Is there anything to be gained by being an eager beaver on the veg patch? Well, if you can supply your crops with the right growing conditions, then the answer is a definite yes. They key here is to focus solely on the crops that revel in an early start: first early potatoes, super-hot chillies and hardy peas and broad beans. Leave the likes of courgettes, sweetcorn and runner beans in their seed packets for a few weeks more at least. Ample light is also crucial – even the hardiest of crops will become lanky, weak and disease-prone if they’re grown in dimly lit conditions. There’s never been a better reason to scrub greenhouse, conservatory and cold frame glass with warm, soapy water.
Fans of exhibition onions should know one secret: sow early for the biggest bulbs. Choose an appropriate variety such as ‘Kelsae’ and sow one seed per large module. You’ll need a heated propagator to start them off.
Things are warming up
A heated propagator is also essential if you want to grow the hottest chillies. Habaneros, Scotch bonnets and Nagas benefit from a long growing season. Start them off in pots or modules now, with at least 25ºC of heat.
The very best beans
Shop-bought broad beans aren’t a patch on home-grown ones. These hardy, deep-rooted veg can be sown in early spring. Either create rows outdoors, 40cm apart, or sow seeds into root-trainers or toilet rolls.
Mind your peas
Autumn sowings of winter-hardy peas should resume growth as the soil warms. Cover rows with cloches to encourage a speedy start, or sow spring varieties to play catch-up.
If you plan to grow this crop in a greenhouse, you can begin sowing them in February. Being a tender crop, ample heat is essential, so fire up the heated propagator. Good light is crucial too, if you’re to avoid leggy seedlings.