Grow your own fruit and vegetables

February 21, 2010 by Mario  
Filed under Gardening Ideas

My relationship with growing vegetables is a bit varied to say the least. My first attempt at an allotment wasn’t bad albeit I was 11 years old and way too focussed on potatoes but the second attempt failed when in clearing the ground we found a small motor boat buried on the plot and I just didn’t have the energy to pursue my vision of Eden in Merton Park.

But I’ve got the bug again and, unfortunately for me, so has everyone else. Indeed a combination of higher food prices, a demand for organic produce and an aim to reduce food miles have all combined to make allotments hugely in demand. Some local authorities have closed their waiting lists whereas in cities like Edinburgh you have a 10 year wait and I’m told that in one London Borough it’s a 40 year wait. The National Trust have just announced that they are making space available for 1000 community allotments at its historic gardens and there are schemes where budding gardeners can link up with people with too much garden and not enough time to garden.

But what do you do if you can’t get onto an allotment waiting list, live way to far away from a National Trust garden or just don’t want to take on a large allotment? If you desire just to be able to supplement your fruit and veg with some home-grown produce what’s the quickest way to get up and running this year? Here are my top tips.

Find a space
The first decision to make is to find a space in your garden, on your balcony, on your windowsill. Wherever you choose just make sure your plot has some good light and sun through the day. You really can grow in the smallest of areas but you need to make the plants accessible. One of the best ways is to create some raised beds, even some walls made from planks will help because it contains all that great soil and makes for a tidier patch that will keep you interested. I’ve often used old apple crates as planters but find that wooden boxes that once contained wine bottles will only last one season. There are also some great potato planters available at garden centres and even regular planters help contain herbs so that you can adjust their location according to the season.

Get the soil right
Having raised beds means it easier to get the soil right. A good loamy soil is what you are aiming for and in my experience most London gardens have this to start with. Add plenty of good compost and feed your plants regularly (just check the seed packet for advice). Get a compost heap started so that next year you’re recycling all that goodness back into your veg.

Get the kids involved
We constantly hear about children not eating healthily, well growing food is one of the best ways of getting them to have their five a day. If they are actively involved in growing easy things like carrots and lettuce then they are more likely to eat them. Add a few sunflowers for the seeds and plant marigolds and nasturtium that also grow fast and can be added to salads.

Prioritise your planting
If what concerns you most is the price of veg then concentrate on growing the more expensive food items that you like. Just a few large pots for growing your own herbs and a patch to grow things like aubergines, courgettes, cherry tomatoes and salad leaves. You’ll save a fortune! Added to this have you noticed where all your veg comes from? If you plan wisely you can grow your own food and save on all those food miles.

Time-saving fruit trees
If you’re always busy and don’t see much hope of being able to tend a vegetable plot every few days then maybe you should consider putting in some fruit trees and fruit bushes. The smallest garden can benefit from an apple tree and as well as your standard tree there are options for espaliers that grow against a wall and ballerina trees that do not spread their branches widely. There are a few rules when buying apples about fertilisation so ask when you visit the nursery or buy a self-fertile variety. Don’t forget you can also plant those fruit trees that cost a lot in the supermarket such as pears, cherries and even peaches and apricots for really sunny walls. How about a fig tree or set yourself up with a small fruit cage and plant raspberries and gooseberries?

It really is pretty easy to get started growing your own and you’ll get an immense feeling of achievement from your first crop of tomatoes or the first humble leek next winter.

Andrew Fisher Tomlin designs gardens across London. For more information about what he can do for your London garden click here


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