Seasoned gardeners will have been planning their crops for months, planting seeds while the nights were still long and the days cold. But if you’re new to growing, it’s not too late to try and grow your own food in whatever plot you’ve got.
It can be daunting to know where to begin if you’ve never grown anything before, but there are plenty of varieties that can be surprisingly easy to grow and eat. Once you’ve learned how satisfying and calming seeing a seed germinate into a little plant that will, in a few weeks, be on your plate, you’ll be hooked – and growing even more next year!
Tips to get you growing
Get the basics right: edible plants are as hungry as you are: they need lots of nutrient-rich soil and lots of sunlight to thrive. There are definitely varieties you can grow easily in a small, sunny space such as a windowsill – I like to sow pea-shoots, nasturtiums, rocket and cut-and-come again salad leaves such as endive. If you want to grow larger varieties, such as potatoes, tomatoes or courgettes, deploy bigger areas.
If you’re a container gardener, try filling supermarket Bags for Life with good quality, peat-free multipurpose compost. You can happily fit two high yield courgette or tomato plants in each. Once they’ve got going, don’t forget to feed with organic tomato feed.
By June, it’s warm enough to sow directly into the soil – or “above ground”, rather than “under cover”. Many edible plants are annuals, meaning they grow from seed, fruit and die all within the space of a year, so they need plenty of sunlight and fertiliser (ideally organic) to give them the enormous boost of energy they need. If you want to garden according to the moon calendar, or the Almanac, the best time to sow seed or plant small vegetable “plug plants” is in the middle two weeks of the month, from June 7 to June 21.
Grow what you eat
It’s best to grow what you’re likely to eat – I know this sounds very obvious, but it’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities of crops that might be exciting once in a while but less so in glut-form! Think about the vegetables and herbs you are often buying in the supermarket, often in plastic, and often go to waste. Imagine how much satisfaction you’ll get from growing them yourself! My go-to crops, with this in mind, are: rocket, parsley, basil and other salad leaves, because they all taste so much better than the ones you can buy wrapped in plastic.
Dress your dinner plate
Don’t forget edible flowers. Yes, you can have beauty and bounty. There are loads of very beautiful, very easy-to-grow flowers which you can add to salads, cocktails and desserts. I love nasturtium flowers, which add drama to a plate, but cornflowers and violas are equally gorgeous and simple to grow. There’s also merit in allowing your crops to bolt, or go to flower and seed, if they end up that way – rocket flowers have a delicious nutty taste and lend understated style to a plate.
Words and images by Alice Vincent.
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