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Vegetable gardening for beginners


Veg growing in a raised bed

Why grow your own vegetables?

Anyone that has had a go at growing their own will tell you that the taste of a home-grown tomato or the sense of well being derived from digging up a row of fresh new potatoes is second to none.

The good news is with a little gardening know-how anyone can have a go at growing their own vegetables. You don’t need acres of space, or years of horticultural training, just roll up your sleeves and start having fun.

Container growing and the urban gardener

Veg growing in container

Many types of crop can flourish in an urban setting

If garden space is limited, or you have no garden at all, you can still grow veg in a sunny spot on a patio, balcony or even a windowsill – by using pots, gro-bags and planters there’s little that an urban gardener can’t grow. Tomatoes, lettuce, cabbages and potatoes will grow equally as well in a city setting as a country garden.

The key is to use quality compost that’s been specifically designed to grow fruit and vegetables, along with regular watering and feeding. As well as using pots to grow your veg why not utilise other items, old sinks, baths, empty tins  and even tyres can make spectacular planters.

         vegetable gardening for beginners

It’s important to remember that all the principles for successfully growing veg in containers are exactly the same for veg-plots and allotments – just on a smaller scale.

Vegetable plot or allotment

A traditional plot devoted solely to fruit and vegetables is a luxury in most small domestic gardens, but well worth the space if you can. Unless you have lots of space to spare, avoid growing main crop potatoes, as a wide variety of them are always on sale in every supermarket at reasonable prices. Instead, grow your favourites, the things that you and your family are going to actually eat.

Where to position your vegetable garden

If you have any choice within your garden, pick a light airy spot that gets plenty of sun throughout the day – avoid areas under overhanging trees or shaded by fences. Most vegetables are sun lovers and require plenty of light and warmth to produce the best crops. If the plot is open and exposed to cold winds, some form of windbreak may be required – a fence, wall or dwarf hedge would be adequate. 

vegetable gardening for beginners

Good access for wheel barrows is a must, so a path of solid material with wide gates is useful. Although many people think veg plots are unsightly (which, by the way, doesn’t have to be the case) it’s worth keeping them fairly close to the house. You won’t want to be setting out on an expedition to the bottom of the garden every time you want to harvest something.
Water is important for growing veg. It’s not only needed to ensure good yields and avoid crop failure – it’s also necessary for successful seed sowing. If the plot is a long way from a mains water supply, or you’d prefer not to use mains water, it’s worth investing in a water butt.

Soil types and preparation

If you’re growing in pots, planters or gro-bags you can skip this section – just ensure you’re using quality compost that has been specifically designed for fruit and veg and it contains the correct balance of nutrients and the best structure to promote healthy growth. For everyone else it’s not quite so easy, and you’ll need to read on…

vegetable gardening for beginners

The key to improving any soil is to dig in a high organic matter soil improver

Understand your soil and you’re halfway to gardening success. Soil acts as an anchor for plant roots and holds air, water and plant nutrients which are essential for continued plant growth. Depending on your soil type – ranging between clay to sand – it will have both beneficial and negative properties for growing veg effectively.
Although clay soils hold nutrients well, they are heavy, slow to warm up and tend to be too wet in the winter and too dry in the summer. At the other end of the spectrum, sandy soils are very light, easily eroded, dry and lack substance and the ability to hold water or nutrients. Regardless of your soil type, the key to improving any soil is to dig in a high organic matter soil improver. Regular applications of organic matter each year will improve soil structure and provide a reservoir for water, beneficial organisms and plant nutrients.



So you’ve filled your containers with the correct compost, or dug your plot over until your back aches, what next? Well having chosen what you want to eat now is the time to plant your veg out. Garden centres will have a selection of plants just ready to pop in, a good choice if your space is limited and you are planting out in containers.
If you are fortunate enough to have a garden large enough to accommodate an area to use for growing vegetables there are a significant number of plants that can be grown by sewing seed directly into prepared soil.
Carrots, parsnips, beetroot, chard,  swede, peas, lettuce, radish, spring onions, runner beans, broad beans and french beans can all be grown successfully from seed.
For a genuine cottage feel try combining sweet peas and runner beans planted up canes

vegetable gardening for beginners         vegetable gardening for beginners

Onions, shallots and garlic are also easy to grow usually available in `sets’ which are dried out corms simply planted by placing them just below the surface of your prepared bed.

Salad crops come in all shapes and sizes and as well as being tasty can provide an attractive display, try sewing nasturtiums in with lettuces, these attractive annuals are also very tasty!

vegetable gardening for beginners         vegetable gardening for beginners

When sewing fast growing crops such as lettuce or radish stagger sewing’s so that you have a regular supply of fresh plants.

Water all plants regularly and if possible use rain water harvested and stored in butts, as well as being sustainable young plants prefer rain water to tap water. Hoe regularly between your tender plants to prevent weeds. Protect young plants from late frosts with horticultural fleece; using this will also afford some protection from damage by birds but as the season progresses you may want to consider netting to deter our fine feathered friends as well as rabbits and anything else that takes a fancy to the fruits of all your hard work!

Finally, enjoy what you do; you will have successes and failures, but believe me nothing tastes better than food grown by your own fair hand.