different powdery mildews, but each one is specific to a particular plant or group of plants; this one only attacks cucurbits - which includes cucumbers, courgettes, squashes and melons.

The first symptoms are discrete white powdery patches which spread to cover the whole leaf, leading eventually to the leaf dying.

Badly affected leaves should be cut off and destroyed. Because the disease is worse in hot, dry conditions try to ensure the soil is kept constantly moist. Because the disease spores need a film of water to germinate in, make sure the leaves are kept dry - so always water the soil around the plant, rather than the plant itself.

The pods of my runner beans have developed black marks. Can you tell me what's wrong and whether the beans are edible?

Your beans are suffering from the disease bean anthracnose, which affects both runner and dwarf French beans.

Brown stripes develop on the stems, reddening on the underside of the leaf veins. This is often followed by the leaves withering and dying. Rounded, reddish spots then develop on the pods and soon spread to the developing beans.

Affected plants should be destroyed and healthy ones could be sprayed with a suitable fungicide to protect against infection. Next year make sure you grow your beans in a different part of the garden and spray to protect them if necessary.

I grow onions from sets. Some years I get a very good crop but sometimes it is a total failure. The sets start growing and then come to a stop and make no progress at all and I harvest the same sized onions that I planted! What am I doing wrong?

The main problem with onions not performing is through poor soil preparation, planting too early (which checks growth), the soil being too dry and plants not being adequately watered through dry spells and diseases such as onion mildew. Also planting poor quality sets doesn't help - buy from respectable firms like Unwins and Marshalls. Having said that, poor weather last year affected the quality of this year's sets which didn't help.

This year has been terrible for onions - I've seen failed crops all over the country.

I'm sure by checking on the above growing conditions and making alterations, you'll improve your onions next year.


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