Grow your own
Growing your own has become incredibly popular and it’s easy to understand why. Growing outdoors, surrounded by nature feeds the soul, not just the tummy! Nothing beats the flavour and nutrient-packed-power of freshly picked veg, salad, herbs and fruits.
Being able to pick only what you need means less waste and your produce stays fresher in the ground. Growing your own, means you choose not just what you want to grow but how you want to grow it, giving you complete control over what method of pest control you use, which fertiliser and how you water your crop.
Growing what you eat is fun for the whole family and teaches the kids where their food comes from. It’s also a great way of helping the household budget and the planet and some of your harvest can be frozen to extend the season.
You don’t need a big garden or an allotment to start growing your own – any space will do as long as it gets good levels of sunshine and shelter. Whilst the ideal may be to have a veg patch so you get quantity, you can also grow crops in smaller spaces such as window boxes, patio containers, in raised beds or even hanging baskets by choosing the right veg/fruit or herb for the space. Tomatoes and chillies can thrive on a kitchen windowsill.
It can seem like a bit of a daunting task and overwhelming with the amount of information out there but, like everything, baby steps are best.
Alpine strawberries are cheap to buy, easy to grow and taste amazing. Fruit bushes such as currants, gooseberries, blueberries, and tayberries (best bought as bare root canes over the Autumn/Winter) can be grown in a container as well as a plot. Just remember to protect from wildlife. Apple, pear and plum trees can be grown in a large container or trained onto a sunny wall. Fruit bushes and trees may require support.
Can be grown inside from seed early in the season around March and hardened off ready to be planted outside, late April/early May or sown directly outdoors April/May according to ground temperature. Seeds are great value and all you have to do is follow the instructions on the packet! There are lots of growing calendars/charts online to keep you right. Salad leaves and radishes take just a few weeks before they are ready to eat. Carrots, parsnips, beetroot, leeks, brassicas, onions, broad beans, peas and salad leaves are all easy to grow.
If you are not using a bought, multi-purpose, preferably peat-free, compost, don’t forget to investigate what kind of soil you have and if necessary, improve it or work with it by planting things that like those conditions.
When growing veg/soft fruits in the ground outdoors, pest control is something you’ll need to think about. Easiest is using horticultural fleece. This needs to be propped up so it doesn’t smother your produce as it grows and secured around the edges. You might want to try companion planting, which is a method of maintaining a natural balance by growing plants together that are mutually beneficial such as nasturtium to deter aphids from beans and alliums around carrots to ward off carrot root fly.
Above all, gardening and growing should be fun and there are some great ideas out there such as, grow bags that have windows in the front where you can watch your veg grow, mushroom straw log kits. Hydroponic towers that don’t use soil to grow salads or strawberries and so much more!