- Vegetable Growing
A guide to growing your own vegetablesFor 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:
Growing GuideStart 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 BasicsFind 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.
PlanningPlanning 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.
WateringThe 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 seasonsThe 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.
Choosing your vegetable bedSee 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.