Grow Your Own Grub: How To Get Your Five A Day The Natural Way
During the pandemic, over half of British adults grew their own fruit, vegetables and herbs - that’s a lot of organic (and odd-shaped) produce! Regardless of whether it came as a result of shortage scares, hobby trialing, or just plain boredom, growing our own grub has made a massive comeback, and it looks like it’s here to stay!
Adding a pop of personality to your plate, home-grown veggies and fruits make mealtimes that much more personal. Not only do they often taste better than the store-bought alternatives, but you also get an overwhelming sense of pride when they finally make it to the table. You’ve sown, grown, and nurtured them from seed, after all. What’s more, growing your own goodies is a great starting point for adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, so you’re even doing your bit for the environment - bonus!
With home horticulture on the rise and the summer sun inspiring budding green fingers, now’s the perfect time to jump on the trend and try it for yourself! However, if you can’t tell your secateurs from your shovels, you may need a little help to achieve a successful harvest - and that’s where we come in!
In this blog, we’ll give you some top tips on how to grow vegetables and fruit from scratch. We’ll cover everything from preparing your garden’s soil and picking plants to accounting for shade. Once you reach the end of this post, you’ll feel like a professional planter. So pop on those garden gloves - let’s get growing!
Pick your spot
The first step in growing your own fruit and vegetables is finding a good spot for your first vegetable garden. An ideal size for a beginner’s garden is a 180 x 180cm square. This will give you enough space to seed a few plants but won’t tempt you to plant more than you can handle right now. If you struggle with mobility issues, a raised bed will allow you to reap the benefits of gardening without the backbreaking work of bending. They come available in all shapes, sizes, and styles, so you can find ones that suit the aesthetic of your outdoor space beautifully.
Most fruit and vegetables need lots of sunlight to thrive, so picking a sunny area of your property is a great idea. You might also want to choose a spot that’s close to an outdoor water tap if you have one. No water source? No problem! Prop up a water butt where it’s nice and exposed to the elements, and make the most of the rainy British weather. Not only will this recycle water, reducing waste, but it’ll also cut down your utility bills - perfect! Early on, your veggies will need plenty of water, and planting them near an accessible source of water will mean less effort on your part to keep them hydrated.
Prepare your soil
If you want to grow your own vegetables, you’ll need to prepare the soil in advance of planting. Once you’ve picked out an area of your garden for planting, the first step is loosening the top layer of soil. Grab a pitchfork or spade and stab it 15-30cm into the ground, then give the fork a turn. Repeat as necessary until all of your garden bed is loosened up. Avoid standing on the loose soil as your weight will compact it back down again, undoing all your hard work. As you go, dig up any weeds and large rocks - you don’t want your home-grown vegetables competing with these invasive intruders!
The second step in preparing your garden soil is fertilisation. Spreading a layer of all purpose compost about 5-7cm thick across your garden bed will fill it with enough nutrients to feed your first batch of fruit and veggies. In the future, you can create your own compost quite easily using a compost bin, but while you’re still learning how to grow vegetables, we recommend buying ready-made compost from our soils, mulches, and planting media category. Once your compost is scattered on the ground, give the soil a final turnover with the spade, or drag a rake across it to finish preparing your bed for planting.
Start with some of the easiest vegetables to grow
When you learn to play an instrument, you start by learning a few simple chords, not a complicated solo - and the same logic applies to home-grown vegetables! If you want to learn how to grow vegetables, you should start with the easiest ones first. By this, we mean the hardy sorts that can cope with a little bit of neglect here and there.
Your best bet is to begin with vegetables and fruit that require little maintenance and are naturally inclined to grow in the climate where you live. For the UK, the easiest vegetables to grow are beetroot, potatoes, peas, salad leaves, and courgettes. Chilli plants, particularly cayenne pepper plants, fare surprisingly well in British weather, so you can add some spice to your home-grown garden!
Look out for easy-grow varieties, too! Using selective breeding, horticulturists have developed varieties of fruit and vegetables that are even easier to grow than normal. One example is ‘patio’ vegetables - dwarf plants which can be grown even in small gardens. You’ll find many of these special varieties in OnBuy’s fruit seeds, vegetable seeds, and bulbs categories.
Plant your veggies properly
You’ve prepared your garden, you’ve picked out the seeds, now it’s planting time! When planting new seeds, always follow the instructions on the back of the packet. Some plant species can be planted directly in the ground, while others need a little bit of nurturing beforehand. For the former varieties, dig a small hole in your garden bed - the right depth will be on the seed’s packet. After planting your seeds, cover them with soil and water them immediately with the mist attachment of your watering can.
Other plants like to grow for a while in a pot before being transferred to your garden bed. For these, use a trowel to fill biodegradable plant pots with seeding compost. Water the compost, then add the seeds to the plant pots according to their instructions. Keep an eye on your sprouting seedlings. When your seedlings have three or four ‘true leaves’, it’s time to transfer them to your gardening bed. Carefully remove the seedlings and their root balls from the pots and follow the same procedure as direct planting. Your home-grown vegetables will soon prosper!
Choose vegetables that grow in shade
One hurdle you’ll have to cross when you grow your own vegetables in your garden is accounting for shade. Due to the crowded nature of urban and suburban gardens, it’s quite likely that trees and other houses will cast long shadows over potential growing areas. Before you write these sections off entirely, try planting fruit and vegetables that thrive in shade there.
Even with shade-friendly plants, not all shade is equal. Most fruit and vegetables that grow in shade prefer light or partial shade. That refers to ground that’s shaded from the sun by trees, high walls and other objects, usually receiving only three to six hours of direct sun at the peak of summer. Before planting, take notes of when the sun shines onto your garden and when it dips behind the houses around yours.
There are quite a few vegetables that grow in shade, and they include some of our cooking favourites. Lettuce, peas, baby carrots, runner beans, and spinach all grow well in light shade. Your choice of shade-loving fruit is a bit more limited because fruit’s sweetness comes from their sun exposure. Blackberries, raspberries, and blackcurrants do well in the shade because they naturally grow in bushes and thickets. Cherry trees will also survive in a shady spot, but the fruit they bear will be tarter than it would be if grown in full sunlight.
Grow fruit and vegetables in pots
You can still grow your own vegetables in pots even if you don’t have a garden at all. With the right care, your plants can grow big and strong when stored on a patio, window sill, balcony, or even your doorstep!
Another benefit gained when you grow fruit and vegetables in pots is that soil-borne diseases are much easier to deal with. Up to 52% of British soils contain at least one type of fungus, parasite, or other disease that attacks from the soil, but since you’ll be only using pre-prepared soil, you won’t need to deal with those problems. Potted vegetables are grown in soil that has a neutral pH as well, so this technique is also useful if your garden’s soil is especially chalky or filled with clay.
Almost any vegetables will happily grow in a pot, with highlights including peppers, broccoli, green onions, and radishes. Despite many of them coming from trees, you’d be surprised at the number of fruits that thrive when grown in pots. Examples include tomatoes, strawberries, and aubergines. You can even grow some varieties of apples in pots! Figs grow exceptionally well in pots because the fig tree fruits better when restricted. Make sure you buy a hardy variety of this Medeterrian plant if you want it to survive a chilly British weather.
Got the green finger feeling? Well, with these tips and tricks on how to grow vegetables and fruit from home, you’ll be well on your way to sowing, growing, and harvesting a plethora of produce in no time at all!
Of course, know-how is just the first step - you need some garden tools to get started. Luckily for you, we have everything you need to get growing within our extensive selection of gardening supplies. All of the essential items we’ve mentioned in this blog are available there, plus a wealth of extra products we didn’t have time to mention. For instance, if your budding crops get attacked by slugs, head over to our weed and pest control category for a host of solutions. Or, if your garden is often the social hub of hungry visitors, take a look at our selection of greenhouses to protect them from curious beaks and bites. With OnBuy here to lend a helping hand, it’s never been easier to delight in home-grown goodies!