Alice, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Vegetables

Growing your own vegetables can be a highly rewarding pastime. Not only does it produce a fresh supply of delicious, ripe vegetables, but it also reduces the need for plastic-wrapped supermarket produce, protecting the environment, and can be highly beneficial for your mental health. Some may be put off growing their own produce, thinking it’s difficult, expensive, or you need a large garden. However, virtually anyone can grow their own with the right tools, so here’s our guide on how to start a vegetable garden.

how to start a vegetable garden

Location

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a huge plot of land to grow your own food. If you live in a flat and don’t have your own garden, you can grow herbs or kale in pots on your windowsill, or small vegetable plants in window boxes. For smaller gardens or limited outdoor space, most vegetables can be grown in pots and containers. But if you’re yearning for extra growing space, an allotment could be a great solution, and you’d also get to meet other keen gardeners!

If you are starting your own vegetable plot, the best thing to do is start small so you are not overwhelmed; the maximum size should be 5×3 metres (16×10 feet). Choose a sunny location in a stable environment that isn’t prone to flooding, strong winds, or drying out. It’s also a good idea to plant in an area with soft, loamy soil if you can. A raised bed could be a good option if you have poor soil or difficulty bending down.

However, you don’t have to restrict yourself to planting in a designated vegetable plot. Edibles can look great when combined with ornamental flowers, so if you don’t have the additional space, try adding some brightly coloured lettuces, kale, or berries to your flowerbeds or borders. 

What To Grow

Once you’ve marked out where you are going to plant your vegetables, the next step is to decide what to grow. There are tonnes of possibilities so it can be hard to know where to start. A good place to begin is to think about what you would like to eat. Vegetable gardening is meant to be enjoyable, so grow produce you will enjoy eating and use a lot in your cooking. 

However, some vegetables are easier to grow than others, so if you’re still struggling on where to begin, here are some suggestions for beginners:

  • Tomatoes– quick to grow and their fruits can be used in a range of dishes. Bush varieties such as Red Cherry and Tumbling Tom are particularly versatile and don’t require training or side-shooting
  • Lettuce– grows quickly and can be harvested easily. The plants also take up little space, making them a great choice for smaller gardens. Our Salad Bowl Red & Green Lettuce seeds produce a mix of colours
  • Green beans– simple to grow and provide a tasty harvest. Choose from broad beans such as Masterpiece Green Longpod or french beans- the dwarf Tendergreen are a low-maintenance 
  • Radishes– a delicious addition to salads or stir-fries, and provide a continuous harvest all summer. French Breakfast are a tried and tested popular variety
  • Carrots– simple and fun to grow, and make a useful addition to your kitchen. The short roots of the Nantes variety make them easy to grow and quick to crop, and the Flyaway has been bred for carrot fly resistance
  • Courgettes– these plants are prolific and easy to grow from seeds. The All Green Bush variety produce crops all summer long that can be used as both marrows or baby courgettes

Getting started

Now you’ve got your vegetable patch sorted and chosen your seeds, it’s time for the fun part: growing. Here is how to get started.

Plant and harvest at the right time

Vegetables are typically planted in early spring and harvested in the summer, however each variety is different, so make sure to check the packets and plant at the correct times. If the weather is particularly cold for the season, you may need to keep plants indoors for longer or use a fleece or cloche.

Prepare the soil

Get the soil in tip-top condition before planting anything by removing weeds and large stones and digging in some fertiliser, compost, or well-rotted manure to provide a fertile growing space.

Space your crops properly

Plants spaced too closely together end up competing for sunlight, water, and nutrition and end up failing to grow. Make sure to follow the spacing recommendations on the packet to prevent this from happening.

Water

Growing plants will need regular watering, particularly during warm, dry weather. However, make sure the soil does not become waterlogged.

Pest control

Make sure to protect your plants from being destroyed by unwanted pests. If you do not wish to use a chemical pesticide, there are plenty of alternative methods available, including companion planting, using netting or fleece, or natural sprays

You can find out more in our full guide to how to grow crops.

What are you growing in your vegetable garden? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Alice, Garden Design, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting

Fed up of bending over while you weed, or struggling to grow in poor-quality, claylike soil? A simple raised bed can offer an array of benefits to your garden, and thankfully, they’re not difficult or costly to build. Read on and discover how to build a simple raised bed, and you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time. 

how to build a raised bed

What is a Raised Bed?

A raised bed is a flowerbed or planting space that has been raised above ground level. It functions similarly to a large planter, however, it has no bottom or top; it simply consists of additional soil held in place by wooden plants, concrete blocks, or similar.

Which Plants Can You Grow in Raised Beds?

You can grow almost any type of plant in a raised bed, however, they are particularly useful for vegetables; soft fruits such as strawberries and raspberries; small trees and shrubs; herbaceous perennial cuttings; and ericaceous or lime-hating plants such as heather or rhododendrons. 

Benefits of Raised Beds

  • Reduces the need to bend; great if you have limited mobility
  • Great solution for gardens with limited space
  • Best solution for poor-quality or claylike soil
  • Improves soil drainage which increases soil temperature
  • Longer growing season
  • Option of matching soil to the plant type
  • Deeper soil enhances root health
  • Fewer weeds
  • Keeps plants out of the reach of pets and small children

How to Build a Raised Bed

how to build a raised bed

You will need:

  • Edging material. You can purchase a ready-made raised bed from our range, which will save you time and hassle. If you would rather make your own, material you can use for the edges includes wooden planks, concrete blocks, wattle, or logs
  • Soil, plus organic matter such as compost or manure
  • A garden spade
  • Wooden stakes, nails or screws, and a hammer, if you are using wooden planks or similar for the edging
  • Newspaper or cardboard, if you are setting your raised bed on grass
  • String (optional)
  • Bark chippings, paving, or grass, if you wish to create a path around or between beds
  • A tamper tool, if you are using concrete edging (optional)

Step 1: Mark your edges

The first thing to do is to plan where you are going to place your raised bed (or beds). Raised beds are usually rectangular or square, however feel free to experiment with different shapes as you see fit. Choose a sunny area and mark the edges of where each bed will be using string. Alternatively, if you are using wooden planks, you can use the boards to mark out the edges of the bed. 

Keep your beds below 1.5m (5ft) wide; it is not advisable to stand on the beds so keep the width to something you can reach across. It is also best to keep them less than 4.5m (15ft) long. If you are creating multiple beds, allow at least 60-90cm (2-3ft) for wheelbarrow access. In regards to height, allow at least 25-35cm (10-14in) to accommodate strong roots, although they can be up to waist height to allow maintenance without bending over.

Step 2: Build the sides

Next, you need to fix the sides of your raised bed into place. If you are using a ready-made raised bed, this is pretty straightforward as all you need to do is follow the instructions for easy installation. If you are making one yourself using wood, insert stakes 30-45cm (12-18in) into the ground at the corners, then at least every 1.5m (5ft). Nail the planks to the stakes using nails or screws and a hammer; set the lowest board 5cm (2in) below ground level. 

If you are using concrete blocks, make sure to level the ground beforehand by removing the grass if it is uneven and using a tamper tool if desired. Make sure to place cardboard over any remaining grass under the blocks to prevent it growing into the beds.

Step 3: Prepare the ground

The next stage is to prepare the ground ready to create a raised bed. If you are building your bed over grass, line the bottom with sheets of cardboard or newspaper and wet it thoroughly. Ensure any staples are removed from the cardboard. If you are building the bed directly onto soil, dig the ground deeply, adding as much manure or compost as you can. If your soil is poorly draining, add a layer of course gravel, hardcore, or stones. If your bed is deeper than 50cm (20in) remove the top layer of soil and replace with subsoil, rubble or old inverted turves. 

Step 4: Fill in the soil

The final step to creating your raised bed is to fill your newly-created space with soil. Fill with a mixture of topsoil, compost, and organic matter such as manure, to create a nutrient-rich environment for your plants to grow in. You can adapt the soil to the types of plants you wish to grow, for example filling the beds with acid soil to grow ericaceous (lime-hating) plants. 

Once filled, allow the soil to settle for two weeks before planting. Soil in raised beds can dry out more quickly, so make sure to water frequently. 

Step 5 (optional): Build a garden path

A garden path can improve access and create a tidy look, particularly if you have more than one raised bed in succession. If you desire, you can use bark chippings, paving, or grass to create a path around or in between your raised beds. You can keep the edges tidy using flexible edging if necessary. 

 

Raised beds take a bit of setting up, however they can be done so inexpensively and without a huge amount of time and hassle. Before you know it, your plants will have a great home with improved drainage and quality soil, and you’ll have less bending down to do to reach them!

Looking to use your raised bed to grow vegetables? make sure to check out our guide to how to grow crops.

What are you growing in your raised bed? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

Gardening, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, Planting, Plants, Scott, Sustainable Living, Vegetables

For a beautiful garden come spring and summer, preparation is key. Frost and snow may not make your garden the most welcome of places but the promise of Spring and the return of warmer days gives you plenty to be doing. This is also a time of year where our wildlife relies most heavily on the food we supply as natural reserves would have run dry by now so you should give all the help you can t see your local wildlife thrive. Read below for some key February garden jobs.   

february garden birds

General

Check garden equipment – this is a prime opportunity to check over your garden equipment. Does any of it need fixing or replacing? Every gardener should have at least a good quality spade and a few handheld tools such as a trowel to tackle various projects.

Feed wildlife – this time of year, at the very end of winter, natural food sources will be at there most depleted. This is a difficult time for many birds and mammals so putting food out can really help wildlife through to spring

Apply organic fertilisers – a slow release of nutrients is perfect for moving between winter and the warmer days to come. Applying a good quality organic fertiliser around plants in February will help retain moisture and add nutrition for better growth come spring.

Plants

dahlias

Plant bare-root – the dormant season of trees runs from around November to march so bare roots can be planted at any point in this period. Bear in mind that the further into this period you plant the less time the plant has to develop strong roots before its efforts go into the growth above the soil. 

Prune overgrown hedges – Now is an excellent time to heavily prune your overgrown hedges. This will keep them healthy and help maintain a more pleasing shape.   

Plant Dahlia tubers – Dahlias bring some excitement to February gardening with their beautiful variety. Start planting Dahlias that can provide good cuttings to be potted up come summer. Place them in a tray of soil in good light and spray occasionally with water to encourage the buds to grow.  

Snowdrops – a quintessential symbol of springs arrival, snowdrops can be planted now to bloom in their beautiful white bells in early spring

snowdrops

Produce

Plant shallots – the perfect time to plant shallots in preparation for spring and summer. Plant in rows with plenty of organic fertilizer. 

Sow peaspeas can be sown in a piece of plastic guttering with drainage holes drilled into the base. Keeping them warm will assist germination. Once they begin to sprout they can be transferred to a trench in your garden and covered with a cloche for protection from frost. 

Mulch fruit trees – this is a great way to prevent weeds from sprouting around your trees and also to retain moisture in the roots of the tree. This will help cut down the amount of watering you’ll need to give the tree come summer.  

Greenhouse

Heat your greenhouse – there’s still plenty of time for frost and snow so a keyFebruary gardening job would be to keep your greenhouse heated with an electric or gas heater will help maintain a steady temperature.

Start a citrus tree – with a greenhouse heater providing the warmth you could start your own lemon tree. Cut open a lemon and remove the seeds, plant several of these in a pot about a 1cm deep, place in a warm spot and water well. Once seedlings begin to emerge pot them up and keep them warm. 

Grow peppers – you can also take advantage of the steady warm temperature in a greenhouse to grow your own peppers. These can be transplanted outside when warm weather returns or kept inside the greenhouse.

Animals

february garden

Feed birds – this is a difficult time of year for birds when natural sources fo food are depleted. Help out the birds in your garden by providing a variety of foods or putting out food that’s specific to the diet for the birds you see. 

Food for squirrels – squirrels will be having their first litters of kits. Parents will need more food to help sustain them as they wean their babies until 6 weeks when the baby can move onto solid foods.  

Prep for a wildflower meadow – now is a great time to prepare your soil for some wildflower planting. Break down large clumps of soil, rake over and cover with mulch.  

Install a pond – a garden pond is one of the best ways to help garden wildlife and now is an excellent time to start a pond. You may get the years first frog spawn and you can support toads coming out of hibernation. 

 

Scott at PrimroseScott 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.

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.