Tips to start your own vegetable garden

Having your own outdoor space can be a wonderful thing for your health in so many ways.  Not only does it give you some private outdoor space to relax surrounded by nature, take in some fresh air and work off some calories whilst gardening, but it also means you can grow your own organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Growing your own vegetables in your garden is relatively easy and even beginners can get some pretty fruitful crops with little to no knowledge.  I literally know the bare basics and manage to successfully grow several varieties of vegetables every year by planting seeds directly outside in a mix of soil and my homemade compost.

I have picked up a few tips in the five years I’ve been growing my own and so I will share some tips on how to start your own vegetable garden below.

Benaug1 (42)Growing potatoes in sacks

1.     The right direction

Firstly you need to plant your vegetables in the right place in your garden.  There’s no point in planting your vegetable garden in a dark shaded place that gets no sunlight all day long.  Your plants simply might not grow.  Some vegetables grow quite happily in partly shady spots so do some quick research if you have limited sunlight in your garden and plant vegetables that do well in part shade like rocket, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrot and cauliflower.

IMG_0532.JPGJuicy organic carrots fresh from our garden

2.      Pots vs soil

Next is the decision of whether to grow your vegetables in pots or directly in the ground soil.  Or you can build high planters and trugs.  I personally prefer vegetable trugs so I don’t have to bend down and it minimises the amount of pests that get onto the plants.  I never get slugs and snails in my trugs, but I bet I would if I planted directly on the ground.  I currently have a huge high up planter as a strawberry patch as well as two trugs that are growing broad beans this year, but I usually grow leeks, carrots and tomatoes in them too.

IMG_2039.JPGPatio veg in pots

I’ve also used pots many times to grow veg and these are great if you only have a patio or want to plant things on a patio space.  My daughter Bella is growing a tomato plant in a pot this year and we have previously used pots to grow courgettes.  Pots can be moved around fairly easily if they are small enough.  For potatoes it’s a great idea to grow them in sacks, we had 10 sacks of potatoes growing one year!

If you have enough space in your garden then you might prefer to create a vegetable patch, or more than one, directly in the ground.  This is a cheaper option too as you won’t need to buy any pots, planters or trugs.

3.     Develop a watering schedule

Don’t forget to water your plants, particularly when it’s dry and sunny for several days in a row.  It’s good practice to water your plants at least once a day if there is no rain and perhaps even twice a day if the weather is particularly hot.  Set up some water butts in the garden to recycle the rainwater which will save money on water bills and help to conserve water too.

IMG_2040.JPGPlanting veg in giant pots

4.     When to plant

Not every vegetable can be planted in every season in the UK.  The main growing season is from the start of spring after the last frost, through to the summer months and end of the summer.  You can get a head start on the growing season by starting in a potting shed or green house before the last frost has passed if you can control the temperature in the environment.  This can help to increase your yield as you can use seed trays and only plant outdoors those that thrive, saving your precious outdoor growing space for successful vegetable plants only.  Perhaps you can start using your sunny windowsill spots inside, later upgrading to a greenhouse or even investing in a potting shed once you are more established.  You can buy a flatpack greenhouse or potting shed. Or, if you’re good at woodwork and prefer to DIY, these thorough how to build a shed instructions with downloadable plans can be adapted to add extra windows to create a bespoke sized potting shed for your garden.

Most plants need planting in the spring and will be ready to harvest in the summer.  There are a few plants that can be planted late and continue growing through the autumn and winter such as leeks, but most vegetables wouldn’t survive the cold months.

Some quick research online will guide you or simply check the directions on the seed packets.  You can also buy plants from garden centres that are ready to be planted outdoors in the correct seasons instead of growing directly from seed.  This is a bit more costly, but perfect practice for absolute beginners.

IMG_0656Planting veg in a trug

5.      Compost

Some people choose to use fertiliser on the soil of the plants to replenish the soil with vital nutrients that the plants need, but I prefer to make homemade compost.  If I did use fertiliser then I would make sure it was natural and organic.  I keep a compost bin at home which we put all our grass clippings into, our food waste and some tissue and cardboard waste.  I then add this to my vegetable trugs each year and mix it in at the top so my soil is full of nutrients for the plants.  I also rotate my plants each year or plant something different so the soil has a chance to recover from the nutrients that have been used.

IMG_7736.JPGTomatoes fresh from our garden

6.     Pest control

Your vegetable garden will not only be attracting your neighbours and friends, but also pests and insects.  If you grow from seed indoors or in a greenhouse and plant out when the plants are more of a substantial size then hopefully the plants will be able to fend for themselves, but if you are planting directly from seed then you might want to put some measures in place to protect your plant.

I always cover my plants with a fine mesh netting until they are around 6 inches tall, especially carrots.  I once read that carrot fly can smell the sweet smell of the carrot seedlings as they sprout, so it’s the most important time to protect them.  I always cover them until they look big enough to look after themselves.  Plants do have their own ways of protecting themselves and it’s how we end up with so many antioxidants in them.

IMG_1095.JPGFine mesh netting to cover freshly planted carrot seeds

Of course, sometimes a crop will get too infested and it will be lost.  I lost all my green beans one year as they were absolutely covered in blackfly and they took over the entire plant!  Yet the year before they thrived and we had an abundance of green beans!

Personally I like to avoid chemicals and keep my plants natural and organic, but there are some homemade pesticide options and a few natural options in stores or online if needed.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables is fun and exciting.  There’s nothing more rewarding than watching them grow and then proudly eating them!  They always taste a lot better than store bought produce.  Gardening can be quite tiring so if you want an easier option, you can use low maintenance artificial grass which requires less maintenance but gives you the same greenery and beauty as real grass and then simply grow your vegetables in pots, trugs and planters!

What to read next

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