‘Golden rules’ to get the most from growing your own veg – tomato plants ‘can yield kilos’
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Chris Bonnett is the founder and CEO of Gardening Express
When it comes to growing your own veg, a lot of us like the idea but lack the space, skill or simply the time needed to do so. With this in mind, there are a few golden rules to follow so you get the most out of your plot. Here’s my advice and some of the top varieties for newbie gardeners to try this year.
Firstly, space wise, you do not need a large space. You can even grow something in a window box, a windowsill even – seeds can cost pennies, in comparison to the savings.
Even fresh herbs in a few kitchen windowsill pots, or cress on tissue paper is the classic for kids.
There is something you can grow whatever your space – so do not be deterred in your confined to an apartment – ingenuity reigns supreme in the veg growing world.
Coming back to what you could try on a windowsill, simple favourites bursting with flavour such as Basil, Parsley and Coriander in windowsill pots will keep you in fresh seasoning for weeks and save a small fortune on small supermarket herb packs.
Plus, if you like a lot of them, sow a new pot every week or two so you’ve a fresh, constant supply.
Now we know space is no barrier, the real question is what to grow? I always recommend you select veg to grow that you know your family know and love and enjoy eating – there’s really no point growing leeks for example if no one in the household likes them, so make a shortlist of what everyone loves.
The next task is to whittle this down to the easy to grows with quick results if you are still limited by space and time – plus I always like to look at what’s expensive in the shops.
Those punnets of sweet cherry tomatoes for example are well worth growing when a plant can yield kilos, similarly you could look at soft fruit like strawberries, another little luxury that can be super productive if you get it right and save you lots of money.
Now we know what you want to grow, the question remains, especially if you’re a newbie – can I grow this? With Spring here, May is a top sowing month for seeds and getting earlier started plants outside from garden centres or if you’re already on the grow your own journey.
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Amongst the easiest to grow are the beans, from tall runner beans that reach for the sky as they do their best for a starring role in a panto, to high protein broad beans.
Perhaps the easiest and best for small spaces is to go for dwarf French beans, these are super productive in the ground or patio containers, you can sow the seeds directly in the garden soil, or start them in pots and transplant later to their final positions.
The benefits to these are not only tasty fresh and healthy veg, but the savings from the shops, plus no food miles – many of the beans consumed in the UK are flown in from around the world, but it does not have to be this way.
The next recommendation for easy growing has to be courgettes, these plants will literally look after themselves, and are very easy to grow.
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Plants are available from garden centres at the moment, or you can sow seeds now, again, straight out in a prepared garden bed, a large patio tub or in pots to get them going.
Push the seeds down into the soil so they’re covered with 1-2cms of soft soil or compost, keep damp, and that’s it! In one to two weeks tops, you’ll have seedlings.
If you’re plagued by squirrels or there is a mouse problem in your area, definitely start inside, as they can’t resist snacking on the seeds.
Courgettes are so simple, all you need to do is keep the plants weeded and watered and with even one plant you can keep yourself supplied for weeks through the summer. Have a couple of plants and you’ll potentially be giving them away!
Just as simple, and if you have more space try butternut squash or pumpkins – you can even plant the seeds from a shop bought one for ultimate money saving, but you won’t be harvesting these until the autumn. The plants also need more space, so one to grow if you have a bit more room. Give a good plant food to your crop and you’ll reap the benefits with a bigger bounty come the end of the year.
The final recommendation for tight spaces and ease of growth are salad leaves such as lettuce and rocket, sprinkle seeds on the surface of damp compost in pots, and within days they will germinate, just a few weeks later you’ll be picking their fine foliage fit for any salad days or lunchbox sandwiches.
At this stage you’ll probably be fully converted to growing your own, branching out and becoming more adventurous looking to try more varieties and different plants, even ones that you or your family have never tried before.
The savings on the weekly shop can be substantial even with a small bed in the garden, and once you’re hooked on homegrown, for the taste alone, you’ll not want to go back to shop bought produce.
Here’s a full list of veg that can be sown now:
- Broad Bean
- Climbing Bean
- Dwarf Bean
- Runner Bean
- Kohl Rabi
- Pak Choi
- Spring Onion
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