However you acquired them, correct spacing helps determine how good your crop will be.
Although seed packets usually give details about planting distances, plant pots and modules often don't carry that information. If you've never grown a variety before, ask for advice at the garden centre or check it out online.
Some vegetables, like lettuce and chard, grow well in containers but cauliflowers and calabrese need the open ground, so your available space determines what you can grow. Salad crops and roots require fewer nutrients and a relatively small number of plants produce a worthwhile crop. Lettuces, such as Little Gem, are planted 22cm apart and can be used as edgings round pots. You'll enjoy a fine display by interspersing red frilly leaved specimens, like Lollo Rossa. A grand plant for the centre of the pot would be the chard Bright Lights. An alternative is to leave space for tender plants, such as runner beans or a courgette. Just plonk them in once the risk of frost has passed.
Nursery plants are sold in multi-cell packs, with between two and six per cell. These are cramped growing conditions, so check your purchases haven't exhausted the compost's nutrients and are becoming stressed and leggy. A good garden centre will always have quality plants but, even then, buy with care. Most plants are often supplied by southern growers from warmer climes. It never fails to amaze me how many tender varieties are on sale far too early in the season. Remember you are in Scotland and restrict yourself to hardy specimens. Eschew tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for a few weeks yet.
When planting some varieties, such as spring onions, from a cell, you can place them all together, but most species must be carefully separated and planted individually. Thoroughly soak and tease apart, causing as little disturbance as possible to the fine roots. Prepare holes at the recommended spacing in the container to accommodate the root system, water and then plant, firming the compost round the plant.
With some open space, you have a wider choice of veg. My son has just moved into a ground-floor flat with a small garden. He's in the process of digging up half the lawn to make space for veg and is planning what to squeeze into a small plot. Every millimetre counts, so plants that utilise vertical space, such as the tall sugar pea, Carouby de Maussane or runner bean, Scarlet Emperor are a wise choice. Three of these plants will fit into a 60cm long slot against a wall.
Peas and beans don't need much ground space. They fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and this provides the energy they need to grow well. When a plant is only a week old, tiny nodules form on the roots, and these are invaded by bacteria that start to transform nitrogen into a chemical that stimulates pea growth. In return, the plant provides energy for the bacteria. This process continues until the legumes start producing seeds and cut off the bacteria's source of food. The bacteria then die and nitrogen fixation stops.
Without this nitrogen supply, the cabbage family, apart from radishes, need much more space to grow. They require soil that's been enriched with compost or well-rotted muck and a steady supply of water during the growing season. A bed still looks frustratingly bare even after you've planted a couple of rows of cauliflowers: there's 60cm between plants in a row and 90cm between rows. If you skimp on space, you'll end up with sad little specimens. Even the cabbage is hungry for space: at least 45cm between plants and 75cm between rows.
You can plant crops more closely in a raised bed – one you never walk on – as the soil is lighter and more airy, providing better growing conditions. When vegetables are in the open ground, the spacing between plants in a row is always closer than the distance between the rows. Leeks are planted 15cm apart along a row, and the rows are 30cm apart. In a raised bed, the distance between the rows is the same as between plants in a row, ie 15cm. This benefit doesn't apply to brassicas which thrive in compacted soil, not the airy ground of a raised bed. Before planting autumn caulis the other day, I scattered a generous helping of compost over the bed and rotovated the soil to the fine tilth suitable for young plants. I then tramped over the entire bed to create the compacted ground the plants needed. A gentle rake over and all was ready for planting.
A month or so ago, in the freak warm spell, my rhubarb after forcing was looking healthy. I went away last week for a short trip and there was an overnight frost. I returned to find some of the fully developed leaves full of holes and the stems showed frost damage. What might cause the holes? Surely it's too early and cold for caterpillars? Another plant which has really suffered from the late frost has been a hydrangea, whose young leaves have all wilted. I fear it may not recover.
Frosting and the holes in leaves are two separate problems. The plant will recover easily from frost scorching, though not the stems that have suffered. The holes are caused by a fungus, Ramularia rhei. Lots of pale, whitish spots appear on leaves and have a brownish circumference. The spots fall out, leaving the holes you have seen. This fungus is perfectly harmless and can be safely ignored. Cut back the damaged stems of the hydrangea to a healthy pair of buds. The plant should recover.