There are few things more satisfying than growing your own fruit and vegetables – and I definitely think home-grown tomatoes and strawberries are infinitely tastier than shop-bought ones!
There are lots of things to think about when growing your own for the first time, but there are a few particularly great tips that can make all the difference when it comes to successful harvesting and the quality of your produce. Here are my favourite ones:
1) Do your research
This is quite a basic bit of advice, but an important one. Different fruit and vegetables have their own requirements when it comes to the best time to sow, how to plant and tend to them, and when to harvest them, so always make sure you know this information before you even think about buying any seeds!
You’ll also need to look at how much space your produce is likely to take up in your garden or greenhouse before you plant anything – packing too many plants into one little section is a recipe for disaster.
2) Start simply
If you’re new to growing your own food, you might be eager to plant all of your favourite produce straight away. However, it’s a good idea to begin with fruit and vegetables that are easy to grow so you can get the hang of the basics before you move on to something more complicated. Courgettes, tomatoes and onions are some of the easiest produce to grow.
Also try to keep the number of different things you’re growing to a minimum. I don’t know about you, but I can be pretty forgetful at times, so having to remember when to sow, move and harvest various types of produce is likely to end in tears and a lot of ruined plants (even with the help of a calendar!). Again, start off with just a few varieties before sowing more later in the year.
3) Keep it clean
A messy garden or greenhouse is unlikely to result in quality produce. Get rid of weeds and dead leaves/plants on a regular basis, and keep tools safely stashed away in a shed when they’re not in use (look online for UK shed suppliers).
If you have a greenhouse, it’s crucial to keep all parts of the structure – both inside and outside – as clean as you can. A dirty greenhouse can be a haven for the bacteria and insects that can cause plant-wrecking diseases, so be sure to wipe down the panes, open up ventilation when needed and generally maintain a good level of tidiness.
4) Solutions, not problems
It’s easy to panic about various things when you’re new to gardening. Wrong soil, lack of ripening, dying plants, pesky insects and a whole lot more can quickly push you from excitement to despair. But it’s important not to get too stressed; all gardeners, even the most experienced, have their problems from time to time.
Instead, focus on the potential solutions. In some instances you might have to resign yourself to starting all over again (and you will have learnt from your mistakes for a better chance of success), but look online or in a good gardening book – or ask a knowledgeable friend – and you’ll find many common problems can be fixed.
Soil can be turned into a more appropriate variety for growing by mixing in some soil improver, while certain produce can be ripened by moving it to another spot or picking it and ripening it indoors, for example. Stay positive and you’ll soon reap rewards for your patience!
Do you have any top tips for people new to growing their own food? Let us know in the comments!