Homegrown: Top tips for growing vegetables

You could be forgiven for believing that gardening is reserved for stately lawns and discerning botanists. However, just about anyone can pick up a trowel and start planting, no matter how extensive their gardening knowledge is.

It’s not just a pastime for the older generation, either; more than 75 per cent of young people admit to being budding horticultors, with many marking gardening programmes among their favourite TV shows.

Really, is there anything more satisfying than producing something from nothing? If you are looking to get started in the gardening world, you might want to know a few top tips before you get stuck in. With the help of our green-fingered social media communities, we look at the best ways to grow vegetables at home or on an allotment.

What do I need?

The beauty of growing your own veg is that it’s extremely economical. Think of all that money you could save. All you need to get started are a few seeds, some good quality compost, a few grow bags and some pest repellent for when the crops begin to grow.

Our online community on Facebook and Twitter told us how they keep their veggies in top notch:

“I grow tomatoes in grow bags but in one of the holes I plant a marigold as they keep any pests off the tomatoes, so far so good.” Annie Brett on Facebook
“It’s a good idea not to let the fruit/veg lay on damp soil, aiding a fresh crisp crop.” Ash Everitt on Facebook

If you are looking to be extra economical, try these simple, yet effective, gardening tips:

“Use old net curtains to cover crops. It will keep the birds away.” Christine Jellett on Facebook
“My tip is to use old carpet or black polythene – or both – in the winter and then no digging, maybe just where you plant seeds. Keep slugs away by cutting lemonade bottle tops, sticking them in the ground and filling them with sugar water for them to feed on.” Diane Deternant on Facebook

Where should I plant my vegetables?

If you plant your vegetables in a suitable place, you could experience burgeoning broccoli and multiplying mangetout. Plant them in a spot that’s unfit for purpose, however, and you might have to endure a joyless growing season wondering where it all went wrong!

To give your vegetables the best chance of flourishing, there are a few things you need to know before you start planting.

Firstly, consider the three S’s: sun, shade and shelter. Some crops will grow in the shade, but it is unlikely they will grow to their full potential. According to the Royal Horticulture Society, there are only a few vegetables which thrive in shaded areas. These include endive, lettuce, radicchio, peas and spinach. If possible, try to make sure your veggies are in a sunny spot where there is also plenty of shelter from heavy rain and wind.

Another ‘S’ to watch out for is “stealing”. Trees and large plants like to steal nutrients from the surrounding soil, which, in turn, affects the amount of nourishment smaller plants receive. Planting your vegetables away from larger plants should provide greater growing opportunity for your crops.

We asked our social media followers where they plant their vegetables. Here’s what they told us…

“I have vegetables in bags growing amongst the flowers. Saves room and easier to find.” Moira Hutton on Facebook
“ALWAYS TRY AND PLANT FLOWERS BY YOUR PLANTS. They naturally pollinate them.” Jane Broughton on Facebook
“Go for perennial veg where you can interplant them to create a weed and water retention barrier. And mulch where you can, keeps heat in and you won’t need to water them in summer.” David Taylor on Facebook

Which vegetables should I plant?

It all depends on what time of year you plant your crops. Vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts flourish in summertime, whilst peas are better suited to the colder months. If you are unsure when the best time to plant your vegetables is, take a look at the RHS Vegetable Planner. Here you can see all there is to know about when to harvest your vegetables.

Stuck for inspiration? Here is what our online community most enjoy planting in their gardens:

“We are currently eating Rainbow Chard. French beans. Broad beans, peas and baby gem lettuce. Corn on the cob is about 6 weeks away. As are the tomatoes and potatoes. You can’t beat your own freshly grown vegetables.” Shirley WIlliams on Facebook
“We have potatoes, purple, black and red tomatoes, and yellow, purple and white carrots at the moment.” Lizzy Pilsbury on Facebook
“We have had strawberries, broad beans, peas, radishes and just picked some gooseberries.” Christine Jellett on Facebook
“I currently grow: potatoes, runner beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, gherkins, aubergines, climbing beans, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peas, herbs in pots and containers in my garden.” Andrea Pitrik on Facebook

Not sure when you should plant your vegetables? Our social media followers have a few pointers:

“Stagger your planting otherwise you will have an abundance of vegetables all at the same time. I always leave a couple of weeks between planting seeds.” Shirley Williams on Facebook
“Rotation of vegetables is best. Otherwise let nature do the rest.” Christine Jellett on Facebook

A few more vegetable growing tips:

  • Try mulching. Mulches are loose coverings which sit on top of cultivated soil. These help to retain moisture and suppress weeds. You can read more about mulching by visiting the RHS website.
  • Avoid soaking dry soil, as this can cause the crops to split at the root. Instead, aim to keep soil evenly moist throughout the year.
  • Lukewarm water is best for plants, as some crops – such as runner beans – can suffer shock from cold water. This could lead to poor plant growth.
  • A general fertiliser provides crops with a steady supply of nutrients. Add a week before planting your vegetables so there is an even distribution.
  • Vegetables in a container will only have enough nutrients to sustain five or six weeks of growth. You don’t need to take them out of their container after this time, but you will need to start regularly feeding them with a liquid feed or fertiliser.

How do you keep your vegetable patch healthy? If you have any more tips and tricks you would like to share with us, let us know on Facebook and Twitter.