Category Archives: Spring

11 Beginners Tips on How to Grow Your Own Vegetables

Growing your own vegetables might seem complicated but actually by following these easy steps you will be amazed what you can achieve with a bit of time, effort and patience.

1. FIND THE RIGHT SPOT
Have a good look around your garden and pick the best area to start growing. Some vegetables need full sun and some prefer semi shade (which still means sun for at least 50% of the day). You can even use large pots if you don’t have much garden space.

2. WHAT KIT DO I NEED?
You don’t need anything fancy. A trowel, hand fork, hoe and garden fork should be enough. Also a watering can or hose for watering.

Juicy tomatoes

home grown tomatoes are delicious

3. CHOSE WHICH VEGETABLES YOU WANT TO GROW
There is such a variety that you are best to focus on the vegetables that tend to be expensive in the shops (tomatoes) or that go off quickly (lettuce and herbs being prime examples). Of course, choose the ones that you love the most. We’ve listed some below that are our favourites and easiest to grow.

4. SEEDS OR PLUG PLANTS?
You can either grow plants from seed or buy ready established plug plants. Both can be bought from the garden centre or online.
• Seeds are cheaper but you will need to start earlier – from January onwards if starting them off on a sunny windowsill indoors or April onwards if you’re sowing directly into the soil outside. If starting them on a windowsill then they should be ready to transfer to outside after a month, although you will need to acclimatise them to the outdoors by putting them in the garden during the day (and bringing them in a night) for the week before you plant them outside.
• Plug plants are easier (but more expensive) and you can plant them directly outside from May onwards.

5. PREPARE THE VEG BED
• Dig over the area and remove any weeds and large stones.
• While you’re digging break up the soil so it is fine – there should be no big lumps in it. If you’re finding it difficult to break it up, then it could be that it is either too cold or too wet so you will need to wait until the weather improves.
• Now add some peat free compost (about 3cm all over) and lightly dig it in.
• If you’ve planting seeds, then once you’ve prepared the soil make a shallow trough in the soil with either your finger or a stick. It should be about 1cm deep. Sprinkle the seeds sparingly into the trough and gently cover the seeds with soil. Water gently.
• If you’re planting plug plants, then dig holes slightly bigger than the plug. Look at the instructions on the plant label for how far apart to space them – every plant is different. Backfill the soil and gently press around the plant to make secure. Water thoroughly.
• Don’t forget to label your plants/seeds.

6. DECIDE ON WHAT TO GROW      There’s such a huge variety to choose from but here are a few suggestions:
• Carrots, lettuce, French beans, spring onions, spinach, broccoli, beetroot, herbs and radishes – these can all be grown either from seed or bought as plug plants
• Tomatoes and courgettes – be sure to choose blight resistant varieties if growing tomatoes outdoors. Start them off on a sunny windowsill indoors in March and then transfer to outdoors when they have 2 pairs of leaves which should be approximately one month after sowing.
• Basil and chives – an easy hack for theses herbs is to buy the fresh herb pots from the supermarket. Make sure the soil is moist so they are easy to split into smaller plugs and then plant directly in the garden.

beginners tips on how to grow vegetables

water vegetables frequently for best results

7. WATERING
it’s really important that you water the seedlings and plants every day. The best time to water is early in the morning as this discourages the slugs and snails and avoids leaf scorch (when the sun shines onto water droplets on the leaves). Remember to only water the seedlings gently as you don’t want to wash them away. Once they establish into plants if you keep them well watered you will definitely see the benefit.

8. SLUGS AND SNAILS
The enemy of the vegetable grower! Best time to catch these critters is after dusk so go out at this time every day and pick them off.

9. NOT GOT THE SPACE?
Not got the space for a dedicated veg bed? Then just plant in between the plants you’ve already got in existing flower beds. Or buy some peat free compost, cut holes in the bag and plant directly into it.

10. DON’T HAVE A GARDEN?
Then consider a window box. Lettuce and herbs grow really well in window boxes.

11. WHEN CAN I EAT THE VEG?
Harvest times will vary depending on the plant and the weather so refer to the seed packet/plant label instructions

I hope you’ve found this helpful and you go on to discover the joy (and bragging rights!) of growing and eating your own vegetables.

If you would like help designing and building your own vegetable garden then have a look at how we can help you here

Good luck and happy growing.
Brett

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE RHS SHOWS

It’s beginning – the buzz, the build up …  not the General Election but something of far more interest to gardeners – The RHS Flower Shows.

Although most media coverage is centered on the RHS Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court Flower Shows, there are a range of RHS Shows all over the country that start in February and finish late October.

Show garden at Hampton Court flower show 2014

Show garden at Hampton Court flower show 2014

These are my top tips on how to the make the most of the RHS Shows

  1. Consider all the RHS Shows 

Because of the difference in locations and season – each RHS Show has its own distinct character and thus each one is well worth visiting.  Don’t be disheartened if you missed out on Chelsea this year – I guarantee that you will enjoy and learn just as much ambling around the (often muddy but somehow more “real”) RHS Malvern Autumn Show.

  1. Package them up with other attractions 

Location may seem off-putting – but the advantage about the RHS Shows is that they are held at the same location and (more or less) run on the same dates every year – so it is possible to plan in advance.  For example, if you live miles away from Woking, the trip to the RHS Wisley Flower Show may seem excessive.  But surely it is worth the expense of an over night stay when you have the beautiful garden of William Robinson’s Gravetye Manor only 49 minutes away, with also Sissinghurst and Great Dixter less than an hour and a half away?  That surely must be the gardener’s dream horticultural excursion!

  1. Research 

Your first trip should be to the RHS website.  This lists all the facilities of each RHS Show, will preview the Show Gardens, will list all the exhibitors and will often include a history, interesting facts, photos – in fact you can even pre-buy souvenirs to save queuing on the day.

Show garden at Chelsea 2006

Show garden at Chelsea 2006

  1. Useful Things to Take
  • For some reason it is always cold at an RHS Show – so take an extra layer of clothing and thermal socks.  I went to RHS Chelsea in 2013 and although the weather was glorious, my feet were numb by the end of it.
  • A thermos flask is a great idea to save queuing.  I wouldn’t recommend lugging around an entire picnic but definitely a small thermos flask (which can be refilled).
  • A fully charged mobile phone is invaluable.  I take literally hundreds of photos of plant combinations that I like.  I also take notes on my phone of plant names, nurseries and suppliers – saves the bulk of a camera and notebook and pencil.
  • Binoculars – a small pair are really useful for scrutinizing details

    The crowd in front of our 2012 show garden

    The crowd in front of our 2012 show garden

  1. Talk

Gardeners belong to one of the greatest fraternities on the planet.  We are all in it together – the battle against slugs, the ravages of drought, and the joy of a newly opened peony.  The camaraderie of the punters at the RHS Shows is amazing.  Everyone stands back for one another for photos, there is a silent law about how long one can stand in the front row of a Show Garden, we all want to spot a Gardener’s World presenter, and we disdain the selfie-taker.  So it’s easy to talk.  I learnt more about Antirrhinums talking to a little old lady of eighty in the Floral Marquee than from any book.

If a designer seems approachable, then talk to him or her.  They love hearing feedback and answering questions about their concept.  Obviously don’t ask them about which clematis would they recommend for your garden shed or how do they feel about not getting a Gold Medal, but ask about why they chose certain cultivars, or what inspired their planting combinations.  When I designed my RHS garden for BBC Gardener’s World Live, I loved hearing peoples’ opinions and answering questions.

  1. Know what you want out of it 

Do you want inspiration for a shady corner?  Do you want to know what to plant as a foil for your alliums?  Are you contemplating a pond?  Or do you want to drift around and simply be dazzled and inspired? To get the best of an RHS Show it is very useful to clarify your own gardening objectives beforehand. I always want to see the new plants that are being revealed.

  1. Doom or Bloom?

When I talk to people at the end of an RHS Show I tend to see one of two reactions – either

“OMG I’m such a rubbish gardener.  I’ve just realized how awful I am.”

Or

“OMG I can’t wait to get home and put that combination of the fern, the hosta and the purple thingy together, under that evergreen clematis I saw.”

The most important way of making the most of an RHS Show is to let it inspire you.  Let it excite and motivate you.  For that reason I can’t wait to visit one.  And urge you to do so too.

Bye for now – Brett

P.s. My earlier blog – “Eco-gardens – The Future is Green” talked about greening up front gardens and driveways.  I’m delighted to see that the RHS has launched its 3 year “Greening Grey Britain” Campaign.  Go to www.rhs.org.uk/greeninggreybritain for more information and ideas.

Gardening with New Resolutions

January is the month of OPPORTUNITIES – the time to plan for the year ahead and to take stock. Without the visual impact of the plants, you can see the garden infrastructure, warts and all. So now is a good time to check:

  • sheds – roof, floor and window frames.
  • fences – wobbly posts or panels, will they withstand strong winds?
  • decking – once it goes it rots quickly.
  • trellises – I have one kept up by a clematis and climbing rose.   One day its going to come down and damage them both, and I’ll kick myself.
  • frost damage to pots, brickwork and paths – can this be prevented?
  • slippery patios and decking – they may need to be jet washed or cleaned with an algae removing liquid and then sealed.

Now plants have died down it is a great time to get in amongst the beds to make necessary repairs. But consider REPLACING instead of repairing. For example

  • can the decking be replaced by a new bed or ornamental stone slabs?
  • instead of repairing the fence how about trellising and planting evergreen climbers or an ornamental bamboo?
  • can the shed be replaced by a potting shed that gives you more than just storage?

January is the best month for being imaginative. Walk around the garden on a bright sunny morning with a cup of tea and take stock. Appraise from different angles and search for new opportunities. Simple touches can be made – for example:

  • new paths
  • re-shaping the lawn
  • adding an arch or pergola
  • raising a bed
  • adding outdoor lighting
  • framing and screening areas to divide the garden into spaces
  • even adding a hammock or a barbeque wall – summer will be here one day…

As gardeners we look at new opportunities for planting all the time. We go through seed catalogues looking at new vegetables and buy new variations and cultivars of flowers. Just as we are inventive and creative with our planting, so we should be with the garden.

January is the perfect time to cast a critical and also imaginative eye over our beloved outdoor space and to ask if we are making the most of it. Can we not do that little bit better this year for our garden? I think the answer is yes, and on that note, I’m off to find the drill to fix the wonky trellis.

BYE FOR NOW

Brett

Look out for my next posting on 5th February – ECO GARDENS ARE THE FUTURE