This year we’ve decided to give growing your own a go and are excited to see whether we will be successful in managing to reduce the cost of fruit and vegetables in our weekly shopping bill. The other reasons to pursue it are to give myself a hobby to and try to get the kids involved so they spend more time outside. I also want to encourage them to try our produce in new recipes. As I edge towards my 40s I am finding that I’m becoming increasingly concerned and annoyed at the plastic problem that has come to light in recent years. I want to do something that will be beneficial to the environment by reducing the amount of single use plastic that we go though as a typical family of 5.
So that’s another reason to grow your own; to avoid buying plastic wrapped fruit and vegetables from the supermarkets.
It’s early March and we’ve had a rare sunny day so have decided to make a start on the foundations for our first time vegetable garden project. We only moved into this house at the back end of the summer and have yet to do anything in the garden.
This is our starting point:
As you can see we have an overgrown flower bed, numerous pots of dead plants and a rather messy garden. Fortunately, we can also find a lot of positives. We have a south facing back garden, 2 large wooden planters, an old ground sheet from our days of owning a trailer tent, lots of pots that can be reused, a spacious flower bed that can be repurposed, some bits of trellis, a well established apple tree, a large rosemary plant which is already established in a border feature, and we also own a good range of gardening tools.
The first job was to empty the pots of dead plants. We moved the big wooden planters from the back corner of the garden to a nice sunny spot, and lined them using the old camping ground sheet, punching some holes in them to aid drainage. We then emptied any leftover soil from the pots into the planters and filled them up with some free top soil courtesy of a local person who has advertised it as available for free on Facebook Marketplace. We finished off by putting in a thick layer of shop bought compost.
We then pruned the apple tree, just the parts that were over hanging the neighbour’s garden, and then tidied up the garden to rid it of dead leaves and last year’s rotten apples. Urgh!
Deciding what to grow
We are brand new to this so going to stick to vegetables that should be fairly easy to grow: potatoes, carrots, broccoli, onion, leeks, peas and pumpkin (for Halloween). I found this brilliant infographic on countryliving.com that gives you ideas of what to grow, when and how. These plants are said to be some of the most cost effective. Perfect for our objectives and also for beginners like us.
This is our plan:
Vegetable Sow Harvest
Potatoes May Aug/Sept
Carrots April-July July-Oct
Broccoli April/May July-Sept
Onions March/April Aug-Oct
Leeks April Sept-Dec
Peas March-June June-Oct
Pumpkin April/May Sept/Oct
We’re also going to grow tomatoes, rocket, lettuce, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.
Potatoes and pumpkins seem to be the needier of the plant, requiring a propagator to get going…that’s something to go away and learn about. Potatoes also don’t need full sun so their planter is going to be against the fence, under the shade of next door’s tall trees, and not in full sun all day. Pumpkins/squash also need to sown under glass…again we will need to find a solution but I know my sister managed to grow some last year without this so we may just try without. We also need to remember to give the pumpkins lots of water.
In planter 1 will be carrots. In planter 2 will be potatoes. In one half of the border (that we still need to create) will be onions and leeks as, according to my trusty infographic, these grow well together. The other half will house the broccoli and pumpkin/squash as these might need a bit more space.
We’re going to put the strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, tomatoes, lettuce, rocket and peas in pots or troughs.
Today we have sown our carrot, onion, leek, broccoli and tomato seeds in little pots or egg boxes to germinate and we’re keeping these indoors at the moment. We’ve also planted lettuce and rocket seeds in pots outdoors as per the instructions on the packets. We’ve taken some strawberry plants from a family member’s garden and have planted these in pots ourdoors, and planted a blackberry and blueberry bush (well sticks at the moment) which we picked up for a bargain at £1.99 each from Lidl. We’ve put some sprouting potatoes into our potato planter. I’ve heard it’s not the best way to grow potatoes but I’m intrigued to see if they work.
We’ve not done everything we need to do yet due to time constraints but check back in a week to see how we’re getting on with our very first time vegetable garden project!