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The MAG GARDENS: It's time for the late,late show.

Byline: TOBY MUSGROVE, the TV gardener

WITH the growing season in full swing you'd be forgiven for thinking it's too late to sow vegetable seeds to harvest this summer.

But fear not. There's no need to resort to buying lettuce, tomatoes, radishes and carrots from the supermarket just yet.

Instead, get down to the garden centre and buy a whole load of summer salad and herb seeds, a couple of gro-bags, and a handful of tomato plants.

I guarantee that in a few weeks' time you will be eating lovely fresh salad crops, still warm from the summer sun. They are so much tastier than those refrigerated limp things from the supermarket shelves.

If you don't have a vegetable garden already in place, simply fork over a spare area of ground, break down the lumps to a fine tilth, then use a bamboo cane on the ground and another in your hand to mark out seed drills.

Next, sow the seed into the drills, gently cover and water in. Look on the packet for how far apart the drills should be and what distance seedlings should be thinned to.

If you are not into regimented rows and want a more 'relaxed' veg patch, you can prepare a bit of ground in the same way then mark out a number of areas using a handful of sand. Then, in each, sow one type of seed and water them in. Once the seedlings are up, thin them out to the appropriate spacings.

Even if you don't have a bit of spare bed you can still grow vegetables mixed in with your ornamentals. This can result in some very interesting planting displays.

To get the best results I recommend using the more ornamental salad crops, such as red lettuces like salad bowl red or lollo rossa, red basil and yellow or striped tomatoes.

A very easy way to grow tomatoes is in a gro-bag.

But instead of laying them flat, as most people do, stand them upright and cut them in half to make two large plastic containers.

This gives the roots more space to grow and makes the plants easier to water.

It's even more efficient if you sink a flowerpot into the soil and pour the water into it, as this gets water direct to the roots.

With all the crops listed below, you want to be making sowings at two to three-week intervals to ensure that you get a continual supply of lettuce throughout the summer.

Always plant salad crops and herbs in a really sunny spot as they grow faster and have a better flavour. Keep them properly watered in dry spells.

I like lettuces, especially the ornamental ones, so I have sown Merveille des Quatre Saisons which is red and green.

Salad Bowl has nice and crinkly leaves, while Salad Bowl Red has the additional attraction of red leaves.

I am also a great fan of herbs to go into salads.

My favourites are rocket (also known as arugula) and basil, so I have gone for a red basil called Purple Delight which will look great if planted with the green-leaved Sweet Genovese.

Additionally I have sown a type of radish called Sparkler 2. This could be complemented with carrots, both of which should be pulled when young and tender rather than being left to get tough.

As for the tomatoes, I have opted to grow four different types, namely Ailsa Craig, Alicante, Gardeners' Delight and Moneymaker.

Not only does this give me a variety of fruits but it also lets me see which ones do best, which is always good to know for next year.


DELICIOUS: you can still plant tomatoes for harvesting this year
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 20, 2004
Previous Article:The MAG HOMES & GARDENS: Flower power; A taste of the Good Life.

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