Advice for a newbie

This was written in response to an email from a new gardener with limited room, but I’ve posted it here as other new gardeners might find it useful.


I’m seeking some advice about what to purchase from your website. I am just beginning to turn my garden into a space where I can grow a few crops. After reading some of the advice from the ‘no dig organic home and garden’ book (which recommends your website) I have decided to source some local cow manure as a mulch, cover it in polythene, cut a few holes and grow some vegetables. Hopefully this will remove most of the weeds that are currently present. At the moment the planting bed will only be a area of approx 4m by 1.5m in a spot that gets plenty of sun. I think I’d like to grow at least two species of plants, that will provide a good yield plus be comparably resistant to slugs (though I will use methods to remove any I see on a daily basis).

I’m also thinking of planting a few woody shrubs that could provide berries (though it’s a mid light level area). And any edible plants that you would recommend that would be able to tolerate an area behind the house that is east facing and can get very wet.

Advice appreciated, thanks,


Dear Gary,

The first rule of edible gardening is only grow things you really enjoy eating.

Be careful about the cow manure – there are some herbicides which can pass through a cow’s digestive system and still damage plants.  If the cows are not organic, I would test the manure by mixing it with some soil or growing media and then growing a few beans or tomato seedlings – more info here.

Here are some suggestions for your three growing areas:

No-dig planting bed area of approx 4m by 1.5m in a spot that gets plenty of sun

If you want to harvest brassicas in Winter/Spring, you need to plant them in July.  I would go with ‘cut & come again’ types – either Black Kale or Westland Winter.  They need to be planted 60cm X 60cm, so one pack (5 plants) occupies 1.8 m2  out of your total of 6 m2.

If you like salads, I would also plant cut & come again lettuces – a Mini Pack (2 each of 5 different lettuce varieties plus wild rocket) would take up about 2.6 m2.

You also have a room for a row of 20 leeks (0.9 m2).

The lettuce should last for about 3 months if you use the cut & come again method:  2 -4 weeks after planting, start to harvest by removing the lowest leaves, but always leave at least four leaves in the centre.

You can grow quick crops of radish and true spinach from seed in between rows as they can be harvested before the kales and leeks take up too much space.

In September you could replant with our Winter Salad Mini Pack, or if you like spicy leaves, with our Mini Spicy Salad Pack.

You could also squeeze in a pack of chard (if you like it).

Soft fruit

We only sell strawberry plants – they need full sun.  For bush fruits see Welsh Fruit Stocks – ask them if they can recommend anything for partial shade.

East facing and wet

You need to do everything you can do improve the drainage – is it wet because it is receiving run off from roofs or hard landscaping?  If so, you might be able to intercept, harvest or divert the rainwater.

If it’s wet because of clay soil and/or poor soil structure then it’s more difficult – maybe try no-dig here too.

Vegetables that will tolerate damp (but not waterlogged) conditions include: celeriac, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage, corn salad, fennel, land cress, leeks and mizuna.

I hope this is helpful – please come back to me with any further questions. You can sign up to my monthly newsletter on the website.  I’m also on:

Twitter @organicplantsuk
Instagram @delflandorganic

Happy Gardening,


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