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Gardening: How to land a great catch.

Byline: Charles Lyte

DON'T despair if you have big ambitions to grow vegetables but only have a small garden. There is an age-old solution to the problem - the growing of catch crops.

All it means is some intensive cultivation, with the crops being harvested very young and then replaced with another sowing or planting.

To be successful, the soil must be in superb condition but once you've sorted this out you really can grow an amazing amount in a limited space.

Root crops are a good starting point because they're invariably better for being eaten small. Turnips and beetroots no larger than a golf ball are delicious, and so are baby carrots.

Spinach, when it matures, becomes bitter and seems to dry the mouth, but if harvested when the plants have four or five small leaves, it is sweet and crisp and is perfect steamed - or even raw.

The traditional French breakfast radishes must be eaten when they are no larger than a small grape and all the salad vegetables are natural catch crops.

Narrow, upright, cos lettuces take up less space than cabbage lettuces and tend to be crisper, while rocket needs to be eaten young otherwise it becomes coarse. It's become the trendiest of salad vegetables and is really easy to grow.

The early-maturing summer cabbages are also great. Hispi has a narrow, pointy head and is ideal for cooking or serving raw in salads, while Minicole comes in during the autumn.

And don't forget leeks can be pulled when they are still pencil-thin and dwarf French beans picked when the pods are only two or three inches long.

Plant now and by July the first crops will have been cleared. Then you'll be able to re-plant and also sow the fast-growing Oriental greens, like pak choi and the Chinese cabbage Kasumi.

CHARLES LYTE
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 13, 2001
Words:306
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