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.

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.

Gardening, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Scott, Vegetables

Greenhouse Gardening

Greenhouses help us in creating stable conditions for nurturing and growing a wide variety of plants. During the colder parts of the year, greenhouses allow us to store, prepare and grow so we can extend the success of our gardens throughout the whole year. Below are just a few greenhouse gardening ideas that you can make use of throughout the changing seasons. 

Autumn

Autumn

Maintenance

The perfect time to prep your greenhouse for the cold months ahead. Some essential maintenance will put you in good stead for keeping everything functioning at its best:

  1. Clean the glass to make sure you’re getting the maximum levels of light in.
  2. Check for cracks in the glass and seal appropriately to keep insulation efficient. 
  3. Organise your inside space making sure everything is tidy and easily accessible.

Grow Your Own

Though the warmer months present the height of the growing season for vegetables, greenhouse gardening means there’s no reason to stop growing produce through the winter.  Some ideas for planting are:

  1. Potting potatoes to harvest for Christmas.
  2. Potting up hardy herbs like chives, parsley and mint to continue growth through the winter.
  3. Sowing spinach, rocket, kale and pak choi seeds in trays before transferring seedlings to larger containers for use in winter salads.
  4. Sowing brassicas like cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts that can be enjoyed later in the year.

Planting

The colder months can be an ideal time to get a head start on your plans for next spring too:

  1. Lots of perennials can be kept in the greenhouse over winter to keep them alive until the return of warm weather. Fuschias, Pelargoniums and Dahlias are ideal for bringing inside or taking cuttings from which to propagate.

Winter

Winter

Temperature

As we head into the coldest part of the year, temperature control can be your biggest challenge to greenhouse gardening:

  1. At the start of the season, you should monitor the temperature and consider opening the greenhouse door on warmer days to keep everything ventilated.
  2. As the temperature drops, covering your greenhouse glass with large bubble wrap is a cost-effective way of providing extra insulation.
  3. You may want to consider getting a greenhouse heater. Both electric and gas heaters can be purchased depending on your set up and both will permit more accurate and consistent temperature control.

Grow Your Own

Making use of a greenhouse heater and the consistent temperature it provides makes it ideal for planting in preparation for spring:

  1. With a stable warm temperature, you can start growing peppers in the greenhouse. These can be transplanted outside when warm weather returns or kept inside the warm greenhouse. 
  2. Peas, squash, cucumber, courgettes and aubergines can all be started in late winter in preparation for planting in the spring. Getting a head start now will set you up well for success later.
  3. Towards the end of winter, you can begin planting seeds for spring and summer flower beds. The seedlings can be incubated before being transplanted outside in warmer weather.

Frost Protection

Now is also the time when our greenhouse can act as a refuge for tender plants in the garden:

  1. Potted plants can be moved into the greenhouse to avoid damage from changing temperatures and frost. Consider some greenhouse staging to organise your pot storage.
  2. Move tropical specimens into the greenhouse perhaps with an insulating layer of fleece and straw. 
  3. Your perennials can be kept in the greenhouse ready for spring. 
  4. Remember to water sparingly at this time and according to each plant’s separate needs.

Spring

Spring

Freshening Up

As we move into spring and the warm weather starts to return we can begin moving things out of the greenhouse back into the garden:

  1. With the warm weather returning you can give the glass another good clean to remove the marks left by winter and maximise the amount of light getting through.
  2. With changing temperatures, it may be good practise to heat your greenhouse at night and ventilate it during the day at the start of spring.
  3. Setting up a water source like water buts or a connected hosepipe will make greenhouse gardening much easier when you start watering more regularly.
  4. The arrival of spring can also mean the emergence of pests so keep an eye out and rid accordingly with sprays.

Grow Your Own

Now is an ideal time to begin planting your summer vegetables:

  1. Courgettes, cucumbers, squashes and sweetcorn are ideal for planting in the greenhouse ready for transplanting to the outside when the summer warms the garden properly. 
  2. Plant tomato saplings in grow bags so they can establish through summer when the greenhouse doesn’t require additional heating.

Back Outside

When the warm weather makes itself felt across your garden you can start moving overwintered plants back outside. Bear in mind that your plants that are cultivated inside will need a period of “hardening off” with increased ventilation and cooler temperatures before being moved outside fully.

  1. Perennial cuttings can be transported to pots or flower beds perhaps with the protection of a cloche until the warm weather fully returns. 
  2. Tender potted plants can be moved back outside, though you may remove any fleece insulation at a later stage in spring or summer. 
  3. Towards the end of spring, you can plant more seeds to transplant during summer such as marigolds. 

Summer

Summer

Sun Protection

With the warmest part of the year now in full swing you can make full use of all that light and energy coming into your greenhouse: 

  1. You may need to add netting or some light shade to prevent overheating or scorching during higher temperatures.
  2. Make sure you have enough ventilation, keeping vents and doors open on warm days and some nights if occasion requires it.
  3. Dampening the floors and staging each day can help add humidity to the greenhouse on warmer days. 

See What Grows

Greenhouse gardening means having a lot more control over the immediate environment. Have fun and experiment with some other plants:

  1. Harden off your summer bedding blooms to clear room in the greenhouse for other plants.
  2. You can make use of the hottest part of the year by growing some different plants; maybe try propagating some house plants for inside the home like crassulas or sansevierias.
  3. Feed and water your plants regularly to make full use of the peak growing season. 
  4. Take cuttings from perennials like fuschias and pelargoniums.

Harvest

This is also a great time of year for harvesting your well-earnt produce! 

  1. Tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies can be picked regularly to encourage further growth. 
  2. Plants moved outdoors for the summer should begin to reach full maturity towards the end of summer and can be incorporated into your summer meals. 
  3. There is still time through summer to plant crops that have a fast yield such as carrots, beetroot, beans, spinach and kale.

Follow us on Instagram and tag us in a photo of your greenhouse. We love to see great gardeners in action and we may even feature your photos on the Primrose feed. 

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.

Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Lotti, Sustainable Living, Vegetables

gardening in ww2

In WW2 Britain, times had never felt so tough. With the scream of German bombers wheeling ahead and the continued destruction of homes, businesses and lives, it was clear that the war had reached Britain’s shores. The people were afraid – and hungry: just years before, 75% of Britain’s food had been imported by ship, but the German blockade meant that these food imports had been halved by millions of tonnes.

Rationing came in small increments – first bacon, butter and sugar then meat, tea, biscuits, cereals. By August 1942 all food was being rationed apart from vegetables and bread, which were in incredibly short supply. In some places, even domestic fruit like apples were restricted to one per person, and it wasn’t unheard of for grocers to only sell oranges to children and pregnant women.

Then, in 1939, Agricultural Minister Professor John Raeburn set up the Dig For Victory campaign. Men, women and children across the country were encouraged to grow their own produce in a bid for self-sufficiency and to ensure that all families had enough food to go around. The campaign was a famous success and across the country people took to their gardens to fill the gap that was left by strict rationing.

dig for victory poster
A Popular Dig For Victory Poster

The effect the campaign had on the common allotment was electric. In 1939, when Raeburn first set up the programme, there were 815,000 allotments across the UK. By 1943, there were around 1,400,000. Gardens across the country were transformed, flower beds replaced by vegetable plots, petunias swapped for potatoes. People were even encouraged to grow their own food on top of Anderson Shelters – the corrugated steel structures designed to withstand the impact of bombs.

It wasn’t just fruit and vegetables that started to fill residential streets: people were encouraged to raise animals too – pigs were particularly popular as they could be fed with table scraps, and chickens and rabbits reproduced quickly and provided families with meat during rationing and shortages. Keeping chickens was especially encouraged by the government, and you could exchange your egg ration for chicken feed – a good trade off for chickens laying eggs virtually all year round.

The well-stocked and dug-up garden became a symbol of British resilience. Known as Victory Gardens, they were a way for those at home to feel like they were part of the war efforts. Soon, it wasn’t just home and family gardens that were dug up for produce: almost every available green space was transformed into one of these Victory Gardens. Grassy verges on the sides of roads, playing fields and cricket greens were replaced with rows of vegetables. Bombed out playgrounds were ripped up and replaced with allotments, homes that had been turned into rubble were transformed into vegetable patches. Even the moat around the Tower of London was filled with vegetables. There were demonstration patches in London Zoo, pig clubs were set up around the country and national gardening societies and competitions shut down to encourage members and contestants to turn to growing food, not flowers.

allotment crater
A mini-allotment in bomb crater in Westminster

From the smallest children to the elderly, everyone was out with their spades. Tending to fruit and vegetable patches became a part of the school day as children worked in what used to be their playgrounds. In Scotland, children volunteered picking potatoes and were encouraged to make it part of their schooling, getting teachers involved and requesting trips to local farms where they could help gather the harvest. Many people were keen to do their bit, and hundreds of young people headed to Harvest Camps where you could volunteer for a week or more working outside harvesting vegetables or flax. The work was hard going and while those attending these camps did often receive pay (1/6d per hour) no one who attended them was there to make money.

Raeburn himself said it best – “We want not only the big man with the plough but also the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn. The matter is not one that can wait. So let’s get going. Let ‘Dig for Victory’ be the motto of everyone with a garden and of every able-bodied man and woman capable of digging an allotment in their spare time.” Propaganda at the time showed a kind of duality – it aligned the British people who were putting so much effort into growing their own food with those fighting on the front line while also reminding them that they weren’t gardening because they had to but because gardening was a pleasurable and relaxing experience. Gardening wasn’t just necessary – it was fashionable.

In fact, Dig To Victory led to one of Britain’s first true gardening celebrities – Cecil Henry Middleton (popularly known as just “Mr Middleton”). Mr Middleton hosted a Sunday afternoon radio show on the BBC Home Service where he guided listeners on how to best tend their garden. By 1940, Mr Middleton had 3.5 million listeners and around 70% of people with wirelesses tuned into his show every Sunday.

To make the campaign even more appealing, two mascots were introduced – Dr. Carrot and Potato Pete. Potatoes and especially carrots were easy to grow almost anywhere, and were the vegetables which were in most plentiful supply. The characters featured heavily in posters and even had their own songs to get children and families interested. They were in surplus supply, so it looked likely that the populace would soon get sick of eating them: the government had to make sure that didn’t happen. Carrots especially were praised for their versatility – not only were they a staple vegetable, they were also sweet, so were turned into jams, spreads and even drinks. Praised for their nutritional benefits, a hugely successful propaganda campaign told families that carrots helped you see in the dark, and that the British pilot’s victories over the german Luftwaffe was thanks to their improved eyesight from eating so many. This was, of course, a myth: but one that still lives on today.

potato pete
Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot

After the war ended, allotments began to drift back out of fashion. With supply-lines reopening, growing your own food was no longer a necessity – soon, gardens that had once been full of chickens and potatoes had turned back to lawns and flowerbeds. Land which had been transformed into vegetable patches was used for building houses. The post-war climate was very different: the television saw a massive boom in popularity and how people chose to use their leisure time changed. Gardening was popular but the allotment started to seem old-fashioned and, dare I say it: uncool. By the late 50s, allotment funding was withdrawn.

After a long period of disinterest in the grow your own movement, the trend appears to be slipping back in. A 2011 survey of around two thousand people showed that one in six adults had started to grow their own food, and half saying that they would consider doing so if food prices continue to rise. On the whole, however, gardens still seem to be dominated by immaculate lawns, flower beds and the odd trampoline. With the threat of increased food prices on the horizon and the need for more sustainable living practices, perhaps it’s time we took a leaf out of our great-grandparents’ books and returned to the spade to dig for victory once more.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.