Nothing will give you a greater sense of accomplishment than growing your own food. Once the norm, nowadays when we think of fruit and vegetables our mind is most likely to go straight to the pre-packaged plastic-covered kind we find at the supermarket. Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be daunting but when you take a bite of a fresh homegrown strawberry or make a crunchy salad with the lettuce fresh from your garden, you’ll know it was worth the patience and effort.
Anyone can grow their own delicious produce but to get the perfect crop there are some things you should consider. In our beginner’s guide, we will explain the importance of preparation, organisation and give you lots of top tips to succeed.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a large garden or allotment to get started. Fruit and vegetables are very adaptable and can be grown in a variety of spaces. From containers to raised beds and even in a window box you can most certainly start to grow your own now. Look at your available space and draw out a plan. Remember fruit and vegetables will need a nice sunny spot with shelter from the wind. Make sure the space you choose isn’t too shady by cropping trees and bushes. In order to accommodate annual crop rotation, it’s a good idea to have a square plot split into four smaller ones. Crop rotation will keep your soil healthy and minimise disease.
Like most things, the key to success is all in the preparation and the same goes for growing great tasting produce. You must get your soil ready and in top condition so you can get a good crop. Different produce will require different soil types so make sure you do some research. For example, most berries require acidic soil, you can test your soil using a PH soil testing kit and amend the PH level where necessary. For the most part, your veg and fruit just need nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Begin by lightening the soil with a fork and adding a soil improver also known as compost. These tend to be made of organic matter and are full of goodness which is a guaranteed way to grow the tastiest fruit and vegetables.
Now it’s time to decide what you want to grow. Choose the fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating. There is no point growing glut of courgettes just for the sake of growing if no one eats them. You will also need to decide what type of planting you want to do. Sowing seeds is the cheapest option however some will need to be grown inside first. Hardy root crops like carrots prefer to be left alone so you must sow them directly into the soil, whereas tender plants such as peppers or lettuce like to be kept indoors until they are more established. Have a look at a handy list like this one for more information on which vegetables should start indoors first. Another choice would be to use plug plants which are very young and ready to be planted, this saves you a lot of time but they are more expensive. The variety also might be limited so you may wish to mix and match with some seed grown. Follow the instructions on the pack when planting as they will vary from plant to plant.
Growing your own food is fun but it comes with its fair share of hard work. Therefore, you must protect your efforts. Fruit and vegetables are not just delicious to us they are also an attractive snack for a variety of birds, animals, and insects. There are of course many products and pesticides you can buy to ward off any unwelcome visitors however in a world where we are trying to be kinder to our environment there are many other natural methods you can use to protect them. A great option are fruit cages, the netting is placed over a metal frame providing a secure area for your fruit and vegetables. Fruit cages come in a variety of sizes and designs like these options from William James & Co, they will protect your crops from all kinds of pests, so you won’t have to worry.
The compost you added when preparing your soil will provide your plants with enough food and nutrients for about 6 weeks. After that, you will need to begin feeding your plants with appropriate fruit and veg food. These are easy to administer and will make sure your plants have the optimal nutrition which will result in a healthy crop that is full of flavour. Your patch will also need regular watering, nature will help you with this in the form of rain, but they will most likely need a little bit of help from you too, especially if the weather is warm and dry.
Growing your own food is an excellent way to encourage you to eat a healthier diet and its cheap too. Give it a go and enjoy harvesting your hardwork.