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Sow tender vegetables

16 April 2011
Sow tender vegetables

Now that we are getting closer to the last frost of the year, it is a suitable time to sow these more tender vegetables 

JUST AS there is a right and a wrong way of doing things, so there is a right and a wrong time to do things. And it would have been wrong to sow some sorts of vegetables prior to mid-April. I’m thinking predominately of French beans, melons and cucumbers, as well as courgettes and squashes.

If these are sown before now, they will be adversely affected by the cooler temperatures of spring, or they could get too big too soon. All of these vegetables dislike cold wet soils and are inclined to rot in it.

Starting them all off around now will mean that they will crop

Courgettes and squashes

Sowing: Sow in situ once all frosts have passed, or sow now in pots under cover, as seeds do not germinate if the soil is below 13?C (56?F). It is a good idea to soak the seed overnight. Sow one seed edgeways, about 1in (2.5cm) deep, in a 3in (7.5cm) pot or cell, of moist multipurpose or seed compost.

Aftercare: After germination transplant the seedlings when they are large enough to handle into 5in (12.5cm) pots. Harden off gradually and transplant after the last frost (ideally, protect with cloches for a week or so). Shown is courgette ‘Ambassador’.


Sowing: These need a germinating temperature of 18?C (64?F), and a growing temperature of about 25?C (77?F). Sow two seeds in a 3in (8cm) pot of standard seed compost. Thin out the weaker seedling.

Aftercare: For germination, and on-going growth, the atmosphere needs to be humid. Melons should be potted on swiftly as these plants should not be allowed to fill their pots with roots. Greenhouse or frame cultivation is more or less essential in all but hot countries. Nip out tips stem tips after four true leaves. Pictured is a Galia hybrid melon, a cantaloupe-honeydew melon cross.


Sowing: Sow ‘ridge’ or outdoor cucumber seeds, two to a pot, and on their sides (the seeds, not the pots). Set the seeds ½-¾in (1-2cm) deep, in 2-3in (5-8cm) pots. They need a temperature of 20?C (68?F) to germinate. Keep the strongest seedling. Water with tepid water, and tie early growths up small canes. .

Aftercare: Feed young plants with a general liquid fertiliser to boost growth. Harden plants off before planting them out (after the last frost). Allow 3ft (90cm) each way between plants. Protect with cloches or horticultural fleece until established.

Shown is cucumber ‘La Diva’, an all-female indoor/outdoor variety.

 French beans 

Sowing: The soil should have a minimum temperature of 10?C (50?F). In a cold season, or an exposed garden, the soil can be warmed for three to four weeks before sowing, by placing cloches or black polythene over it. Sow successionally (every two weeks) until early summer, for a continuous crop. For optimum yields drills (and plants within the drills) should be 9in (22cm) apart. Seeds should be set be 1½-2in (4-5cm) deep.

Aftercare: Keep the crops weed-free (better still, mulch when the soil is moist). Earth up around the base of the stems for extra support, and keep pods from touching the soil. Water well during dry summer weather. Shown is French bean ‘Gold Marie’.


Article supplied by Amateur Gardening Magazine