Growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs, is a fun way to go if you’re looking for ways to live more sustainably. Understandably not everyone has a garden, but anywhere will do. A balcony, a window ledge, an allotment. You may even be able to find a community garden that’ll let you grow some fruit and veg there. Wherever you decide to begin your homegrown journey and whatever you decide to plant, I’ve got some tips for you. Let me just say that I am by no means an expert. This is only my second year growing my own veg and I’ve had varying levels of success. In this beginners guide to growing your own, I’ll share with you some of the knowledge I’ve picked up along the way, as well as some great blogs and Instagram accounts I follow for inspiration and gardening no-how.
Invest in some gardening tools
It may seem like a lot to fork out when you begin gardening, but having the right tools from the off definitely helps. If you’re looking for the absolute basics you should buy a trowel, a snipping tool (or even a good pair of scissors will do), bamboo and gardening string- for supporting the plants and a watering can. Some people also choose to purchase a gardening mat to lean on whilst working, but that’s entirely your preference. You’ll find me plonked in the dirt, grass or stones. If you have a garden, a hose will save you a lot of time when watering. For me once I am in a house of my own, my dream would be to get my hands on my own compost bin and also a water butt. That way I can compost all my food household waste, which in turn can help my garden become healthier and more sustainable. Plus the water butt will ensure I reuse any rainwater and cuts down on my water usage. At the moment I collect rainwater in my watering cans and spare plant pots!
Plant Pots Don’t Need To Cost The Earth
Growing your own veg needn’t cost you heaps of money. And that includes the pots you choose to display your veg, fruits or herbs in. My garden contains a mixture of terracotta pots and wooden veg planters. The former, you’d think would cost a fortune. And you’re right. Terracotta pots seem to be the in thing at the moment and you’ll find companies charging a lot for them. I saved nearly twenty pots from the skip and it cost me a bottle of wine! But if you’re not lucky enough to stumble upon free gardening pots, try Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Schpock and Gumtree. You may find some cheap alternatives there. Garden centres also sell so many different types of pots, planters and hanging baskets, all for fairly reasonable prices too.When it comes to wooden veg planters, you have a few choices. Use one of the above methods to buy second hand. Invest in your own VegTrug or some smaller and cheaper alternatives. Or choose to upcycle or reuse any materials that you have. I managed to salvage three raised beds from my neighbours damaged veg patches. Or you could get inventive with what you use to grow your own. Tin cans, car tyres, even alcohol barrels, like Frances & Moe from @ourecofriendlylife.
Beware of Slugs
This year alone I’ve lost five out of my six cucumber plants (which I proudly grew from seed) to slugs. As well as a number of my cabbage and broccoli seedlings. From researching online I’ve discovered a number of methods to keep slugs at bay. These range from copper tape along the edges of my plant pots and slug pellets to slug traps and beer. I wasn’t keen to kill any of the slugs and didn’t want to spray my veg with any chemicals, so I took to removing any slugs I found with a trowel. Especially after wet weather.
Cover Your Veg
Growing your own is a learning experience and this is one tip that I wish I’d implemented sooner. My broccoli and cabbage plants have flourished and once I had removed the slugs, seemed to be out of harm’s way. How wrong was I? The caterpillars came next, so camouflaged I only noticed them once tiny little holes began to appear in the leaves. The final killer of the vegetables were the aphids and moths. Vast numbers of tiny grey eggs began to appear on the leaves and in the florets of my broccoli. These have since multiplied and entire leaves have been chewed to pieces. I’m attempting to save some of this year’s harvest, but next year I plan on getting some netting and mesh to keep them safe. So from one beginner to another, please do cover your veg!
Save Your Supermarket Herbs
Supermarket herbs, although they come in plastic pots, are a brilliant resource for a grow your own novice. Whenever I’ve bought herbs from the shop- typically Basil, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary and Coriander- I’ve taken to repotting them. Instead of lasting for just one or two meals, their lives have been extended dramatically. I’ve had my current herbs (all bought from the supermarket) for the past few months. Have you ever noticed how tiny the pots are that these herbs are sold in? No wonder they don’t last long. By transferring them into larger pots, their roots can stretch out, they get healthier and live longer.
Pots, Pots, Pots
One of the key things I have learnt whilst growing my own, is that you can never have too many pots. Especially if you choose to grow from seed. Over the past two years, I have accumulated a vast array of plastic pots, which I never throw away and always reuse. Having a variety of sizes on hand is really helpful when the time comes to transfer your seedlings into a bigger space. You can buy pots in all shapes and sizes from garden centres and even supermarkets. I’ve done this a few times. As well as reusing the pots that my supermarket herbs come in. Saving the pots that my houseplants have outgrown. As well as keeping any pots or containers from vegetable plants I’ve bought from my local gardening centre. I’ve even grabbed a few that have been left outside peoples houses.
The How-To On Plant Watering
If you’re currently growing your own, or are planning to in the future, watering will become a big part of your life. And knowing when the best time to water your plants is, will save you a lot of time and wasted water. From researching online and listening to tips from other do-it-yourself growers, it’s best to water early mornings or late evenings. Especially in the warmer months. If you plan on watering your veg at the hottest part of the day, the water will evaporate before reaching the roots of your plant. Meaning you’ll have to water the plants more frequently. When it rains try to collect as much of the rainwater as possible, either in a water butt or in your watering cans, buckets or spare plant pots. And if you have a lot of plants investing in a hose will definitely save you a lot of time.
Wonky Is Good
When you grow your own fruit, veg and herbs, you may find that sometimes they don’t come out looking like they do in the shops. And that’s ok. As long as it’s safe to eat and won’t harm you or others, munching on a slightly curvy carrot, or wonky courgette is not a big deal. Be proud that you grew something, to begin with. Last year’s attempt at cucumbers ended up with a C shaped fruit. And this year batch (pictured) may be heading the same way. Wonky veg is a great way to reduce food waste, so even if you don’t grow your own, why not give them a try in the shops or by ordering a box online.
I hope this beginners guide to growing your own was helpful. I’m always on the lookout for more gardening tips, so whether you’re a novice like me or an expert gardener please get in touch. Whilst I’ve been growing my own I’ve taken to Instagram to get tips and general gardening inspiration from a lot of people. Some of my favourites include Rachel, from @thegoodlifeainteasy, Emma Jo Real-Davies, who shares some wonderful gardening stories on her Instagram and Abbi from @spinthewindrose. If you’re interested in following along my gardening journey, you’ll find updates on my Twitter and Instagram channels.
Until next time.