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IT'S a lovely summer day, the barbecue is lit, the meat is prepared and all you want are some fresh vegetables, salad crops, tomatoes and cucumbers. Reach out...

The modern garden is all about good living, leisure and pleasure - and that needn't be a dream. Even if you only have a patio, you can eat your own produce without extending much more than an arm!

Never before have plant producers put so much effort into developing vegetables you can grow in containers and making sure that they not only taste good, but look good as well.

Greens, for example. Two types of Japanese greens - Mizuna and Mibuna - grow into clumps and have decorative leaves with quite a spicy flavour, which is great in stir-fry and salads. Like the loose oak-leaved lettuces, you only pick the number of leaves you need while they go on growing and producing for weeks.

Then there's American land cress, slightly more peppery than water cress. It has a bushy habit and does not need to be grown in boggy conditions.

Baby carrots are a particular delight, sweet and delicious. If you scatter the seeds over the surface of a large pot and lightly rake them in, you'll get a mass of cool, ferny foliage.

Keep pulling out the biggest, when the roots are about two or three inches long. One type I recommend is a fast-maturing dwarf carrot called Amini.

I also recommend growing the underrated but delicious kohl rabi and as many herbs as you can manage - particularly parsley, chives and basil.

The range of mini-veg available is growing all the time. I really like fresh sweetcorn - the F1 Minopop is a great variety. The plants are attractive and the cobs can be harvested as soon as the silks show. Beetroot Pronto is another good bet, ready to eat when it is the size of a ping-pong ball.

A bigger brother, savoy cabbage F1 Protovoy, can be harvested at tennis ball size.

There is also a baby iceberg lettuce called Blush, while squashes are lovely-looking plants with their large leaves and yellow trumpet flowers. As a bonus, they're delicious. Try Little Gem - not to be confused with the lettuce variety - trailing over the side of a large pot, or Early Acorn, which can be eaten when it is young and immature.

I also like the delicate taste of small aubergines and the golden courgette Jemmy F1, which is bushy and very prolific. Bush tomatoes, of course, are a must. They do not need any training and varieties like Tornado F1 and Tumbler produce masses of small, sweet fruit.

Don't forget the two essential points when growing vegetables in containers: they must have a rich compost and must never be allowed to dry out.

Q &A

QIS it safe to put house plants outside now?

AIT should be, although there is always the risk of a freak frost. The plants will greatly improve by having a good airing, but do not expose the large-leaved foliage plants to direct sunshine. Find a place for them in dappled shade.

QI HAVE been growing cardoons as decorative plants in the flower bed, but someone tells me that I can eat them. Is that true?

AYES, but is it quite a performance. The edible part is the stems, but they have to be blanched like celery by wrapping them in newspaper or brown paper. When you cut the stems you have to strip out all the stringy fibres, then steam or braise them.



CHECK roses for any signs of black spot or other fungal diseases. If the infection is not too great, remove the affected leaves and burn them. Otherwise use a fungicide.

SOW a good pinch of lettuce seed every 10 days for a steady succession of salads.

CONTINUE sowing half-hardy annuals where they are to flower for late summer and autumn colour.

KEEP a sharp eye out for the destructive lily beetles. They are bright red and longish and should be picked off and destroyed.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Lyte, Charles
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jun 6, 1999
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