In our opinion, nothing beats the taste of fresh fruit, veg and herbs grown in your own garden - it is so satisfying to feed the family with your homegrown produce and can be an excellent form of exercise too. Check out our top ten tips for growing your own fruit and veg using whatever space is available.
1. Use whatever space you have to your advantage
Even in the shadiest of gardens, you can grow tasty vegetables; carrots, potatoes, and kale to name just a few which do well in the shade. If you have more of a sun trap why not try tomatoes, courgettes or even olives. If you have limited space try creating a windowsill herb garden, including rosemary, thyme and parsley which will add amazing flavour to your cooking.
2. Use soil rich in nutrients
The easiest way to ensure your plants and seedlings have the best possible chance to grow is to mix in peat-free compost into your soil. You can pick up a 30L bag of compost for less than £2.50.
3. Prepare your growing space
For outdoor planting dig out all of those weeds from the patch you want to grow your produce, remove any stones or roots you find turning over the soil and mixing in some good quality compost. Give the patch a really good watering and leave for at least a week before adding in seedlings or seeds. For planting into pots use a good quality compost before following specific instructions on the seed packet.
4. Grow seedlings indoors before transferring
To give your plants an unchallenged start to life why not plant into a windowsill mini-greenhouse or outdoor greenhouse before transferring outside. Remember to let the plant acclimatise to the harsher outdoor temperature by leaving them outside during the day for 4-7 days before transferring.
5. Protect your crop
There are a huge variety of pests and animals who will love to sample your fruit and veg. You will need to protect the plants in any way you can, this can include natural remedies like upturned eggshells for slugs, or pepper spray for cats or even companion planting (see number 8.); alternatively, you could use a mesh covering which allows sunlight and water to penetrate.
6. Feed, weed and water
Seems like a really straight forward step to success but be sure to keep on top of those pesky weeds and follows guidelines on watering your crop. Newly seeded crops will need frequent watering, whereas more established crops will be able to get by on 1-2 inches of water per week (including rainwater). Quicker growing crops (lettuce and radish) won't need any extra supplements, whereas the longer-term vegetables (tomatoes, root veg) will benefit from a boost several times over the growing season.
7. Grow climbers to maximise space
By growing vining crops you can maximise the space you have in your garden; peas, tomatoes, raspberries to name but a few climbing plants which will make harvesting easier as you can see exactly when ripe.
8. Companion planting
By pairing up certain plants you can minimise the impact of those pests eating the fruits of your labour. Tomatoes repel caterpillars which snack on cabbage, onions and leeks repel carrot flies with the former repelling most pests.
9. Stagger crops for a continuous supply
Plant your vegetables throughout spring and early summer to ensure a continuous supply of fresh produce throughout late summer and autumn. A good time to remember to replant is when transferring seedlings from those window boxes to outside, simply repeat the process of sowing seeds into trays.
10. Harvest, chop and freeze
Nothing beats digging up fresh veg in the morning to eat at dinner time but if you have a lot of extra produce ensure you are storing them in the right way to prolong their 'shelf life'. Things like potatoes and onions can last for 2 months if stored in a cool dry place, other leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, lettuce) will last longer if you rinse and store in a sealed container in the fridge. Alternatively, you can chop up your produce and freeze them, you will need to blanch them first for a couple of minutes to avoid getting freezer burn. Frozen veg can last up a year meaning you can enjoy all year round.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the above or any success stories on growing your own produce, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org