Are you interested in growing your own vegetables, but not sure where to start?
This guide is packed with tips and advice to help you get it right first time.
The benefits of growing your own vegetables
There are lots of great reasons to grow your own vegetables. For starters, you can reduce the amount of food miles and packaging waste your grocery shopping racks up, and in turn lower your carbon footprint.
If you steer clear of chemical fertilisers and pest control when growing your own vegetables, you can also help nature to thrive in your garden. This also allows you to enjoy the benefits of healthy, organic produce.
Growing your own veggies can save you lots of money too. With grocery bills rising steeply at the moment these savings can have a significant impact in a relatively short space of time.
Additionally, if you like the idea of being more self-sufficient and relying less on food supply chains, growing vegetables at home is a great way to be more in control of the produce available to you.
Last but not least, gardening is good for you! Whether you grow flowers, fruit or vegetables, spending time in nature and nurturing plants is proven to reduce stress, boost wellbeing, and support mental health. It’s a really fun and beneficial hobby to get into, whether you’re new to gardening as an adult, or keen to encourage kids gardening.
Which vegetables to grow at home
When you first start growing your own vegetables, you might be unsure about the best vegetables to grow at home. It’s very tempting to get carried away and try to grow lots of different varieties. While this can be lots of fun, it’s not necessarily the most efficient way to get started.
If you’re new to vegetable gardening, it’s a good idea to start with a few crops that are easy to grow. As you learn and build up experience, you can move on to more demanding veggies. Our list of easy to grow vegetables is a good place to start.
You also need to bear in mind that there will be a limit to the amount of crops you can grow in the space you have available. Make a list of the vegetables you and your family like to eat, and focus on those for your first vegetable garden. There’s no point growing armfuls of runner beans if nobody will eat them!
You can of course have fun growing vegetables that you’ve never tried before. Just make sure you allow plenty of room for those popular crops too.
Buying vegetable seeds and vegetable plants
Once you’ve decided which vegetables to grow, it’s time to go shopping.
Growing your own vegetables from seed is the most cost-effective option here. Buying vegetable seeds online gives you access to a huge range of varieties, and allows you to browse and buy at a time that’s convenient to you.
If you’re short on time or space, there are lots of vegetable plants for sale too. These are usually sold as small plants (often referred to as ‘plug plants’) which you then grow on at home.
The soil that plants grow in has a huge impact on how well they grow. And with vegetable plants, that ultimately influences the size of the crop. Consequently, preparing your soil – whether that’s in the ground, in raised beds, or in pots – is one of the most important things to do when growing vegetables.
Start by removing any weeds, including the roots. Weeds will compete with your vegetable plants for nutrients and limit their growth.
Next, use a spade or fork to loosen up the soil. This will improve drainage.
Vegetables tend to be hungry plants, so it’s a good idea to enrich the soil before planting. It’s worth testing soil in vegetable gardens before you do this, to help you understand what you’re working with. When you’re ready, dig in some manure or organic fertiliser.
Finally, rake over the surface of the soil to create an even finish ready for planting.
If you’re growing vegetables in pots, it’s important to use good quality compost. A general purpose peat-free compost will suit most vegetable plants. If you’re nervous about getting it right you could go for a compost which is specifically designed for vegetables.
Make sure you understand how much space each plant needs before you start planting. Check the instructions on the seed packet or plant label, or look them up online.
Plant food for vegetables
Soil and compost can only provide a certain amount of nutrients for your plants, and eventually those nutrient levels will drop. At this point your veggie plants will find it harder to thrive.
To keep your plants happy and encourage a bigger vegetable crop, you should feed them on a regular basis. Plant food is available in liquid and granule form; always choose a product which is suitable for vegetable plants, and follow the instructions on the packaging.
Plant supports for vegetable gardening
Some varieties of vegetable plants are climbers. Runner beans, peas, cucumbers and tomatoes are all popular climbing grow your own crops. If you’re growing a climbing plant you will need to provide it with support.
The simplest and cheapest form of plant support is garden canes secured with string. You can also use trellis, obelisks and arches if you’d prefer a more ornamental look.
Any plant grown outdoors is susceptible to a pest attack. When it comes to pest control, prevention is always better than cure.
The cheapest and most eco-friendly form of pest control is provided by nature. Encourage the insects that feed on the pests, and they will do most of the work for you. Ants, ladybirds, lacewings and spiders will all feast on aphids (greenfly and blackfly), while ground beetles and hedgehogs will tackle slugs. Take a look at this post on making your garden wildlife-friendly for lots of inspiration.
You should also check your plants for pests on a regular basis. It’s much easier to tackle an infestation in the early stages. Ideally you should avoid chemical pesticides as these are harmful to the environment and wildlife, and will often kill beneficial insects too.
You can also create a physical barrier around your plants to deter pests. This could be netting, crushed eggshells, copper tape on pots, or even a scarecrow!
Ready to grow your own vegetables?
Hopefully this guide has inspired you to make a start on growing your own vegetables, and gives you the tips you need to create a bountiful vegetable garden. For more grow your own resources take a look at this post.