Grow Your Greenery: A Beginners Guide
to Growing Food in Your Garden
Growing fruit and vegetables in the garden is becoming more and more commonplace. People are concerned about the quality of food they buy in the supermarket, as well as the excessive plastic packaging their produce comes in. But the benefits of growing your own go beyond the food you put on the dinner table.
Gardening is great for physical and mental health and is a great way to get your kids active outdoors, as well as encouraging them to eat their greens. And growing a sustainable vegetable garden means peace of mind knowing you are doing your bit for the environment. Contrary to what you may think, setting up and maintaining a food-producing garden isn’t difficult. It needs some careful planning and preparation though, so here are some tips to get you started.
Dream big (but start small)
Starting small cannot be emphasised enough, especially if this is your first foray into growing food in your garden. Choosing crops that don’t require too much labour to look after and which yield produce is a good starting point - seeing (and eating) the fruits and vegetables of your labours is a real confidence booster. Many people begin their gardening journey in the spring or summer when the weather makes working outside pleasant. This can result in overreaching and overplanting. Seriously ask yourself how much work you can put into this garden, especially as the weather worsens come the winter months. Start small and expand gradually.
Setting up your garden
A successful vegetable garden requires three things: water, sun, and soil. Set up your garden with these essentials in mind - you’ll need easy access to water, an idea about the sunlight conditions in your outdoor space, and an idea of the soil you’re dealing with. Depending on the crops you wish to grow you should assess which parts of the garden get sunlight at which times of the day. If you have dry, sandy or clay-filled soil you may consider building raised beds to give you more control over the nutrients your crops are getting. Wind can play a big part as well - if your garden is exposed consider planting delicate crops in a greenhouse or setting up a natural windbreak such as a bush or tree.
What to plant
A general rule of (green) thumb when it comes to planting crops - if you don’t eat it, don’t plant it. And think about the rest of your household as well - if you’re the only one who eats potatoes a massive harvest will either go to waste or to your waistline. We mentioned easy crops for beginners - plants like rocket, spinach and kale all grow easily. Tomatoes may seem daunting, but actually can be quite simple. French beans and runner beans are also a high yield beginner crop. Confidence is a big part of gardening, and putting food on the table soon after you begin builds it. You will also need to take into account the climate in your area, as well as your soil condition, to choose the most effective crops - there are plenty of resources online or you can ask at your local garden centre for guidance.
Compost and other nutrients
One ingredient that cannot be overlooked in a garden is compost. Rich, natural fertiliser that can be produced sustainably and with minimal effort. Garden waste, table scraps, eggshells, tea bags and much more can be put into a barrel or other container - these are cheap and easy to find - and gradually breakdown into a nutritious compost your plants will love. Some experts advise periodically enriching the mineral content of your soil with such substances as agricultural lime, rock phosphate and greensand, but for day-to-day, season-to-season nutrition organic matter is best. If you know someone with livestock, manure is another great alternative to get your garden fertile. A smelly way, sure, but effective.
Maximise your space
If your outdoor space is on the small side, or if you simply want to make the best use of your garden, there are several things you can do. Growing upwards, rather than outwards is a great solution - effective trellising means you can grow large amounts of peas, pole beans and more while using minimal space. Remember too, the fence surrounding your garden can be used to grow crops and climbing plants. There is a new trend for container planting - that is using a kind of shelving system to put beds of crops on top of one another - just make sure they can all get enough sunlight or can be rotated easily.
Starting a vegetable patch is simpler - and cheaper - than many people think. With such great health benefits and delicious homegrown food, as a result, it’s not hard to see why growing your own food is more popular than ever.