You Reap What You Sow
Growing your own vegetables is a very rewarding process as you will have a great sense of pride when your recipes are full of homegrown goodies. As well as being able to control the number of chemicals in your food, your food will taste better and it'll save you money.
Starting your own vegetable garden may seem overwhelming at first, but by following this handy guide you will soon develop green fingers.
Choosing the Location of Your Vegetable Garden
The first decision that you need to make is where to grow your vegetables. Choosing to grow a vegetable garden at home means you can have easy access to fresh vegetables that are grown a stone’s throw away from your kitchen.
Generally, vegetables grow best in the sun, so you should always start your garden in the sunniest place in your yard or on your patio. Vegetables, such as onions and tomatoes, that are grown in a sunny spot have a sweeter taste and are at less risk of disease. If you garden is shaded for part of the day, you need not worry as you can choose vegetables that do not require as much sunshine.
When it comes to choosing a location for your vegetable garden you also need to think about the soil. The majority of soils are good for growing vegetables, but soil that is too thin or stony may cause problems with certain vegetables. If you plan on growing vegetables that require lots of room, such as carrots, stony ground will stunt their growth so raised beds may be a better option.
Clay soil is great for growing summer vegetables as it is packed full of nutrients and retains moisture for longer, but if you want to extend your growing season then raised beds will need to be used during colder months.
Choosing What Produce to Grow
It is easy to get excited about growing a vegetable garden, but it is important not to get carried away and do too much too soon. Growing a few different vegetables at a time will allow you the opportunity to nurture your vegetables and educate yourself about the best ways to tend to them.
Growing too many vegetables at once may mean you do not have enough time to tend to them properly.
Think about the vegetables that you eat most often and that you will get the most financial benefits out of when growing yourself. You will also need to take into account any specific growing conditions and decide against growing vegetables that require specific soil or locations.
The following vegetables are easy to grow for beginners:
- Tomatoes: Can be grown in pots and in the ground in a sunny location
- Potatoes: Can be grown in bags, tubs or in the ground throughout the year
- Onions: Can be grown in the ground over winter and spring
- Lima (Broad) Beans: Can be sown directly into the ground
- Carrots: Can be grown in non-stony ground or raised beds
- Zucchini: Can be grown in large pots or in the ground and need little attention other than watering once the plant is established
There are many more fruits and vegetables that are easy to grow in your garden such as peas, beets, spinach, kale and lettuce. The number you can grow will depend upon how much spare time you have to tend to your plants and the amount space you have. If you are struggling for space, trellising and ‘growing up’ can make the most of small areas.
Once you have researched the best vegetables for your space you should follow the instructions on the seed packets for the best way to grow. Plants like chili, sweetcorn, eggplant and tomatoes will need to be grown in small pots first while potatoes, beans, zucchini and kale can be planted straight into the ground.
Tending to Your Plants
The above vegetables are easy to maintain and you should not encounter too many problems with them. There are, however, a number of factors that you need to contend with when it comes to tending to your garden.
A neat and tidy plot that is weed-free is the best environment for your vegetables to grow in. No matter how many times you weed your garden there will be new ones waiting for you every day — they really are a gardener's nemesis. Most gardeners choose non-chemical methods, which means lots of hard work needs to be put in to keep your soil weed-free.
The no-dig method is popular with experienced gardeners and there are some natural vinegar-based weedkiller solutions available.
If you are starting your garden in a space that has a lot of perennial weeds and couch grass, you should cover it with weed membrane or layers of cardboard for a few months. The materials placed on top of the soil will keep the light away from the weeds and cause them to die. Once the weeds have died off you can turn the soil and prepare for planting.
Slugs and Pests
Slugs, caterpillars and many other garden creatures love vegetables just as much as we do, which means that pest control is a must if you actually want to eat the vegetables yourself. Slug pellets and traps can be used to keep them away from leafy vegetables and a homemade nettle or comfrey spray can ward off insects and caterpillars just as good as chemical pesticides.
Watering plants on a regular basis is essential if you want them to grow efficiently. As your garden grows you may want to think about investing in an irrigation system, but hand watering will be sufficient in the meantime.
For plants like tomatoes, eggplant and chili it is important not to over water at the beginning as drier soil will help develop stronger roots as the plants go off in search of moisture. Once the plants are established, you should water daily and use a plant feed once a week for maximal growth.
Harvesting Your Vegetables
The most exciting part of growing your own vegetables is harvesting them — think of all those yummy vegetables on your plate that you have worked hard to grow. When planning your garden, it is a good idea to plant vegetables that will be ready to harvest at different times of the year.
Planting onions and cabbages in winter, potatoes and beans during spring, and tomatoes, carrots and zucchini in summer will mean that you have fresh vegetables all year long. Radish, spinach, kale, lettuce and herbs can be sown every six weeks and can be picked when they are ready to eat.