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, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Herbs, How To, Planting, Plants, Promotions

Herbs In Pot

“Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.” 

– Charlemagne.

For years we’ve known herbs add wonderful depth to our dishes and perform miracles for our health. So with the cold weather now on its way, follow these essential indoor herb growing tricks to ensure your kitchen brims with luscious and rich herbs this autumn.

Engulf them with sunlight

Herbs On Windowsill

Whilst they can look superb perched up in the nooks of your kitchen, the key to herb growing is light. Herbs want lots of it. You want to provide your herbs with at least 6 hours of sunlight – so place them close to a window. Preferably an east facing window, as this will bathe them in a healthy dose of morning light daily, weather permitting!

Basil really loves sunlight. But for winter time or a more shaded location, you’ll find parsley will become your friend.

Regular, consistent water

Watering Can

When you grow herbs indoors you must remember Mother Nature can no longer give her helping hand – water sources such as rain and morning dew are no longer accessible to your plants. This means you must be extra vigilant to provide regular water. Make sure the soil of your herb garden is always damp.

Always water the soil and roots of your herbs, not the top of the plant where water can quickly evaporate in the warmth of your home. This way the soil will retain much more moisture.

Container advice

Indoor Herb Growing Planter

Herbs will be pretty happy in most containers, providing they have plenty of soil per herb. Herbs suck your soil dry of water fast, so the more soil, the more moisture they will have access to. Especially if you are anything like me and forget to water now and again, an indoor windowsill herb garden planter will hold plenty of soil and retain lots of moisture. This means the herbs will be much more forgiving!

Food for food

Herbs On Chopping Board

Should you be feeding your herbs? Absolutely. As you’ll eventually be using these herbs for consumption we suggest you pick a chemical free fertiliser and apply lightly to your herbs every two weeks. You should avoid over fertilising – this can prevent the creation of the herb’s essential oils, reducing their flavour – and who wants to eat bland herbs?

Whatever level you are, there’s a home-grown herb out there for you

For beginners we suggest buying baby herb plants so you don’t have to worry about the germination process. Oregano is incredibly forgiving and grows well even in poor soil. Other herbs we recommend are parsley, mint, chives & thyme.

If you’ve grown herbs before, try growing annual herbs from seed. Leafier herbs will germinate fairly fast so look out for basil, coriander & dill.

If you consider yourself a herb connoisseur, we suggest bulking out your indoor garden with some more exotic and unusual plants. You can grow the quite adaptable Stevia from cuttings or a small plant – now used quite commonly as a natural alternative to refined sugar.

It’s ‘thyme’ to get growing!

Feeling inspired? Check out National Garden Gift Vouchers who are currently running a Herb Garden Competition to help promote growing year-round goodness. They are giving away 25 herb garden packs brimming with thyme, sage, mint, coriander and basil until the end of December 2015.

Find out more on their website: competition.thevouchergarden.co.uk.

Tony StaceyTony Stacey is Marketing Manager at the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), the organisation who administer the National Garden Gift Voucher Scheme. HTA are the leading trade association representing the UK garden industry. Tony is incredibly passionate about promoting gardening campaigns to children and non-gardeners to get the nation more green fingered and inspired to grow their own food.

Cat, Flowers, Gardening

We are happy to say that we have just gotten some lovely pictures from the Addiction Recovery Agency of some the flowers that have been grown in the courtyard.

You might remember last month that the counsellors and participants worked together to plant up pots and beautify the courtyard, and here are the finished results!

Some of the flowers they planted include Geraniums, planted in a terracotta fibrecotta trough planter, and Lobelia, planted in one of our black fibreglass planters.

Members of the ARA, who are recovering from various addictions, were encouraged to transform the courtyard into a relaxing space where people could enjoy growing and admiring a variety of plants and flowers. Primrose gave a helping hand to ARA by donating some planters to assist in enhancing the courtyard.

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.