Do you grow your own produce? It’s one of those trends that seems to either inspire or intimidate, isn’t it?
We all know the health benefits of eating and cooking with fresh, natural ingredients; not only do they offer the maximum nutrients, they also help turn up the volume on taste, which means you can cut down on less healthy ingredients.
And it doesn’t get any fresher than homegrown produce, picked from the garden just minutes before you eat it. Add to that the fact that growing your own allows you to avoid GM and pesticides, as well as reducing your carbon footprint, and it’s no wonder many of us are embracing the homegrown trend.
Being such a big fan of cooking with fresh, natural ingredients, I love the idea of growing my own produce, but I’ve never done it before with much success.
I’m no gardening expert, and to be honest the idea has always seemed a little overwhelming. So when Wyevale Garden Centres offered to help us get a handle on growing-our-own, it was just the motivation we needed.
They sent us a kit containing all the things we'll need in order to grow a selection of edible plants, plus instructions on what to do. Here’s how we got started.
We're growing two varieties of tomato this year: cherry tomatoes and a tiny berry-like variety. They arrived with us as small plants in pots. We know from previous failed attempts that they will get pretty big, pretty fast, so we've planted each one into a tomato growing bag.
This will give them the space and nutrients they need to produce lots of fruit. As they grow they will need some support, so I’ll use garden canes for this once they’re a bit bigger.
This "chewing gum" mint smells fantastic; a quick rub of the leaves and I’m already thinking of Summer cocktails.
Apparently mint is best grown in a container, because it can quickly take over if you plant it in the garden, so it’s perfect if you don’t have much space. My mint arrived in a good-sized pot, so I don’t need to transfer it at the moment, which is great as we have limited garden space.
From what I've read, it’s the kind of plant that you should pick a few leaves from regularly; do this and it will keep re-growing lovely new leaves.
Fresh peas can be tricky to find in the shops, and they taste amazing, so I’m really excited about growing our own and can't wait to see the kids picking and eating them straight off the vine, just like I used to in my mum's garden.
They peas arrived as small plants in a tray of six bunches, which I’ve planted out into a large container. Peas are climbing plants, so they need support from garden canes.
To keep everything nice and sturdy I've learned that it's a good idea to create a teepee-shaped support using canes and string. To give the plants a bit of encouragement to climb I’ve tied each one to it’s own cane. As they grow they’ll do this job themselves.
I’m also intending to use garden netting to protect them from pests.
Strawberries are a great option for growing in containers, and mine arrived with a specially-shaped strawberry pot to plant them into.
You don’t have to have one of these, but apparently it allows you to fit more plants into the space.
I love how they tumble out of the sides, and as they grow the ripening fruits will be really easy to harvest. Birds do love to help themselves to strawberries, so I’ll use the garden netting to protect them too. We can already see some tiny green strawberries!
Basil is really easy to grow from seed, I was pleased to learn. Apparently, if you sow it little and often you’ll always have a supply for your cooking. I’m growing two varieties of basil; standard and "red leaved".
Flavour-wise they’re quite similar, but the purple variety has a stronger aroma and looks amazing in salads.
To sow the seeds, I just filled a small pot with compost and scattered a tiny pinch of seeds finely on the surface. Then I sprinkled a little more compost on top and watered it thoroughly.
Basil grows best in a sunny spot, or you can grow it on a windowsill indoors. I put mine just outside the house where we get the most sunlight at first, but it wasn't looking too cheerful, so I've brought it inside and it's living on the windowsill in the kitchen, close to the sink so that we remember to water it.
Spinach is a really versatile ingredient, and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals too. I’m growing it from seed in a container, and I’ve planted my seeds in the same way as I did my basil.
When the seedlings are about 2cm tall I will ‘thin them out’, which means pulling out some of the smaller ones to allow the best seedlings more room to grow. Like mint, spinach will re-grow if I pick the leaves little and often.
I really cannot wait to taste the results!
Never ones to miss out on the action, Jay and JD not only helped me get the plants potted, they also potted some of their own.
Now our planting is complete, we just need to water everything regularly.
The compost will provide the nutrients each plant needs at first, but to get the best crops I’ll need to give them a boost with plant food in a few weeks’ time, which came in my package from Wyevale Garden Centres.
I’ve really enjoyed my homegrown project so far; I’ve realised that you don’t have to be an expert to have a go, and that you can start small and still grow a wide range of crops. Here's hoping ours grow well - I'm feeling optimistic.
What do you think - have I inspired you to try growing your own? I’ll be posting regular updates on our plants’ progress, so look out for the next instalment when hopefully everything will be thriving!
Inspiration for your garden look
If all this talk of planting and growing has inspired you turn you attention to your own garden space, check out this video from Wyevale Garden Centres, which offers some great advice on how to design your outdoor space and think about the furniture you'll need.
This is a commissioned post for Wyevale Garden Centres