News

How you can grow vegetables this spring

As the winter ends, the growing begins. Exeter Big Issue vendor Richard Todd explains how to get the most out of your crops this spring.

spring vegetables in a tunnel

Illustration by Matthew Brazier

Big Issue vendors have a wide variety of skills and experience, so we bring you the best of their knowledge each week. This week, Exeter vendor Richard Todd, who has worked as a landscape gardener and organic farmer, explains how you can start growing your own vegetables now spring is upon us. 

spring vegetables digging
vendor-expert-spring-vegetables1
Illustration: Matthew Brazier

Right now in early spring I’d definitely be planting onions, peas, parsnip and hardy salad. I’d be putting my potatoes in too, plant new potatoes as early as possible. With main crop potatoes you need to use a copper sulphate mixture to keep the blight away whereas with new potatoes you get them out of the ground before the blight even comes.

You can store them, they don’t store that well – but it’s still food! And you can grow a hardy salad at this time of year – I just grow a few lettuces, leave them in the ground and take a few leaves off and make a salad out of that.

Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

There’s still a risk of frost until into May so crop covers and cloches are a good idea to place over the top of your crops. I prefer reusable fleece rather than throwaway stuff, it seems wasteful and it’s not very strong. I used to use any old recycled plastic bags and just weigh them down with earth or peg them with tent pegs.

spring vegetables in a bag
vendor-expert-spring-vegetables3
Illustration: Matthew Brazier

You can also make cloches out of glass – old windows for example. Cloche tunnels are quite a good idea, I’ve used plastic piping for that in the past. And when garden centres replace their polytunnel plastic you can sometimes get scrap bits of plastic from them. Most crops need some kind of protection at this time of year.

If you’re preparing seedbeds I do a technique where you get the bed ready and just leave it for a fortnight. Then the resident weed population emerges and you weed that. The idea is that later on when you’ve got some plants you’ve brought on from a greenhouse or a cloche or whatever you plant them and they’re well ahead of the weeds. So when it comes to the next time you’re weeding you’re not going to damage the things you’ve just planted.

picking spring vegetables
vendor-expert-spring-vegetables2
Illustration: Matthew Brazier

I guess to round up, try not to get too carried away too early because of the risk of frost. Don’t do too much in one go, rather do it in successions because if you lose a batch you haven’t lost everything. And there’s always another chance.

Richard Todd sells The Big Issue in Exeter. He has worked as a landscape gardener and organic farmer.

Richard was speaking to Sarah Reid.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Sunak calls general election for 4 July: 'It's time to put a limping government out of its misery'
General election 2024

Sunak calls general election for 4 July: 'It's time to put a limping government out of its misery'

'More bad news for renters': Rental crisis continues with steep rent rises despite inflation falling
inflation is falling but rents are still rising at a faster rate than wages
RENTING

'More bad news for renters': Rental crisis continues with steep rent rises despite inflation falling

DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people after deaths of benefit claimants
Department for Work and Pensions

DWP under investigation over treatment of ill and disabled people after deaths of benefit claimants

Yes, inflation is falling – but nearly 90% of Brits say cost of living crisis is far from over
inflation/ cost of living/ supermarket queue
Inflation

Yes, inflation is falling – but nearly 90% of Brits say cost of living crisis is far from over

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know