How To Grow Vegetables In Your Garden, Without Losing Other Uses of the Space
For 3 years I had an allotment and it was amazing for both my mental and physical health.
Since moving house I had to sadly give up the plot and within months I noticed a huge decline in my mental health.
I no longer had my sanctuary to escape to that was just me and nature. While it can be physically tough to have an allotment, it’s also relaxing and stress-reducing in so many ways.
Gardening literally calms the body and can help depression. Researchers have found a bacterium in soil that activates neurons when we touch it that stimulate serotonin production. This chemical helps us feel happier and reduces depression, and anti-depressants try to simulate it.
My new home has a medium-sized, sloped garden which has a mixture of decking, paving and grass. I miss my plot so decided to create a veg garden. Allotment plots are usually big and require lots of maintenance, so I created a smaller version of my old plot.
I didn’t want the garden to be only be a veg plot, as I wanted a garden to enjoy too. I wanted to keep the large, central grassy area of the garden for my son and dog to play on. This left me with the edges of the garden, decking and patio area to plant fruit and veg.
Unfortunately, the previous owner seemed to replace parts of the grass with a different variety to what was already there. I think it’s a mixture of wild grass and lawn, so it grows in bizarre patches. The wild grass has much bigger weeds so when it grows the entire lawn looks misshapen.
I’m thinking about stripping it all and replacing it with a better-quality lawn, or even AstroTurf which won’t require mowing! I may enjoy growing veg, but I cannot stand lawn mowing. It can flare up my sciatica so artificial grass would just need hosing down occasionally.
How To Grow Veg
It’s all about the reading and planning initially. What do you want to grow? List them down and then Google how to grow each one. You will find many websites selling the seeds and explaining how to grow them. Some plants like shade, others direct sun. Some want feeding, like tomatoes once they begin to form, while others like liquid seaweed.
Buy your vegetable seeds and fruit bushes from somewhere reputable. I know of people buying them from sellers abroad on places like eBay, and as the plants grow they aren’t what they ordered. I prefer using local garden centres and nationwide seed specialists online, like Suttons or Thompson & Morgan
The seed packets include instructions of when to sow, whether to plant indoors or outdoors, and when to harvest. Packets also give you the measurements for how far to plant them apart. Research how the plants grow; Will they need support as they get bigger, like a frame or string? Do they need a large area if they grow horizontally?
Don’t forget to research what each plant likes in terms of watering; Squashes like a lot of water, whilst some plants and herbs only need watering once a week.
Try to weed around your seedlings regularly so the weeds aren’t taking all the goodness from the soil before your seedlings get it.
My Vegetable Garden Tips
Utililise your Space
People with tiny gardens or just balconies can grow plenty of fruit and vegetables by utilising the space. Many veg can grow in small pots, hanging baskets, and smaller varieties can grow between larger veg.
I often grow beetroot and radish in the gaps between broccoli or squash plants which require lots of space between each other. Radish and beetroot grows quick so doesn’t get in the other plants ways when they get bigger.
A-frames or an obelisk are great for climbing plants like runner beans, but also for plants you want to grow vertically, like squashes. These can spread across a whole allotment plot so people grow them upwards on strong frames when they don’t have the space.
Pots of fruit or herbs can go on steps and windowsills. Fences can have hanging baskets screwed to them for strawberries.
Pick Pretty Flowering Veg
Some vegetable and fruit plants can be beautiful when they flower. I love runner beans because the flowers can be so pretty when they are winding around a trellis. Squash and courgette plants have bold, gorgeous yellow flowers that come out when they want to be pollinated. Chard is also a pretty veg that comes in a variety of colours.
Start with Easy Growers
Strawberries, runner beans, beetroot and radish are nice and easy, requiring little upkeep. Potatoes are also easy, and if you don’t have the space to dig trenches, they can be planted in grow bags or pots.
Appeal to Pollinators
To get your vegetables to grow you need to have pollinators visit your garden. Encourage them by having plants in your garden they can enjoy. Lavender’s my favourite to attract bees in particular, who I love to watch in my garden: Save The Bees!
Feed the Ground, and the Plants
As well as sunlight and water, plants need nutrition. The soil becomes empty of this after the plants have been growing a while, so feeding the soil and plants is vital for producing good crops.
Putting well-rotted manure on your beds once a year during winter helps, as does feeding your soil throughout the year with compost. The plants can be fed with special feed, such as liquid seaweed which is my favourite. Some plants prefer tomato feed, like courgette plants so always read up on them first.
Watering doesn’t have to be daily unless we have a heatwave. It’s best to water early morning or evenings during summertime so the water doesn’t evaporate in the sun. It can also avoid plants getting scorched.
Pick Things to Grow During Winter
To avoid your veg patches being bare during winter months, do some research. Some veg can be sown all year long outdoors or indoors, and some grow best during winter months. Broccoli takes ages to start producing, so usually provides during the end of winter.
Leeks, onions, garlic, broad beans and sprouts can also grow at various times and be harvested during winter. Just check on the seed packets as it depends upon the variety.
Get the Kids Involved
Growing veg can be so fun for kids. Whilst my son isn’t a great lover of weeding, he will do it if I make a game out of it or give an incentive. He claims to be disinterested in plants, but gets so excited when he sees the strawberries and tomatoes start to form. This year during lockdown he had his own little patch for biology lessons. He grew radishes and carrots, and kept a plant journal to log how the plant changed in size and shape.
He was very proud when he pulled up his first radish and tasted it. He’d never tried one, and I like growing vegetable varieties we’ve never tasted so we try something new.
Patty Pans are my absolute favourite, as their nutty taste is gorgeous with bacon and giant couscous.
Watch for Pests
Snails, slugs, insects birds and even animals that visit your garden at night can all be a threat. At the allotment I had badgers use pumpkins like footballs, and birds do love onion bulbs, peas and fruit bushes!
I try to use natural deterrents like netting and egg shells, but sometimes use slug pellets that are child/pet friendly. Pellets can harm wildlife though, so I’m researching alternatives to manage the hundreds of snails that adorn my garden daily.
What are your veg growing tips?
Please add them to the comment section below, as I never tire of learning more when it comes to gardening!
All opinions in this post are honest and my own.