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Oh, the joy of growing your own vegetables! Whether you choose to just grow a few tomatoes in pots and some herbs for cooking, or go the whole hog with soft fruits, an allotment – even chickens – there’s nothing to beat the taste of fruit and vegetables you’ve grown yourself. Yes, your carrots may be less than straight, and your potatoes might be a bit knobbly, but they’ll be so big on flavour you won’t notice. To help you enjoy the thrill of grow your own (we are big fans ourselves), we’ve thought of everything you might need for your own vegetable or fruit garden, found the best suppliers and the best prices – so you can concentrate on the good stuff. Enjoy!
To keep the garden in tip top condition you will probably want to browse through our suppliers of composts , fertilisers and mulches to help your garden flourish grow, as well as the plant care products you’ll need to deal with pests and diseases and those weeds that always manage to find a space in the garden.
CLICK any of the above images to view raised garden beds
Grow your own has swept over the country in the past two years. Vegetables seed sales have risen by up to 60%. Last month B&Q saw its profits climb 66% largely on the back of its Gardening sales. Some Borough councils have waiting lists of up to 40 years for allotments.
The trend has bowled over many who were not gardeners; families, professional couples, even the window box gardeners.
There are people who say why grow vegetables? Because when yours are plentiful they are also maddeningly cheap in the shops. There is cold logic in that no doubt that if you have a glut of something isn’t it good to be hunting down new recipes and if you give away armfuls of your produce, you will be repaid and it is this generosity that makes allotments such friendly places.
The secret of vegetable gardening is good soil, good light, plenty of time and a beady eye.
Your first foray into growing your own needn’t require a massive plot. You could start with a raised garden bed as long as it is located in a spot that catches the sun. Ensure the soil is clean and has a nice open texture. You can always buy good topsoil or improve your own by adding compost and manure.
Always plants according to how much space you will vegetables need. If space is at a premium, make the best use of climbers. Vegetables such as cucumbers, beans and squash will relish clambering over a fence or trellis.
Beat the crunch, grow your lunch!
The UK’s leading organic growing charity is urging the increasing number of people trying to beat the credit crunch by turning to cheap low quality food, to make 2009 the year they grow their own instead.
According to Garden Organic, the advantages of growing our own fruit and vegetables have never been clearer, and to help people get started and saving, the charity will hold a huge Get Set Grow event at its Warwickshire headquarters on Sunday 5 April, 2009.
Garden Organic is keen to dispel the myth that only wealthy people can access fresh, organic produce. To combat this the spring event, which happens at the end of the charity’s Welly Week, will offer practical demonstrations and expert advice so that more people can begin growing at home.
Dr Gareth Davies, of Garden Organic, said, “Average households now spend over £320 more a year on food than they did a year ago, so they are turning to cheap food to keep their bills down. What we want them to realise is that they can save money and still eat fresh, organic produce by growing it themselves.”
“In research we carried out with our members, they estimated that on average they saved around £350 a year by supplementing their diet with homegrown fruit and veg. In those cases where people had more time to spare, this figure was much higher. Because of this we are holding Get Set Grow to inspire and equip people with everything they need to give growing their own a try.”
And it won’t just be our pockets that benefit says Davies, “By growing your own supply of organic produce you’ll benefit from higher levels of vitamins and nutrients, your food will be fresher and won’t contain any harmful pesticides or chemicals and you’ll be helping the environment by cutting down on food miles and growing your food sustainably.”
Growing food good enough for the table at home couldn’t be a cheaper or more future proof way to save money on the weekly groceries and Get Set Grow will provide handy advice for people young and old, the green fingered and the gardening novice, so that they can achieve first-class home growing. The event will also include planting demonstrations, hints and tips on what to grow and when to sow, as well as innovative ways to make the most of your green space, be it allotment plot, garden, window box or patio pot.
Get Set Grow will take place at Garden Organic Ryton, Warwickshire, on Sunday 5 April 2009, 10am – 5pm. Admission is £6 for adults (includes one free child entry), £5.50 for concessions and £3 per child not accompanied by an adult. Call 024 76 303517 or visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk for more information.
Garden Organic’s tips on setting up a veggie plot on a budget
Back garden or allotment Garden Organic suggest that a plot as small as 4 x 4 feet could help supplement the weekly grocery shop with vegetables for the pot all year round, and all for as little as £50 if you’re starting from scratch, and even cheaper if you are really good at being frugal!
All that you really need are some tools: a spade, fork and rake are the three essentials. To get hold of these items cheaply see what can be picked up from house clearances listed in the local paper or visit websites such as www.freecycle.com .
Next you will want to mark out your chosen plot and if it isn’t already cleared then get rid of weeds by using a light excluding mulch – the ‘save’ option would be to use newspaper or cardboard, the ‘spend’ option, straw or black plastic sheeting.
Once your plot is clear you will want to work some good compost into the soil to help your vegetables grow. Start composting your green waste and vegetable peelings by throwing them on a heap instead of in the bin and you can save pounds on expensive bags of compost. By home composting your reward will be a rich compost, full of organic matter, great for growing, see www.homecomposting.org.uk for tips on how to get started.
Once the soil is ready, the planting can begin. To save money on seeds keep an eye out for seed swapping events near you. These events have really taken off in the last few years, and even if you don’t have seeds to swap, you can still pick some up for as little as a few pence. If this isn’t an option, buy seeds through a seed supplier – prices per packet range from £1.20 – £3. If you are being really careful steer clear of F1 seeds as you won’t be able to save seed from these varieties.
Remember that if you are starting from scratch you may have to spend a little in the first instance to save in the long run.
Growing vegetables on a patio or balcony
For those with very limited space for growing there are still options; window boxes and planters could provide a solution, although not necessarily for all year round produce. The budget option would be to use old plastic bottles, buckets, bins, or wooden wine crates as pots.
To ensure that growing your own fruit and veg saves you as much as possible, you should only grow the types of food you like to eat! This way you will waste less and relish your home grown produce. You should also remember not to sow everything all at once but to sow in succession instead, this way you shouldn’t end up with 20 lettuces all ready to eat on the same day!