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, 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, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, How To, Megan, Planting, Plants, Vegetables

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Proteins

Vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise, with stats showing a massive 360% increase in 10 years. Even reducetarianism is a thing now. Cutting or reducing meat in your diet doesn’t mean your food will be boring – it’ll just be more rainbow! As Primrose’s resident vegan, I have decided to address the age-old question ‘where do you get your protein from?’ by compiling a list of plant based proteins and how to grow them. In no time, your garden will be flourishing with nutrient rich rainbow veggies that would be a welcome addition to any plate.

Green Peas

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - green peas

Green peas are a great source of plant based protein, with 5g of protein per 100g. Peas also contain many essential vitamins and minerals and a good amount of fibre. If choosing the meteor variety of peas, sow in November and the peas will be ready to harvest between May and July. We suggest sowing the seeds in old guttering and drilling holes at regular intervals for drainage. Store in a cold frame or in your greenhouse to protect the seedlings from pests. After the seedlings are well established, they can be transferred into your garden. The use of cloches would be beneficial for growth here. When harvesting, be sure to pick regularly for ultimate freshness.

Quinoa

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - red quinoa

Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wah’, is an ancient grain that is packed full of protein, 13g per 100g to be precise. It contains all nine essential amino acids making it a complete plant based protein. As exotic as it sounds it is actually relatively easy to grow quinoa in the UK. The best time to sow quinoa is in April, and you should be able to enjoy your quinoa from early autumn. Early growth can look a lot like weeds so ensure you mark your plants carefully to prevent treating them like weeds by accident. Harvesting is the trickiest part – remove the seed heads when the leaves start to turn yellow and leave them to dry for a couple of weeks. To remove the seeds, rub the seed heads with your hands. Ensure you rinse quinoa well before cooking, as un-rinsed quinoa tends to be quite bitter.

Pumpkins

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween – the seeds inside are packed full of nutrients and have a mighty 19g protein per 100g, making them a great plant based protein. They are also very high in magnesium and omega 3. Pumpkin plants take up a lot of ground; each plant requires around 3 foot of ground around it, making a single plot more than 6 foot each side. Sow seeds directly into the ground from late May to early June. Use mulch coupled with tomato food to feed your pumpkins, ensuring you water the seedlings regularly in order to keep them in optimum health. It is important not to harvest too early, so ensure the skin is tough and the stems have started to crack before picking. You can use the pumpkin to make a hearty soup and the seeds as a healthy on-the-go plant based snack.

Broad Beans

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - broad beans

Broad beans contain around 6g of protein per 100g and are high in vitamin K, vitamin B6 and zinc. The best time to sow them is between February and April. If sowing earlier, ensure you put cloches in place to warm the soil ahead of time. Alternatively you can sow them in small pots in the greenhouse where it is easier to protect them from pests. Broad bean plants tend to flop which can cause the stems to bend and break so help keep them upright by investing in some cane and string. To keep your broad beans as fresh as possible, store them in the freezer or dry them out.

Broccoli

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - broccoli

Broccoli is a very nutritionally-rich food, boasting a variety of vitamins and minerals and 2.8g of protein per 100g. This plant based protein is part of the cabbage family and there are lots of varieties including sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower. Sow broccoli seeds from late March to early June. It is preferable to sow in a seedling tray and place in a greenhouse, poly tunnel or cold frame. After the seeds have germinated let them acclimatise to outdoor temperatures by using cloches or storing in a mini greenhouse. The amount of space you give each seedling in your plot will determine how large the broccoli head will grow. Ensure you harvest the broccoli before it turn yellow, as by then the florets are starting to bloom.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Allotment, Dakota Murphey, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting

Growing your own food is not only the obvious answer to lowering food miles and a cheap way to produce tasty fruit and vegetables for your own kitchen, it’s also a growing (!) hobby for many people. In fact, having raised beds in your garden or taking on an allotment on the edge of town can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

Vegetable gardening
We’ve come up with 7 compelling benefit of growing your own – and no doubt you can probably add a few more of your own.

1. Improve your mental and physical health

According to the National Allotment Society (NAS), ½ hour’s allotment gardening burns around 150 calories. That’s about the same as low impact aerobics, but with the added benefits of fresh air and working with the land.

What’s more, a vegetable patch or allotment can be your haven, somewhere to escape to from the hassles of everyday life. Just spending a few hours pottering around in the garden is a great natural stress reliever.

2. Discover the community spirit

Whether you have an allotment or a few vegetable beds at home, you’re not alone! There’s a whole movement of people discovering the joys of Grow Your Own. Why not get to know your fellow gardeners, meet up at Seed and Plant Swaps, share your interests and trade handy tips and tricks – and make new friends.

Vegetable gardeners are a friendly folk, always willing to give advice to newcomers, which is invaluable for learning the ropes.

Vegetables from the garden

3. Learn something new

Learning about the different varieties of fruit and veg and how to grow them in your soil is a process that never ceases to be exciting. Read around the subject, share any problems with the rest of the gardening fraternity and ask the old guard for gardening advice, then use trial and error to see what you can achieve.

If you can involve your children or grandchildren and pass on your skills and enthusiasm for allotment gardening to them, so much the better. It’s a great way to help children understand where food comes from.

4. Reap bountiful rewards

There’s a huge sense of personal achievement in growing a fruit or vegetable from seed in your garden or allotment, knowing exactly where it’s come from, how it’s grown and what it’s been treated with.

But surely the real beauty of growing your own is that the fruits of your labour are tangible – and you can eat them! There can’t be many more directly rewarding activities than harvesting your home grown veg, then create and serve up delicious dishes in your kitchen.

Home growing

5. Wow your taste buds

It is a (sadly surprising) fact that most of us only come to realise how delicious fresh fruit and veg can taste when we compare our home grown produce with mass produced supermarket foods. Once you’ve tasted the difference, there’s no going back.

Harvested fresh from the ground, potatoes and carrots taste more earthy, tomatoes plucked straight from the vine have a richer flavour, while sweetcorn cooked straight after picking tastes incredibly sweet.

6. Save money

Not only are home grown fruit and veg much tastier than their shop bought equivalents, they’re better quality and cheaper too. With some careful planning and regular gardening exercise (which will make your gym membership redundant), you can feed the whole family with fresh produce for most of the year.

Also, rather than hunting down unusual ingredients in the supermarkets and pay through the nose for them, why not grow new and different varieties yourself? For the price of a packet of seeds (try Seed Parade), you can try delicious Japanese radishes or Chinese artichokes, Red Russian Kale or Purple French Beans or any of thousands of other fabulous varieties out there.

Home grown produce

7. Help the environment

According to the NAS, even 1 square metre of land is enough to support hundreds of different wildlife species. Your ‘grow your own’ efforts will help to create the right habitat for bees and other wildlife to thrive, without which our ecosystem will deteriorate, crop yields will decrease and our planet will suffer as a result.

If you have the space, why not incorporate a wildflower meadow into your garden, add a pond, a beehive or a chicken coop?

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.