Get more from your garden by growing your own food
More time in lockdown means more opportunities to maximise your garden’s potential. Here’s how you can get more from your garden by growing your own food.
What sort of food can you produce in your garden?
- Salad crops
- Leafy vegetables
- Root vegetables
- Soft fruit
- Tree fruit
- Cut flowers
Any garden – no matter how small – can become productive. All you need is sunshine, water, soil and a little patience. You can grow edibles in raised beds, in among the flower borders, even in pots and containers. And if you have the space – why not make room for a couple of hens to ensure a regular supply of fresh eggs?
In this article, I’m looking at ways you can use your outdoor space to grow vitamin packed, chemical free, delicious fresh food.
Take afternoon tea to a whole new level by growing your own edible treats
Overcoming the mental barrier to veg growing
In my career as a garden designer, I’ve met lots of wonderful people. Some, like me, love plants. However, many of my garden design clients don’t believe they could ever develop green fingers. Some of the reasons include
Lack of time:
I can understand that. Busy lifestyles spent travelling, working, raising children and running the household don’t leave many opportunities for weeding. Food production needn’t be time consuming though. You don’t need a full blown allotment style garden – a few pots can be surprisingly prolific.
Gardening doesn’t need to involve bending, lifting or expending vast amounts of energy. With some clever garden design tweaks and best use of the materials and technology available these days, food production can be easy. On the other hand – if you want to use gardening to supplement your gym subscription – that’s possible too. It’s all about the way you get set up.
The charity Thrive runs a brilliant website called Carry on Gardening – it’s stuffed full of tips on gardening with physical limitations. Things like which tools to use, ideas for low maintenance plants and inspirational success stories. Visit the site here
A simple idea like this could easily be adapted to growing fruit or vegetables.
Fill the pots with strawberry plants, salad leaves, herbs or pea shoots for a productive garden that doesn’t take up much space.
Lack of space:
Trust me, you can grow food on a balcony. You really don’t need a full sized walled garden. A plant pot or a grow bag will do the job.
I don’t want my garden to look like an allotment!
I totally agree, Even though community allotments are full of charm and a real asset to their owners, I wouldn’t necessarily want to look out of my kitchen window and see anything that resembles the local allotment site. BUT it is perfectly possible to have a very stylish growing area.
Your food production area can easily be merged seamlessly into the aesthetics of your existing garden. Fruit and veg are plants like any other – use them for their looks as well as their taste. Salad leaves and Kale make wonderful foliage plants. Courgettes are easy to grow, quickly fill up bare spaces in the border and have beautiful bright yellow flowers (try picking the flowers and deep frying them in a tempura batter – yum!). Runner beans growing up a trellis help to shelter the patio and add loads of interest with scarlet flowers, large leaves and developing seed pods.
Starting out with edibles
Deciding what to grow
What does your family most and least like to eat? Choose two “likes” and at least one “interesting” veg. Love Italian food? Pasta sauce from home grown tomatoes, peppers and basil is sublime. It’s also freezer friendly so you can preserve any excess produce and enjoy it in the winter months. Never tried edible flowers? They have such a short shelf life that you’ll never see them in the supermarket but coloured petals can add a real zing to salads and cakes.
Preparing for planting
Decide where your plants will live. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need a greenhouse to grow tomatoes and peppers. A sunny spot in the garden is perfect – even better, grow them against a south (ish) facing wall. Don’t plant them out too early in the year – they won’t tolerate frost.
Will you grow in raised beds? Containers? Grow bags or in your decorative borders? Wherever you decide to nurture your plants, make sure the area is weed-free and well fertilised. If you are recycling containers it’s imperative that you make holes near to the bottom of them so that excess water can escape. Anything can be grown in a container – even potatoes!
If you are thinking of growing blueberries (they taste soooooo good if you eat them as soon as they are picked!) don’t forget that then need acidic soil to grow in. Don’t let that put you off though. Find yourself some beautiful big pots and fill them with ericaceous compost. That’s one garden investment you won’t regret!
Seeds or plants?
Most veggies and edibles can be bought as small plants. You’ll find them in big supermarkets or, if possible, I’d urge you to support local nurseries. Many are offering contact-free delivery services at the moment and if I’m honest, if too few people use the service, those businesses won’t survive. The joy of buying from a nursery is that you’ll be able to ask questions about the plants and they can help you to make the right choices.
Blackdown Garden Centre near Wellington are offering a Click and collect service. Find out more from their website
Edibles that are easy to grow from seed include mixed salad leaves, spring onions, coriander, carrot and, if you have the room, potatoes.
The potager garden
A potager allows you to grow food in a small space without sacrificing the aesthetic of your garden. I thoroughly recommend this style of gardening, not least because it adapts to anyone’s age, abilities and time restraints.
Careful design and landscaping are the key to a really beautiful potager garden. Think layout, paths, raised beds and even pergolas and arches (always use height to maximise the productivity of your garden).
This is a Silver Birch garden in Burnham. You can see the productive area in the background – it’s not at all dominant in the garden.
In the foreground is a bed where leafy veg and edible flowers could easily be grown between plants in true potager style
If you get the gardening bug this summer and want to expand your production, talk to me, I’d love to design your productive potager garden.
In the meantime, enjoy making the very most of your outdoor space and discover how you can get more from your garden by growing your own food.
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