Caring for small vegetable plants

If you have bought from the garden centre or on line,  small vegetable plants for putting in the veg plot later in the year, the chances are they will need potting on by this stage.  Many vegetable plants are not fully  hardy, such as cucumbers, courgettes, squash, tomatoes, aubergine chillies and more which means that in most parts of the UK it is still too cold to plant them out.The small plants get too big for the pot they were sold in. You can tell by looking at the plant and if it looks top heavy, time to pot on. This also helps the plant to develop well before finally planting out. Top tips for potting on are: Pot up the plant into a larger pot but not huge -take a step up in pot size. You can see in the illustration the plants after potting on are in modest sized pots.Many plants need some support. In the images are courgettes with a small support, and Tomato plants with larger supports as they will grow quite vigorously. I have used the old prunings from a Cornus cut back earlier in the year. It is a good idea to keep prunings as they make great supports for smaller plants, and often look attractive as with the red stems of the Cornus. Firm the small plant in well to make sure there are no air pockets. If roots hit an air pocket is a soil cul de sac; no where to go and the roots will not thrive.Water well to settle plant and soilPlace back under glass in greenhouse, windowsill or conservatory. Gradually harden off over the next few weeks which means to place the plant outside on milder days so the plant gets accustomed to the outside weather before finally planting out ,when all risk of frost is passed. Small veg plants are an ideal way to grow vegetables if you don’t have time to sow from seed. For some plants it is easier I always buy my chillies as a small plant, I really only need the one so it’s just as easy. There is just not enough time to do everything!

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