Tips for growing your own vegetable garden
From sweet homegrown tomatoes to peas straight from the pod – or whatever else takes you fancy – growing your own vegetables can be hugely rewarding.
As well as the delicious produce you’ll have to enjoy, growing your own is also a great way to spend more time outdoors, save some money and make your lifestyle that little bit more sustainable.
It might seem daunting if you’re new to gardening, but once you get going, you might find growing your own is really addictive!
Here are some tips for beginners.
Once you’ve decided to grow your own veg, it’s easy to picture yourself proudly standing in your patch, sleeves rolled up, surveying row after row of flourishing crops.
That can all happen eventually. But if you’re a beginner, it might be wise to start small and take it a step (or in this case, a veg variety) at a time. What are you going to grow first?
There’s no point in growing vegetables in your garden if you can’t enjoy the harvest. So, the best way to get started is to think through which veg you and your family most like eating.
Of these, you could prioritise which are more expensive to buy. For example, bags of salad leaves can often be quite pricey.
Of course, there’ll be some types of veg that aren’t practical to grow in your garden, perhaps because they take up too much space or need more sunshine than your corner of the country can offer.
You’ll be left with a shortlist of some select veggies to get you started.
Packets of seeds are cheaper than plants and can often be found at bargain prices in stores like Aldi, or online.
However, it’s much easier to spend a little more and start with young plants.
So it depends on your priorities. Perhaps you could try doing a bit of both - beetroot and lettuce are among crops that are easy to start from seed. If you like them of course!
Seeds need sowing at different times of year, according to the variety.
Have a look on the seed packet which will tell you when you can start your crops off. But as a general guide to some of the more popular options:
- Tomatoes: sow February to April and harvest July to October
- Potatoes: sow late February or March and harvest in July to September
- Peas: sow March to June and harvest after two to three months
- Runner beans: sow April to July and harvest after two months
- Salad leaves: sow throughout summer and harvest three weeks later
You can sow most types of vegetable seeds directly into the soil where they are to grow.
First, prepare the soil well. That means removing weeds and stones and digging it over.
Then comes sowing. In a nutshell, you make a shallow trench, pop the seed in, cover it with soil and water it.
The seed packets will tell you how deep and far apart to put the seeds.
It can help to see this visually - there are plenty of videos available online, such as this one.
Vegetables need regular watering, especially during those long dry spells the summer sometimes brings.
According to the RHS, a good rule of thumb for veggies is to water them every 10-14 days (if there is no rain). You can find more detailed information on watering different veg types here.
Okay, talk of rotating crops might start putting you off if you’re totally new to gardening.
But it’s not complicated - it’s just moving crops around so you grow different types of plants in each spot - and there is a good reason to do it: if you grow the same crop families in the same spot every year, pests and diseases will build up in the soil.
You can find plenty more information about crop rotation online.
You can still grow your own veg, even if you don’t have much outside space. A corner of a balcony or patio can give a home to a pot where you can grow some of your favourites.
If you live in the city, you might not think you have the space to grow the variety of veg you’ve been dreaming of. But vertical farming - using racks or shelves to stack plants vertically - allows people to grow all manner of veg in small spaces, all while using less water.
You’ll still have lots to choose from: green beans, chili peppers, kale and lettuce are among the many veg types you could grow in pots.
Here are just a few ways to save money on gardening, while also helping the environment at the same time.
- Buy second-hand garden tools: If you can’t scrounge any spares off friends and family, then try sites like Gumtree, eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
- Make toilet roll plant pots: The plant roots will grow through the cardboard as it breaks down in the wet soil. There are plenty of explainers online showing how to do this, such as this video.
- Create your own compost heap: This saves you buying expensive bags from garden centres, and is also an environmentally-friendly way of dealing with kitchen and garden waste.
- Make your own plant labels: You can just cut strips from old plastic bottles.
Just imagine all the yummy, healthy veg you could be eating once harvest time rolls around. Enjoy!