- Vegetable Growing

A guide to growing your own vegetables

For starters, did you know that you can buy a vegetable bed? This is designed for people who lack a large garden, or perhaps only have a terrace, and may be lacking the mobility or indeed the time or the energy to dig a bed. With a vegetable bed you can become green-fingered without many of the tiresome hassles of regular gardening – once you assemble your bed, vegetable growing becomes surprisingly easy.

We can never be entirely sure of what is added to supermarket produce, whereas with home growing you have complete control. Recent studies have proven that even organic vegetables bought in shops have higher levels of antioxidants and minerals. In addition, using a raised bed means that you can control your soil, so that even if the set up costs are dearer, you can ensure a higher quality end product. Growing your own vegetables is surprisingly straightforward. Read our quick guide to discover more.

Why use a vegetable bed?

Whether you’re considering growing your own vegetables to save money, improve your self-sufficiency, or grow rarer vegetables, opting to buy a self-contained vegetable bed offers numerous further advantages:
  • Grow vegetables even if you have a small garden or just a terrace
  • Ensure good quality organic soil and avoid clay, stones or sand ruining your garden soil
  • Separate your vegetables from garden weeds
  • Control the compost, fertilizer and pesticides that reach your organic produce
  • Change the bed position based on weather
  • Harvest more produce in the same space as pathways can be narrower
  • Improve drainage
  • Plant earlier as the soil is warmer
  • End competition from nearby trees for nutrients and water
  • Depending on the height of your bed, you may not need to bend down to tend to vegetables
  • Some vegetable beds are even good-looking additions to the garden
  • It’s an enjoyable and educational family activity if you have young children
  • Gain an amazing sense of self-satisfaction even if you’re not the greatest fan of gardening!

Growing Guide

Start out with just two or three vegetable types. Follow our basic tips and learn as you go. Like most things, gardening will take practice. Keep it small at first and within a couple of years you’ll have the confidence to harvest more and more and soon you will be taking giant steps towards self-sufficiency.

The Basics

Find the warmest and sunniest part of your outdoor space. If it is all shady, you can still grow but only certain vegetables will thrive, such as lettuce and peas. If possible, shelter your vegetable bed from strong winds. Once you’re set up, use high-quality seeds. These are usually inexpensive and you can store those that you don’t use for the following year.

Planning

Planning is crucial if you’re new to vegetable growing. Think about the space you have, your favourite vegetables, which vegetables will save you most money, what time of year they grow, which may taste significantly better organic and which you’ll use the most. This may seem like a lot to consider, but as long as you start small, your vegetable bed will soon become easy to manage. Some ideas for the vegetables to start with are:  Cucumber, Lettuce, Parsley, Spinach, Carrot, Dwarf and French Bean, and Tomato.

Further Tips

  • Most planting happens from March to May. However, if you are using seeds, begin at least ten weeks before planting
  • Think about preserving your vegetables – in cans or the freezer – for winter months

Watering

The top of the soil should always feel moist to the touch, although never wet. Generally speaking, water every few days, although this will significantly increase in hotter spells. Water at night or early in the morning if you can as the roots will absorb more, and never water in the middle of a hot sunny day as much of the water will evaporate.

Thinking about seasons

The convenience of supermarket-shopping has caused us to forget the vegetables seasons – something that is crucial when it comes to growing your own.

Broadly speaking, you can divide the seasons into cool and hot. Cool season crops should be planted in early spring whilst weather is still frosty, and harvested by mid-summer. They include radish, brussel sprouts, lettuce, peas and cauliflower. Hot season crops should be planted in mid to late spring, when there is no risk of frost, and harvested in early autumn. They include tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, squash and corn.

There are two types of plant: perennial – any plant with a life span over three years, and annuals (bedding plants) – a plant that completes its life cycle in one year. Most vegetables fall into the latter of these categories. Perennials include asparagus, artichoke and rhubarb. Although perennials may require more time, they are often more reliable and a good long-term investment.

Seed packages will usually tell you when to plant and how long until harvest. The BBC provides individual guides to growing dozens of vegetables. Also see the Royal Horticultural Society for some detailed guides. 

Top Tips

  • Once you fill your vegetable bed, allow the soil to settle for two weeks before planting
  • Rake the soil level so that there are no low spots where moisture can gather
  • Consider a wormery or compost bin for highest quality compost and great soil without fertilizer 
  • Collect your rainwater for drier periods with a water butt 
  • Seeds and seedlings are very delicate. Always ensure soil is kept moist during these stages

Choosing your vegetable bed

See a selection of vegetable beds here: from a baseless bed that will add soil depth, allowing deep-rooted vegetables such as carrots, to a raised bed which is perfect if you have limited mobility. These beds really do make home growing easy.