Sometimes homeowners don’t truly appreciate the value of their gardens, choosing to simply mow the lawn and ensuring that the stripes are even or planting a few flowers and plants and hoping that nature will do its job and they bloom in the springtime.
Your garden can be anything you want it to be, from a relaxing getaway for you to sit in the sun with a book during the summer, a football pitch for the kids or an outdoor place for entertaining guests. For others, however, it’s the place where they grow their own fruit and vegetables. Growing your own is a great activity that the whole family can get involved in, saving you money because you don’t have to buy them from the shops and also giving you the freshest possible tastes whether they’re grown in a greenhouse, on a tree or in the ground.
For a first-timer looking to get into growing your own fruit and vegetables, you’re best off keeping it simple with maybe one type to keep your eye on to see how you fare. Many people will instantly buy a greenhouse from Garden Buildings Direct or similar retailers and start planting anything they can find. This often leads to neglecting certain fruits and vegetables or planting them at the wrong time of year because they’ve gone gung-ho with their home growing projects. It can be much simpler and significantly more effective to take it slowly and ensuring that you’re planting the right fruits and vegetables at the right time of year.
So just when is the right time of year? Well that depends on what you’re growing, as we will see now.
In January we’re still coming through the depths of winter in the UK, so unless you do have a greenhouse or method of growing your vegetables indoors, it’s not wise to plant anything. February, on the other hand, is slightly different. Broad beans, cabbage, lettuce, onions, peppers and potatoes can all be planted at this time of year provided the location is frost-free. The chilly nights and mornings can play havoc with seed growth so be sure to find a well-covered location.
Vegetables including carrots, cucumbers and cauliflowers can be planted during March and by this time your veg should be timed perfectly for the summer. By the end of October you start to find that the weather conditions – especially in the UK- aren’t ideal for growing vegetables aside from broad beans and peas (for example).
When growing vegetables, it is completely different to growing flowers. It’s no longer about how it looks with your groups of reds all together. It is more about grouping together the vegetables that grow well together. What this means is that because some vegetables grow above the ground and can grow quite tall, they could shade those that grow above the ground but not by very much, and causing them to get less light which will stunt their growth.
By putting those that grow tall together, you avoid this risk and allow the vegetables to develop in the optimum conditions. All plants- whether they’re garden plants or vegetables – need light, air and water to thrive and survive and it’s all about competition from their perspective. Just make sure that the ‘strongest’ are kept together and those that are ‘weaker’ are kept together otherwise it’s just like the playground bullies taking the dinner money from the little guys.
With vegetables it is worth bearing in mind before you get started that, unlike some plants, they are annuals which means that you would have to start over every year – you can’t just expect this year’s potatoes to start growing again next year for instance.
It is also important to note that they are heavy consumers of light with many requiring between six and eight hours of light every day. Some will need less light, but it’s key that you really think through your location before planting. If you have any trees nearby that are likely to grow or bloom and block the light getting through, that may be a poor location so consider the part of your garden that gets the majority of light throughout the daytime.
They will also need a rich soil filled with all of their essential nutrients. A common mistake is to simply sew the seeds in any soil in any location in the garden and this can result in poor growth, if any at all. By selecting a kind of soil that is filled with everything the seeds will need, you’re much likely to succeed with your home grown veg and that is why many people choose to grow theirs in pots in a greenhouse or window box. Drainage is also important as the soil can hold plenty of water – many vegetables, especially those growing in the soil rather than on the surface, dislike being saturated so make sure there are holes in the pots for the water to escape.
Access is also vital, and often overlooked. It’s easy to understand why – after all, if you’ve followed these tips you’ll have probably done it already – because you’re so focused on finding the best light and the best location that you forget that you’re going to need to get water to them. By locating them close to the kitchen, or the door, you’re much more likely to remember to water them because you’re looking at them, thinking about them, or walking past them on a regular occasions so they’re less likely to dry out or rot.
What’s more, you can genuinely have that freshly picked taste when they’re ready because they can go from soil to pan in a matter of seconds!
Chris White is a writer specializing in all things home and garden. Whether it’s getting green-fingered in the garden or making the house more “green”, he’s all over it.