Grow your own (like a pro!)
You don't need to be an expert to have a taste of The Good Life. With this advice even the least green fingered among us can make like Margo! Trugs at the ready? Get growing!
Always fancied the idea of planting and eating your own fruit and veg, but never quite got around to it? With the cost of the weekly shop going up, and the environment at the forefront of our minds, it’s time to ditch the excuses and pull on those gardening gloves! The experts at Carpenter’s Nursery in Sandridge share their foolproof guide to what, where and how to grow your own. Starting… now!
If you are a complete beginner, start with peas and beans. Growing from seed will always be more rewarding and the seeds are a nice size for kids to handle too. Sow directly into the ground for best results, using a good quality peat-free compost, and water well. Most beans will require some bamboo canes or netting fixed to a wall for support, but try the dwarf varieties if you want to keep it even simpler. Once the plants are growing well, a fortnightly feed with an organic seaweed fertiliser will ensure good, healthy and vigorous growth. As soon as flowers appear, switch to an organic tomato food, and harvest regularly to encourage more growth.
If you don’t mind playing the long game, have a go at root veg, which take around 4 months to grow. Carrots and parsnips are best grown from seed and sown directly, and deeply (around 30cm down) into the soil – do it now for a late summer/early autumn crop. Their long tapered shapes are due to the way their roots search for moisture and nutrients. Because of this, it’s best not to use a rich compost. Something lower in nutrient content and free-draining (top soil or seed compost) will encourage the root downwards and increase the length of your crop.
Imagine picking your salad fresh from the garden – just add dressing! Lettuce, rocket and radish are particularly easy. Radish can be sown and harvested within just 7-8 weeks, and rocket is even quicker (hence its name). Ideally plant in raised beds away from direct sunlight to prevent ‘bolting’ (when they shoot up too quickly before filling out). A good quality mulch can reduce this. And if you need to wage war on slugs and snails, add some used coffee granules or some copper slug tape around the edge of your bed. Coffee granules also provide nitrogen to help feed the plants. Top tip – in order to prolong your harvest, sow your seeds every two weeks (this is known as succession planting), otherwise all your crop will be ready at once and it’ll be salad for breakfast lunch and dinner!
You say tomato…
If you want a few different varieties of tomatoes it’s better to buy your them as plants. With a packet of seeds you’ll get 50+ plants of the same variety. If you’re using a growbag stick to two plants as three becomes too cramped. The variety will determine how much support they require. Pinch out the side shoots as they grow and as soon as flowers appear, and give them a fortnightly feed of tomato fertiliser. Short of space? Why not try the ‘tumbling’ tomato. Just two or three planted in a 14” hanging basket will produce an enormous amount of sweet cherry tomatoes, at perfect picking height!
No, you don’t need a field to grow strawberries like the ones we’re used to seeing at the pick your own farms. Just like tomatoes, strawberries can be planted in pots or hanging baskets (as well as straight in the ground), and they’re one of the easiest fruits to grow. Like all fruit, they prefer a sunny location and to be fed fortnightly with tomato fertilser. If you are going to grow them in the ground then a bed of straw on the soil stops the fruit rotting with soil contact.
Stuck with a glut? Check out these recipe ideas for using up your leftover crops.