Growing vegetables: Organic gardening for beginners
Growing vegetables for your own consumption is a very therapeutic and satisfying activity.
There’s something special about planting and caring for the plants that will feed and nourish your friends or family.
Many people prefer the thought of organic gardening; which, quite simply, is just gardening without using chemicals. It isn’t difficult to get started, so we have put together a brief guide.
Choosing a plot
If you are really serious about growing your vegetables, you can look at applying for an allotment, but the waiting period for this can be very long.
If you are lucky enough to obtain an allotment, The National Allotment Society has produced a great guide on how to plan it out.
In the meantime, why not find a section of your garden in which to grow vegetables?
Make sure that your garden vegetable patch gets sun during the day, has good drainage and is easy to access.
It should also be free from weeds and a healthy distance from dense plants, as slugs and snails tend to hide in them.
Soil, manure and compost
Most garden soil in the South West is suitable for growing vegetables, but it could still benefit from a dose of well-rotted manure or compost to improve the nutrient content and prepare it for growing.
Making your own compost is advisable if you hope to maintain your patch without hauling bags of compost from the local garden centre every month.
A compost bin works well, but a tumbler is even better, as it allows you to rotate the compost without exposing it and cooling it down. Gardening retailer Mantis has a compost making guide that will help you get started.
Compost is especially important if you have soil with a high clay content. The chance of having clay soil depends on your area.
You can remedy clay soil by adding compost or manure and digging it in deep, which will improve the tilth.
You will need to top up with organic material several times during the season to improve your soil over the long term.
The Royal Horticultural Society has a great article all about how different soil types behave and how to work with them.
Tip: While your soil is improving over time, try planting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, squashes and pumpkins. Later in the year, plant corn. These plants will do well in clay soil due to its ability to retain moisture.
If you want to be creative, you can build raised beds using wood or brick and create colour-coordinated vegetable patches.
Raised beds are a lot less stressful on your back and can look neater than a traditional bed. There are lots of unusual, colourful vegetables, such as Romanesco broccoli, ornamental cabbages or summer purple broccoli.
Sooner or later, you have to get planting. Some seeds can be planted straight into the ground and some will need to be started off indoors in a propagator before being ‘hardened off’ in their final position on your vegetable plot.
Most good seed packets will give you all the information you need regarding when and where to plant, so careful organisation will allow you to harvest crops all year round.
When choosing what you are going to grow, choose vegetables that all the family will enjoy. There’s no point in growing tonnes of beetroot if no one in the family is a fan. Make a list of everybody’s favourite veg and try to grow the common denominators.
Tip: Some easy vegetables to grow quickly include: radishes, tomatoes, peppers, beans, salad veg such as lettuce and spring onions, carrots and beetroot. Seeing a quick return is encouraging and will motivate you to get some more seeds in the ground.
Organic gardening is easy, in a sense, as you do not need to learn about which chemicals to add to your garden. Maintaining any garden takes hard work, but a beautiful harvest of your own, home-grown vegetables is more than worth the effort.