Growing Vegetables at Home: The Basics
Most people have a small space in their garden, or even in their house, that could be used for growing plants. This article is going to focus on ways to begin growing vegetables and address some of the challenges that you might face.
The first thing to do is to assess the space available to you. Anyone with a garden that receives sunlight for at least five hours of the day should be capable of growing most vegetables. If you just want to grow vegetables in pots then this is also possible, but you will be restricted to certain plants. Large root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, are naturally quite impractical to grow in pots.
Once you have decided where you would like to grow your plants the next thing you have to do is to decide what you would like to grow. Good vegetables to start off with are runner beans, carrots, tomatoes and even courgettes – it’s important to grow something that you enjoy eating. For the average, amateur grower the amount of vegetables they produce will rarely exceed their own requirements, at least for the first couple of years, so don’t worry about having more than you can comfortably eat.
Now you know what vegetables you want to grow you need to buy some seeds. There are many places that stock them, anywhere from garden centres to newsagents. Typical vegetable seeds are quite cheap, usually under two or three pounds. However, the number of seeds that come in a packet varies significantly based on the type of vegetable. For example, a packet of carrot seeds may contain about a hundred seeds whereas a packet of bean seeds may only contain about twenty. This variation is usually proportional to the seed’s rate of germination, in effect far fewer carrot seeds germinate than bean seeds.
Once you have the seeds you would like to grow the next step is to plant them. This is usually the most labour intensive part of the process. The majority of seed packets will have basic instructions for sowing, maintaining and harvesting the crop you will hopefully produce. If you don’t have any instructions to hand then there is plenty of useful information on the Internet and your local library is also a good resource. There are many different types of vegetables and the growing requirements and difficulties associated with each of them could fill several books, so rather than addressing all of these the rest of this article is going to focus on general growing tips.
One of the most fundamental elements of a plant’s success in its environment is the soil that it’s grown in. Identifying your soil type and making sure that it’s compatible with your plants can make a real difference to their growth. Your soil type is not completely fixed though, adding some fertiliser from a garden centre can alter its properties and make a noticeable difference in a plants health. This subject goes hand-in-hand with feeding plants as they grow. It’s important to keep a careful eye on the plant feed that is being given to vegetables that you plan to eat, what you put on the roses may not be quite so good when eaten! There are several special, organic feeds out there for vegetable plants that are very good. An interesting experiment is to buy a few and try them out on a couple of the same plants to see the differences in performance.
One of the biggest difficulties with growing vegetables is other animals eating them before you do. There are two main ways to prevent this: growing your vegetables in your house, or growing them inside a greenhouse. Growing vegetables in your house is possible, especially if you have a conservatory, and can be a nice project to do with young children. However, the soil and dead leaves that inevitably make their way onto the carpet and throughout the house discourage most people from doing this on any scale. Greenhouses are an excellent alternative as they allow you to protect your plants from almost any pest, however they are expensive and not always a viable solution.
Most people will have to grow their plants outside which leaves them prey to common pests like slugs and snails. There are many common deterrents for these pests, ranging from salt to slug pellets, which are recommended by gardeners. The fact that you are growing vegetables makes using regular pesticides difficult, a surprisingly effective solution involves the use of a moat. Some vegetable plants such as beans and tomatoes can be grown in large pots; if this approach is used then these pots can be placed on a heap of gravel and then in a flat-bottomed tray filled with water. As long as there are no pests on the plants or in the soil already then it is virtually impossible for them to get on the plants and damage them. Slugs and snails are incredibly resilient and persistent, but they haven’t learnt to swim yet.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to get out into the garden and get planting. There are few things as relaxing and enjoyable as watching your work come to fruition over the course of several months. Growing vegetables is a great way to get engaged with your surroundings as well as being an economical way to improve your garden and your diet!