Have you ever tried to grow your own vegetables in either your garden, balcony or perhaps an allotment? I hadn’t really until last year when I discovered it is such a satisfying feeling to produce your own food. Therefore this year I have tried to increase the range of home grown produce.
Top Tips for growing your own veg
- Choose an area that will get some sunshine and is preferably sheltered.
- Prepare the plot properly before you start.
- Make sure that you sow your seeds within the time scale stated on the packet.
- Keep your plants regularly watered.
- Thin out if necessarily as per the instructions on each individual packet.
- Check your produce regularly for insects, butterflies and bees are your friends and will help with pollination but slugs and snails will eat your crop if they get it.
Last year we managed to grow chantenay carrots and Mikado spinach, but little else unfortunately as we left the planting until too late. Well it has to be said actually I was waiting for a raised bed to be built before planting so it was not entirely due to lack of organisation. This year however, there are no excuses such as this, so at the end of June I prepared the raised bed and was ready to sow! I selected seed varieties that were ok to plant by June or July for optimum results and specifically chose vegetables that are easy to grow.
In the raised bed this year I have planted:
- Red cored Chantenay carrots
- White Lisbon spring onions
- Jaguar F1 courgettes
- Greyhound cabbages
- White lady runner beans
- Mixed spicy salad leaves
- (I was also given a couple of young sweet corn plants and a couple of courgette plants from a kind friend at work.)
I believe all of these plants are fairly easy to grow and don’t need that much space. We made a raised planter out of pallets, which is square and just over a metre by a metre. It’s really important to re-use and repurpose materials where you can rather than buying new, anything that can save waste going to land-fill is essential. Most of the vegetable seeds have been planted in here, apart from the runner beans which are in a separate container with bamboo canes to act as a wigwam and support for the growing plants. I thought it might be useful to share the instructions for sowing the seeds and provide a more information in case you want to have a go at growing your own vegetables – Especially if you are just researching how to grow your own food, or you are a beginner at grow it yourself.
White Lisbon spring onions – spring onions have so many culinary uses, including salads, sandwiches and stir fries. The seeds can be sown from March to July for a summer harvest, or September/October (for harvest the following spring.) Sow the seeds thinly in rows with approximately 20cm between each row. Keep the soil moist until seedlings are established and then pull up the little onions when they are young and tender. In less than two weeks I have these little seedlings in the image below, which are about 1-2cm tall. If you sow in the autumn you may need to give some protection from harsh weather but in my opinion summer would be the best time to sow.
Spicy leaf mixed salad leaves – these are a special blend of varieties, all adding a hint of peppery spice when picked young and can be used as baby leaves in a mixed salad. They can be grown in a prepared seed bed or in containers. The seeds need to be sown thinly about half a cm deep in rows 25cm apart. The soil needs to be kept moist and you can sow every 2-3 weeks so you will have a continuous supply of fresh young leaves – perfect for the summer months! When harvesting you need to leave some leaves on each plant so they will re-grow. I was delighted to see growth about four or five days after planting these! These salad leaves can be sown and harvested all year round too. These little seedlings in the image above were planted about 11 days ago, just look at them!
Jaguar F1 courgettes – these courgettes can be planted during May or June for harvesting July to October. I like to use courgettes in all types of meals, adding to lasagne or similar dishes as a hidden veg, in stir fries, or just as a simple vegetable in it’s own right. Two or three seeds need to planted close together in a small group about 2cm deep in well watered compost. After germination leave only the strongest seedlings in each group and ensure that they are kept well watered. Cut the fruits when they are about 10-15cm long. I was given some small plants by a friend which are a few weeks ahead, these have yellow flowers on at the moment. Mine look like this after 11 days.
Red cored Chantenay carrots – I know that these are relatively easy to grow as I had a successful harvest last year. Well I say successful, I actually mean I managed to grow them but I learned an important lesson. You need to sow then thinly 1cm deep in drills 30cm apart and thin the seedlings to 10cm apart when they are large enough to handle. Do not, and I repeat, do not, just sprinkle all the seeds haphazardly in one little pile. I did this last year and the result was a few decent size carrots, with most of them being little bigger than a sewing needle. Micro carrots anyone? The seeds can be sown from April to June for harvesting between August and November. Carrots are so rich in vitamins and again can be used in salads, as a hidden veg or as an accompaniment to most meals or a scrumptious roast dinner! Again I have some tiny seedlings after eleven days, that are approximately 2cm tall at the moment. The leaves don’t resemble carrot leaves yet but I’m sure they will in time.
Greyhound cabbage – On the seed packet these are described as a reliable old favourite. These are pointed head cabbages which I think always taste nicer. They are neat and compact so are perfect for growing where space is at a premium. The seeds can be sown from February to July, although if they are sown in early spring they would need to be sown indoors or in a greenhouse to protect them from frost. When sowing directly outdoors (from mid spring onwards, once the last frost has passed) the seeds need to be spaced at least 10cm apart. The cabbages need to be planted in a sunny position and kept weed free and in moist soil. The crop should be ready in October!
White Lady runner beans – who doesn’t love fresh runner beans in the summer? These beans can be planted in May or June, you need to sow two of the white seeds close together at intervals of 20cm. Runners beans grow quite tall and will need support so you need this in place before you sow. You can either buy ready made supports or easily make your own using bamboo canes. Runner beans need plenty of water to produce a good crop so make sure that you water regularly, particular during sunny spells. This variety of runner bean has white flowers, rather than orange which makes them less prone to bird attacks. Runner beans will grow well in a sunny position and should produce an abundance of tasty stringless pods.
Top reasons for growing your own produce
- It is extremely rewarding to grow your own fruit and vegetables from seed – you will end up addicted and wanting to check the progress of your plants every day.
- It is highly satisfying eating food that you have produced yourself and it also makes you appreciate your food that bit more too.
- You will save yourself money by growing your own produce.
- You will know that no harmful pesticides have been anywhere near your vegetables.
- You will have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce has no food miles and you are contributing to a more sustainable way of living.
- Friends and family will no doubt appreciate the thoughtful gift of home grown produce that has been tended and nurtured by you!
What do you need to plant your own vegetables?
You will be pleased to know that you don’t need to have a big garden to grow your own and you can even plant some types of vegetables in pots. You just need a raised bed or pots/containers filled with compost and a sunny position and you are good to go! Just make sure that any seeds you buy are suitable for sowing directly outside and that the variety you are growing is suitable for the container. Alternatively you can start seeds off inside, on a warm windowsill, or even a conservatory and then plant them outside later.