September 28, 2017 5:29 pm Leave your thoughts
Has British Food Fortnight inspired you to seek out, taste and enjoy some of the amazing produce grown and cooked in this country? From quinoa to curry, and pork pies to prosecco, Britain is home to an incredible array of foodstuffs. Whether grown on large farms and allotments, or foraged for on coasts, hills and forests, Britons are adept at turning nature’s gifts into wonderful food. Do you fancy joining in? Perhaps you’re deciding to grow your own too?
Grow your own: how to get started
Anyone can grow their own food – some of it, at least! Even the smallest flat has room to sprout seeds (see our blog about it here) or to grow microgreens on a windowsill. With a little more room, you might have space for a few pots and planters on a balcony or patio. Those with bigger gardens should be able to fit in a few rows of salad vegetables or some fruit bushes – while those who’ve struck it lucky with an allotment can more or less achieve self-sufficiency!
To get started, you need to do some research. Work out just how much space you have and where in your house or garden this space is. What kinds of fruit and vegetables will truly flourish in that space? Some plants need a greater depth of soil than others; some require particularly sunny and sheltered spots. Your soil should be (reasonably) appropriate for the crop you’ve got in mind – and your climate should be appropriate too. Most crops will manage in most soils, but if you’ve got a particularly extreme kind of soil (very thin or very clayey, for instance), you might need to think about using a raised bed. (And you’re probably not going to manage to grow chilli peppers in a chilly part of the country, unfortunately.)
Next, do a further check as to how labour-intensive growing these crops will be. Some fruit and vegetables require virtually nothing more than watering. Others need you out there digging, thinning out and banking up throughout the year.
The easiest crops to grow
For the most encouraging returns, we’d recommend these, as perhaps the very easiest crops to start off with:
- Herbs – thyme, rosemary and chives are pretty much unstoppable!
Chosen your crops?
Now go buy some seeds! Your local garden centre is a good place to start, and while you’re there, you can pick up a bag or two of compost – unless you’ve got some homemade stuff all ready to go. If you’re just starting out, start a compost bin or pile at the same time. That way, you should have some good stuff waiting for you next year.
Dig for victory
If you’ve got a vegetable patch or an allotment, you’ll need a good spade. Digging is the foundation of all successful allotments: turning the soil over, aerating it, turning big lumps into a fine ‘tilth’ and removing weeds. Some gardeners spend the first year simply removing weeds from their patch, to have the soil in optimum condition for the next year!
Protect your tiny crops
Seed packets (and seasoned gardeners) will happily tell you which crops can be safely planted out straight into soil, and which need a few weeks of TLC inside, in little tubs or hothouses first. Never plant seeds out too early – they won’t recover from a poor start. You need to protect your crops when they’re at their most vulnerable, from slugs and other pests, as well as from extreme weather.
Don’t forget what you’ve done!
Once you’ve planted your seeds, make a clear note of what you’ve put where – and a date in your diary of any further work you need to do. Remember that unexpected weather conditions (a really hot spring, for example, or a terribly wet summer) can result in crops growing quite differently to their descriptions on seed packets. Be prepared to jump in and harvest early (or late), to add extra compost or more protection, and to take advice from anyone out there who’s done it before.
And finally – don’t forget to tune into Gardeners’ Question Time. Another truly great British institution.
Tags: British Food Fortnight, grow, grow your own, microgreens, quinoa, sprouting seeds
This post was written by Yzanne