I am often quizzed by people who think that vegetable growing must be incredibly difficult and that there is no way they could produce their own veg. So I put together this FAQ with some of the questions that people ask.

What are the benefits of growing your own vegetables?There a number of benefits to growing your own veg. One of the advantages is that the veg you will grow for yourself will be fresh! Fresh in a way that even a supermarket can’t compete with 😉 If you have fresh beans straight from the plant, there is no way that the packet of beans that has been imported from Kenya is going to taste anywhere like as good. Your fresh beans will be crisp and delicious every time.

Another plus to growing your own is cost. By growing your own veg, and choosing plants that give a good crop, you will save money.

You can get your kids involved in the gardening – get them growing runner beans in cotton wool, or enter a pumpkin growing competition, or give them responsibility for one crop. So John’s growing the runner beans and Jane’s growing the courgettes 🙂 and while they are doing that they are developing that all-important awareness of where their food comes from.

Satisfaction. I have left this one till last but, although it is the least tangible, in some ways it is the most important. Don’t underestimate the feeling of pride you will feel when you put dinner on the table and can say “the runner beans and the courgettes came from our own garden” or “the rhubarb crumble is made with our own rhubarb”. Your kids will enjoy this too “and today we are eating Jane’s courgettes and Tony’s salad”.

You say it saves money, but doesn’t it cost a lot to grow vegetables?Not really! Like anything in life, the garden centres and supermarkets are full of gadgets you “must have” to grow your veg. What most people fail to realise is that people have been growing their own veg for hundreds of years without any of the gadgets. They made do with what they had. There really shouldn’t be a need for spending huge amounts of money to get you started – look twice at every purchase and see if you can work out “exactly” what it does, and whether you can accomplish the same effect without spending the money.

I’ve never grown anything beforeThis is a frequent one, and possibly the easiest to answer 🙂 Just because you haven’t grown anything, it doesn’t mean that you can’t grow veg for your own table. Start with something easy. Runner beans are incedibly easy to grow and very satisfying as you can see them growing a little taller every time you look at them 🙂 The squash family (courgette and pumpkin family) are very easy too and 1 courgette plant will provide you with all the courgettes you can eat – make sure to pick them frequently though. Tomatoes are a little harder and have slightly fussier needs, but are also a good one to try because a fresh tomato, picked from the plant (where it’s been allowed to ripen naturally) tastes so different from those you buy in the supermarket that you will never want to see tomatoes in a plastic punnet ever again.

I only have a tiny garden, I don’t have enough room to grow vegetablesThis is the exact problem I started the balcony experiment to address. It is possible to grow vegetables in a small space. Obviously if your garden is 15′ square, you are never going to be self sufficient for potatoes and onions. But you can grow food for yourself. You can grow tomatoes in pots, strawberries in tubs or wall pouches, climbing beans and peas up a wall, herbs, salads, a row of leaf beet or two, a courgette or pumpkin plant, you could even squeeze in a brassica or two (although if you are going to do that I would recommend either brussels sprout plants or sprouting brocolli plants). Rhubarb, takes up a little bit of space but, once it is in, you can just keep picking and picking. If you have a tiny area, you just have to be a little more selective about what you are growing, and grow plants that will give you a big return for the space they occupy.

I get confused by the amount of things I need to buy – what do I need to get started?At the most basic level plants need soil to grow in, water, adequate nutrients, light and warmth. Your task is to provide those things. If you have a small garden and will be growing in the ground, you don’t need to buy soil. If you are growing in pots on a balcony, obviously you are going to need some bags of potting compost. If you are growing in the soil, you will need some basic gardening tools, but you may find you already have them in the shed.

Food – a good tomato food is the best all-rounder for veg. Plants growing in pots are going to need more feeding than soil grown ones (although they need feeding too to help them produce well for you)

Warmth – unless you have a greenhouse, warmth is only going to concern you if you are going to start your own seeds, and a warm light position in the house is fine for this.

You will need containers if you are container growing, but you really don’t need to buy expensive pots – almost anything can be used. A container needs to be able to drain excess water, hold the soil in, and be deep enough for the plants’ roots – a bean or pea will need a deeper pot than radishes or lettuces. I will be looking at different recycled plant containers in another post

Do you have a question you would like to ask?

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