Allotment, Container Gardening, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting, Watering, Weeding

Eating vegetables you’ve grown yourself can be really satisfying. Not only is it healthier and cheaper, but it can taste better, and it’s more eco friendly. The hardest part of learning to grow your own is knowing how to start your first plot. In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to start your vegetable patch successfully.  

Pick the right location.

The location of your vegetable patch is key to growing good fruit.  The best place  will have: 

    • 6 hours of sun –  your vegetable plot will need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. You should also avoid setting up under a tree or in the shadow of your home. 
    • Moist, well-drained soil –  water pools in badly drained soil and this can end up killing your plants. Consider using a raised bed or raking your soil to get better drainage. 
    • Calm spot  –  avoid places that receive strong winds that could knock over your plants or keep pollinators away. Try to avoid areas with high footfall and places that are known to flood. 
    • Have a nearby water source –  your vegetables will need a lot of water before they are ready to harvest. You should place your plot near an outdoor tap or water source if you don’t want to carry it all. Consider setting up a water butt closeby is possible.

Choose a plot size

How big should your first vegetable patch be? For a beginner, we would suggest starting small and manageable. You need around 200 sq. ft (about the size of a one-car garage) to feed one person for most of the year. If you can start with this size, great, but a veg trug or small raised bed can also get great results. For more control or if you are only looking to dip your hand into home growing, why not consider starting by growing your veg in a container. 

Set up your Plot 

© Copyright David Robinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Before you start planting your first veggies, you should take a few steps to make sure you are planting them in the best conditions possible. 

  • Remove any weeds
  • Dig over the soil to about one spade deep
  • Break up the soil to aerate – remove any stones or weed stems
  • If using a raised bed fill will good quality well-draining soil

Now your soil is ready, divide your bed into sections (you can mark these out with string if you want). Try to keep one crop in each section and stagger them between sowing, growing, harvesting and being empty to get a constant yield. 

Choose your crops 

Knowing what to grow in your first vegetable patch can be difficult as there are lots of choices. 

Good vegetables for beginners to grow

TomatoesGreen beansChard
CourgettesLettuceSpinach
PeppersBeetrootKale
CabbageCarrotsRadish


But ultimately the decision is up to you. No matter what you want to plant always consider a few things before making your choice. 

  • Choose what you (and your family) like to eat –  If no one likes brussels sprouts, don’t bother planting them. But if your love green beans, put more effort towards growing a big crop of beans and nothing goes to waste.
  • Be realistic about how many vegetables your family will eat –  Be careful not to overplant, as you will find yourself with too many plants on your hands. 
  • Consider whats in the shops – Your favourite veg not in your local shop? Why not grow them instead of carrots and tomatoes. Also, homegrown herbs are far less expensive than those you buy in-store.
  • Growing times –  Planning a summer holiday? Some veg like tomatoes and courgette grow strongest in the middle of summer. If you’re gone, you will need someone to look after them, or they will suffer. You can also grow cool-season crops such as lettuce, kale, peas, and root veg during the cooler months of late spring and early fall.

Where and when to plant

The success of your vegetable patch will depend a lot on when and where you plant your vegetables. 

  1. Plant for the season – There are “cool-season” vegetables that grow in spring (e.g., lettuce, spinach, root veg) and “warm-season” vegetables that aren’t planted until the soil warms up (e.g., tomatoes & peppers). Plant cool-season crops after spring frost and warm-season crops in the same area later in the season.
  2. Plant tall vegetables on the north side of the garden –  So they don’t shade shorter plants. If you do get shade in a part of your garden, save that area for small, cool-season plants. 
  3. Annual or Perennial – Most vegetables are annual (planted each year). Asparagus, rhubarb, and some herbs are perennial. If you’re planning on growing, these make sure you provide permanent locations or beds.
  4. Maturation time – Some crops mature quickly and have a very short harvest period (radishes, beans). Other plants, such as tomatoes, take longer to produce but will do so for longer. These times are usually listed on the packet, and you should aim for a combination of both. 
  5. Stagger plantings – If you want a constant supply of vegetables, you don’t want to plant all your seeds simultaneously, or they will need to be harvested at around the same time!. Stagger plantings by a few weeks to keep a constant supply. 

Planting your vegetables

You have a couple of choices regarding getting new plants to grow in your garden; you can buy nursery plants ready to go or grow from seed. Each has its own advantages. 

Starting From Seed Nursery Plants 
Cheaper Less work 
Can control how your plant is grown from the start Easier to grow
More Varieties to choose fromTakes up less space 

Nursery Plants: 

Planting a nursery plant is simple. Follow the instructions on the plant label, and you’re ready to go, be careful to give each plant enough space to grow in the future. 

Growing Vegetables from seed: 

Growing from seed can take more time, but you have much more control over how your plants end up. Starting your plants indoors gives them a higher survival rate than those grown indoors.  

Top tips

  1. Make sure your containers have drainage holes – You can use recycled pots, egg boxes or yoghurt pots. Seed trays and flats are good choices and can be reused year after year. Biodegradable pots are great too. 
  2. Plant seeds at the proper depth – Check the seed packet for planting depth. Be careful not to plant any deeper than the directions – a good rule is to plant the two-to-three times as deep as the seed is wide.
  3. After sowing, put your container somewhere warm – On top of a fridge or near a radiator are good spots. Check your pots every day for signs of growth. 
  4. Keep seed-starting mix moist – Seedling roots need both air and water. Keep the mix moist but not wet.
  5. As soon as seedlings emerge, place pots in a bright location at room temperature – A sunny window will do
  6. Once seedlings have two sets of leaves thin out – You want one seedling per pot. Choose the healthiest, strongest-looking seedling to keep.
  7. Plant outside when you have three of four full-sized leaves.

Vegetable Care Tips 

Fertilize 

 Use a diluted all-purpose fertilizer before planting and once in the middle of the growing season.

Mulching 

Apply mulch in the spring after the soil has warmed

Watering

Getting your watering right is a key skill in getting your vegetables to grow as well as they can. A moisture meter is a handy way to help yourself out. It also helps to know the signs of under or overwatering. 

You’ve underwatered if: You’ve overwatered if: 
Dry soil around the stems There is soaked soil around plant stems.
Stunted Growth Mould or moss is growing on the soil.
WiltingWilting
Dead Leaves Yellowing of leaves
Brown Leaves Dead leaf margins

Common pests and how to treat them 

 

AphidSmall sap-sucking insects that can be found on the leaves of your plant. Spray with a steady stream of water or plant safe soap. You can also release predatory insects such as ladybugs or prune off the most heavily infected leaves.
Cabbage WormBest Picked off by hand and use a floating row cover to keep the adults from laying eggs on crops. 
Corn EarwormTilling in the spring and autumn will expose pupae to predators, weather and wind. Pesticides will also work.
Cucumber BeetleHandpick beetles frequently. Adults can be sprayed with a botanical insecticide. After harvest, remove garden debris to reduce sites for overwintering.
CutwormUse toilet roll tubes to make collars and place around the stems of seedlings ( half above and half below the soil). Beneficial nematodes can be added to the soil and hand remove caterpillars after dark.
Flea BeetleTo avoid peak populations of flea beetles, avoid planting your crops until later in the season. Add beneficial nematodes to the soil and use floating row covers to keep pests off plants.
Slug & SnailEdge garden beds with copper tape to deter slugs and snails. Shallow pans of beer placed in the garden will trap them, then collect and destroy daily.
Squash BugCheck the undersides of leaves, and hand remove squash bugs. Keep plants off the ground with trellises. If the infestation gets too bad, use floating row covers and a botanical insecticide.
Tomato HornwormCheck the leaves for large green caterpillars) and hand remove. Till gardens in the fall to destroy pupae in the soil.

Diseases

Wet weather, inadequate air and low and poor drainage are all causes of plant disease. You can prevent disease on your vegetables by

  • Choosing disease-resistant plants 
  • Water and fertilize plants properly.
  • Rotate crops
  • Keep your growing area clean.

Some common diseases include: 

Bacterial Leaf Spot: Mostly affecting cabbage-family crops, peppers and tomatoes. Infected foliage has small, dark brown or black water-soaked spots. These spots will dry up and crack, leaving holes and leaves may drop prematurely. Apply copper-based fungicides every 7-days when symptoms first appear to prevent from spreading. Control can be difficult in wet weather.

Clubroot: Caused by a soil-inhabiting fungus and infecting cabbage-family plants (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). Infected plants have swollen, misshapen roots and wilt in the heat. Older leaves turn yellow or drop off. Plant disease-resistant varieties and rotate vegetable crops.

Common Rust: Reddish-brown powdery spots that rub off when touched appear on leaves. Prune plants and remove weeds to provide good air circulation. Hand-pick infected leaves and remove and destroy seriously affected plants. Apply sulfur fungicides to plants early to prevent infection or to keep light problems from spreading.

Late Blight: Mostly affecting tomato and potato plants, this disease appears late in the growing season. Look for water-soaked, grey-green spots on leaves. As the disease matures a white fungal growth may form on the undersides. Select resistant varieties when available and dispose of all infected plant parts. Water in the morning to give plants time to dry out during the day. Copper sprays can suppress some outbreaks.

Mosaic Virus: This disease appears as mottled green or yellowish coloured plant tissue. Plant growth is often stunted, and leaves may curl. There is no cure for the mosaic virus so remove infected plants immediately. Plant disease-resistant crops and reduce the number of disease-carrying insects (aphids, leafhoppers) can spread the virus. 

Wilts: Affecting many vegetable plants, causes wilting and yellow blotches on the lower leaves. Choose resistant varieties when available and control garden insects, such as cucumber beetles, who are known to spread the disease.

It can be a steep learning curve when first learning how to plant your own vegetables, but as soon as you harvest and cook with your first crop, you will realise how satisfying it can be and be hooked. Find everything you need for a successful home garden here. We’d love to see what you’re doing with your home garden so let us know how your homegrown vegetables are doing on Facebook or send us a picture on Instagram with the hashtag#MyPrimroseGarden for a chance to be featured.

Container Gardening, Gardening, How To, Planting, Plants, Watering

An Essential Guide to Geranium Care

A popular choice amongst both inexperienced and highly skilled gardeners, the geranium is hardy and blooms abundantly. In return for their dazzling displays they have simple requirements, namely frequent waterings, a generous degree of sun exposure, and nutrient-rich soil.

Are geraniums the same as pelargoniums?

Although widely referred to as ‘Geraniums’, ivy, regal, and scented geraniums are actually pelargoniums. Due to their similar appearance, they were initially held to belong to the same genus as the hardy geraniums already present in Europe. This decision was reversed when distinct characteristics were identified in the former plant. 

Are geraniums perennials or annuals?

Commonly referred to as a ‘Cranesbill’, geraniums are perennials, and will hence reemerge from the ground every spring  after a period of dormancy.  Pelargoniums comprise of annuals, and therefore live for only one year.  If you enjoy experimenting with unique yearly displays (with hanging baskets for example), this shorter lifespan may be ideal. 

The care information detailed within this post will focus on geraniums, however, this is not to say that this information should be rendered  inapplicable to pelargoniums; both the sunlight and watering advice is still relevant. 

What is the Best Soil for my Geranium?

An Essential Guide to Geranium Care

If you are planting directly into your garden’s beds,  loose and crumbly, well-drained soil will help ensure a flourishing geranium. If you are planting your geranium into a pot, mix high-quality potting soil and compost together, and add this mixture to a pot equipped with drainage holes.

Mulching

A geranium’s soil should ideally be rich in organic matter; this can be achieved by mulching their soil annually with leaf mould, rotted compost, or manure. Biodegradable mulching will steadily release nutrients into your garden’s soil, and further improve its composition. We recommend that you mulch the entirety of your beds and borders, preferably after weeds have been fully removed, and when their soil is moist. The optimal seasons to do so are spring and autumn; in summer, your garden’s soil may be too dry, and in winter, it will be too cold. 

Once you have gathered your mulch, surround your geraniums with a layer that is between two and three inches thick. Importantly, you must not add a new layer of mulch until the existing layer has fully rotted away, as this could hinder the amount of water that your plants receive. 

What is the Best Watering Routine for my Geranium?

An Essential Guide to Geranium Care

Geraniums will relish moist soil, however, like most perennials, they can fall victim to rotting if they are watered too generously. If your geranium’s soil still feels damp to the touch near to two days after watering, it is probable that they are being overwatered. 

Soil within containers will retain less water than your garden’s borders and beds, so water accordingly; ideally once every few days.

Why have my geranium’s leaves turned yellow?

Additional signs of overwatering consist of yellowed foliage and dropping flowers, however, if you follow the aforementioned steps, no damage should arise to this extent.

Geraniums are more likely to recover from underwatering, as opposed to overwatering…

How do I protect my geranium from heavy rainfall?

As careful as we try to be in terms of watering our geraniums, the weather isn’t something that we can quite control.  In the unfortunate instance of heavy rainfall, try to relocate your container-grown geraniums to a sheltered area (a greenhouse or shed). For geraniums that have been planted in your gardens’s beds, there is unfortunately little you can do.  Nevertheless, mulching will mitigate the risks of damage, and covering your geranium with a large pot or bucket will provide protection from strong winds (you can use bricks or stones to keep them weighed down)

How Much Sunlight is Best for my Geranium?

An Essential Guide to Geranium Care

In order to bear the most sumptuous blooms, geraniums should receive full sun for four to six hours a day. A reliable guide is to plant in a location that experiences full sun from morning through to noon, and shade later in the day (shade should preferably be light however).

What is the best geranium for shade?

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ will flower prolifically in more shaded areas, making a welcome exception to this traditional rule. This variety will form violet-purple, saucer-shaped flowers, which complement their delicate, muted green foliage. Rozanne can be ordered here.

An Essential Guide to Geranium Care

Allotment, Children in the garden, Container Gardening, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Scott

kids grow your own

Teaching our kids about the world around them has never been more important. Knowing where our food comes from can help kids to understand the work that is involved, allow them to engage with nature and get them outside in the fresh air.  

Basic set up

Whatever space you have – it’s enough to begin growing your own fruit and veg.

A single pot – you can teach your kids the entire process of growing food with one plant pot, some soil and seeds. Try a small batch of fruit like strawberries or even some herbs.

A large planter – you can have more of a permanent space with a small variety of things with a planter. Keep it simple with one or two vegetables.

A raised bed – a great way of containing a vegetable garden. It keeps pests away and provides excellent drainage. It will also get your kids outside into the garden where the learning possibilities are limited only by their imagination.

A garden bed – giving a whole section of the garden over to growing your own is a commitment but a satisfying project when it begins to yield results. 

An allotment – the ultimate in growing your own spaces. A dedicated area where you can go with your children to work in the garden, dedicating time to the process but also to spending time as a family. 

 

 

 

Mini projects

grow your own

Grow your own tomato sauce – With some cherry tomatoes and a mixture of herbs (oregano, parsley, chives and basil) you’ll have everything you need to add a delicious sauce to your kid’s dinners. 

Make plant labels – get your kids making their own plant labels using some ice lolly sticks or clothes pegs and a sharpie pen. 

Mystery planting – buy yourself some vegetable seeds and empty them into small blank envelopes. Put them all together and let your kids pick out an envelope of seeds to plant and grow outside in a garden bed. What emerges can be a surprise for you all.

Start a grow bag – a grow bag offers up all the nutrients you need from your soil along with a semi-permanent container to grow in. These are great for growing tomatoes. 

Grow a fruit salad – an ideal project for a raised bed or some large planters. There are plenty of berries that can grow well in the UK like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. Grow a selection and make a delicious fruit salad or blend them up with oat milk for a healthy smoothie! 

Tips for getting kids engaged 

kids gardening

  • Give your kids responsibility: whether its asking plenty of questions on what they would like to grow and where to grow it or giving them their own section of the garden, give them the ability to learn by doing.
  • Select fast-growing seeds: things like radishes and salad leaves are excellent for keeping impatient kids interested. You may find them more willing to try new foods if they’ve grown them in their own garden too. 
  • Pick out some gardening clothes: pick out some clothes from your kid’s wardrobe that they won’t mind getting dirty. Encourage them to get their hands a little messy in the soil. Planting and growing can be just as much a time of play as a time of learning. 
  • Gardening tools: Think of gardening tools as practical toys. Giving your kids a set of mini tools that they can use in the garden can teach them the process of growing your own as well as ownership and responsibility.  

 

Scott at PrimroseScott Roberts is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.

See all of Scott’s posts.

Animals, Charlotte O, Container Gardening, Gardening, How To, Planters, Plants

If you don’t have your own small animal audience, store-bought is fine.

Exciting news folks! Primrose has recently got in a whole new selection of terrarium making tools, the first on the site made specifically for closed-system terrariums! Well since they’re so new, and terrariums are finally making the come back they deserve, I went and wrote up the journey through creating my own closed-system terrarium.

You will need

All of this and a good dash of patience.

The sets we have online also include a very handy shovel and rake set that extends to reach the bottom of your jar, these are indispensable if you have a very deep terrarium! (Although you could always wrap some wire around a fork and a spoon, no judgement here.)

If possible, it’s recommended to find a piece of plastic mesh to help keep the stone and soil layer separate, but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of any, I didn’t use it in my terrarium.

Also handy:

  • A lot of newspaper to work on (it gets messy!)
  • A funnel (I made one out of a cereal packet)
  • Scissors (for pruning if needed)
  • Small hand trowel (for removing soil from roots)

And last but not least, the plants and accessories you want in the terrarium.

These are the two species I used, Tradescantia Purple Passion at the front and a Chlorophytum Comosum behind.

The process

The idea of a closed terrarium is to create an ecosystem that will sustain itself. Both the plants and soil release moisture that becomes water vapour, and condenses against the walls of the terrarium during the warm daylight, falling back to the soil in the cooler evenings. This creation of an enclosed watering system is what will keep your terrarium growing, but just throwing dirt and plants at it isn’t going to work, an irrigation system is needed to stop the soil from rotting under too much water.

At this point you’ll want to grab the funnel, or if you’re on a budget, make one out of cardboard or paper to make for easier application of the materials.

First pour in a layer of small stones, pebbles, or gravel. There’s no hard and fast measurement as it depends on what size receptacle you’re using, a good rule to stick to is one-quarter stones to three-quarters soil. Remember this layer has to be deep enough to stop any pooling water from sitting in the soil.

I’d highly recommend checking out this video on youtube for a visual representation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lg4tzkHgVo

Check your terrarium from all angles, sometimes it’s hard to judge the level of coverage with curved glass.

Next is activated charcoal. This is an integral ingredient in the tasty soup that is your closed terrarium. It absorbs chemicals in the soil, water, and air that could otherwise build up over time and damage the plants. Charcoal also cleans up unpleasant odours that are released from the decomposing soil and helps stop mildew forming.

You don’t need a whole layer of the stuff, but make sure there’s a good handful being placed in, it’s going to do a lot of work after all!

If you’ve been able to source some plastic mesh, now is the time to cut it to shape, fold it up and pop it in. You’ll need some long tools to push and pull it into place, and then you can add the substrate. (Note that the charcoal seems fine both above and below the mesh layer.) Again, if you don’t have a mesh layer don’t worry! You can still power on!

Okay, let’s layer up some soil! You’ll need a decent amount, remember we’re working to approx one-quarter stones to three-quarters substrate. Don’t worry if your measurements aren’t perfect, it’s all a learning process!

Make some small divots for the plants to sit in, and let’s move on to prepping some plants!

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Plant choices

A closed terrarium is a specific type of environment. There’s a lot of damp warmth in there, and if left in direct sunlight, the refraction of the glass will cook everything inside. So we need moisture-loving, low light-thriving, quite small plants. Which admittedly cuts down our options somewhat, but here are some plants that I’ve discovered-

Small ferns will help fill out any space, and they’re relatively easy to come by. Try and find a miniature variety if you can, as some ferns can grow pretty big.

Some that come recommended:

Peperomia, Maidenhair fern, Pteris, and Adiantum. I chose a variegated fern to place in mine, the pot I purchased had three separate plants in it so I picked out the smallest to place in my also quite small terrarium.

Soleirolia variants are perfect as well, and have a variety of amusing names such as, mind-your-own-business, baby’s tears, angel’s tears, friendship plant and Irish moss. (It is in fact, not a moss, but a plant from the nettle family.)

Tradescantia- also known as Spiderwort, is another plant that does well in humid climates. There are a lot of variants though, and I’d recommend staying away from any that are flowering as they will wilt and die quickly in the terrarium. I chose a Tradescantia Purple Passion to place in mine.

Other tropical foliage such as Dizygotheca and Neoregelia ‘fireball’ enjoy a humid environment, making them other possibilities for your display.

To finish it off I would recommend some moss. I took a trowel and dug some out of my garden. Moss is a great way to fill out your terrarium, it helps to cover bare soil and brings more diversity into the jar.

Trixie spent the whole time trying to eat my plants and the moss. Thanks Trix.

Preparing plants

This section entirely depends on what container you’re using for your terrarium, but for brevity’s sake I’m going to assume you’re using the same line of terrariums that I am, and in that case you’ve got some trimming to do. The opening of the bottle is a lot smaller than you first think, so you’ll need to carefully extract the plants from their pots, and gently scrape or shake off most of the soil around the roots so you can fit it through the top. This is where having another container or a lot of newspaper down comes in handy to catch all the soil!

Move the plant around after it’s fallen inside, and make sure you push soil back around the roots when you’ve confirmed the placement.

Now is a good time to consider the layout of your terrarium. Instagram and Pinterest are great sources of inspiration, just make sure whatever you use is small enough to fit!

In my terrarium I used some old chunky sticks to create a divide in the middle, putting the fern one side and the tradescantia on the other, with moss liberally applied all around. To finish it off, I added some more height with a mossy stick reaching up through the bottle, remember to consider your layers to make for a more visually interesting display!

Here’s my finished terrarium! I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and it didn’t take more than about half an hour to put together!

Finishing off

Before adding the cork, make sure you give your terrarium a good spritz with a spray bottle, or pour a little water down the side. You don’t need to add the cork straight away – allow the bottle to stand for a day to let the plants settle, and for the first week or so, take the cork off for a few hours every day. This allows you to adjust the water, and allows the plants to breathe and accumulate to their new closed-system environment a little easier.

Keep your terrarium out of direct sunlight, and rotate it every day or so to allow all sides to soak up some heat.

And here’s my beauty after 2 weeks! The tiny wild clover in the moss are loving it!

Troubleshooting and the future

There’s always the fear that your terrarium won’t last the weekend. Fear not! If you’ve used the right plants and followed the guide you should be safe. One thing to bear in mind is the water cycle, moisture should build up over the day, then drip back down to the soil overnight. If there is too much condensation then plants might start to rot, so remove the cork and allow it to dry out a little. If there’s no moisture on the sides by late afternoon, it may need a spritz of water to keep the cycle going.

If it does unfortunately go wrong, there’s no shame in calling it a day, dumping it all out and starting again. We all have to start somewhere, and I’m sure your next terrarium will look amazing!

If you do make up one of our terrariums, be sure to snap a photo and send it in!

Bonus points for getting your pets involved!

 

Charlotte at PrimroseCharlotte is a Copy Writer at Primrose, writing product descriptions and about anything else that comes her way. She owns 2 rabbits and 5 chickens that she loves very much. (Her garden is most certainly not tidy).

When not at her desk you can find her attempting to find her way back to Japan again, or drawing.

See all of Charlotte’s posts.