Grow your own: The beginner's guide to growing your own vegetables
There’s nothing quite like eating vegetables that were grown in your own garden. To know that you’re cooking for and sustaining your family with food that you’ve produced yourself is an amazing feeling.
However, when you’re new to it all, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Is it okay to start with seedlings instead of seeds? Should I grow my veggies inside or outside? What can I get my hands on to help? It can all feel a bit overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll fill you in on what you need to know to get started. Specifically, we’ll go over why you should grow your own vegetables, focusing on how doing so can save you money; answer some basic questions surrounding how to get started; and then tell you about some items that will be a big help.
We hope that you find this guide useful and enjoy growing your own vegetables!
ContentsSection one: Why you should grow your own
- What equipment do you need to grow your own vegetables?
- Should you choose seeds or seedlings?
- Should you grow vegetables inside or outside?
- How do you prepare soil to grow vegetables?
- How can raised beds help you?
- How can grow bags help you?
- How can plant halos help you?
- How can seed disks help you?
Section one: Why you should grow your own
Why should you grow your own vegetables?
There are many reasons to grow your own vegetables.
To begin with, it’s a great hobby. Not only is it fulfilling, but it can also be a meditative and, quite literally, rewarding process.
On top of this, you’ll be able to harvest your food when it’s at its peak ripeness. This way you get all their optimum nutrients and flavour. Also, you don’t have to worry about your veggies going bad before they reach your plate – or compost bin!
Furthermore, you will know exactly what is in your food and can pick the best varieties for the season, so there will be no pesticides or chemicals used on them. And you will have more control over other variables, such as how big they grow.
Another reason you should grow your own vegetables is that doing so can potentially save you money. Although, this point deserves its own section!
Can growing your own food save you money?
In short, growing your own vegetables can save you money… but there are a lot of factors to consider.
Specifically, you need to think about:
The upfront costs – If you’re going to be taking growing your own seriously, you’ll want to invest in decent tools, seeds, and potentially other helpful items like raised beds and grow bags (more on those later!). Also, there can be recurring costs, such as shop-bought soil and composts. This is all great, aside from when – and forgive us getting a bit business-like here – it negatively impacts your bottom line. So, you must factor in these costs if your main goal for growing your own is saving money.
How much you like to eat your favourite vegetables – If your main goal is to save money, you’re going to have to eat a lot of the vegetables you grow! Hopefully you’re not a masochist who would consider growing foods they hate to eat; but it’s definitely something to consider. How much do you really like broccoli?
Ease of storing and preserving – Although some crops like potatoes and garlic are easy to grow, they’re also relatively cheap to buy fully grown from the shops. If you want to be saving money, you should focus on growing vegetables that are pricey to buy fully grown.
How easy to store and preserve the vegetables you choose are – If you’re not going to be eating all your harvest in one go, you’re going to want to make sure it stores well or can be cooked into a recipe that can be. The following vegetables will keep for months in a cool, dry place: Dry beans, pumpkins, shallots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
The amount of space you have to grow in – To produce enough of any vegetable to beat the supermarkets’ prices, you’re going to have to grow a lot – which takes up a great deal of space. Although you can gain an advantage with grow bags (again, more on these later!), it’s worth considering if the space eaten up is worth the money you might save.
If you can balance the above factors, it is possible to save money growing your own food. Although, it is going to be a process of trial and error – and you’re unlikely to be making significant savings unless you have acres of space and time to devote to doing so.
Our top four picks for money-saving vegetables
Kale is nutritious, low in calories, and suitable for a wide range of dishes. A packet of seeds only costs £1, and it grows quickly in just six weeks. Compare this to the price in shops, and you can see how you’ll be saving money!
Also, kale is a versatile plant that is easy to grow. It is extremely hardy, can grow in a variety of climates, and can be picked at numerous stages of its growing process.
Tomatoes are a perfect plant for little gardens or even balconies because they don’t need much area to thrive. It takes 12 weeks for tomato plants to mature and be ready for harvest.
Furthermore, the plant can continue to produce fresh tomatoes every day for up to six years after this rather rapid growth period.
On the basis of consumers purchasing one box of tomatoes each week, this implies you can save £52 a year.
Five months’ supply of lettuce can be obtained from one seed package. You’ll save on average about £40 a year compared to grocery store prices.
Lettuce can be started inside for transplanting or directly sown in your garden plot. One of the few crops that may be cultivated year-round in the UK, it should be sheltered and harvested at reduced sizes during hotter months.
It takes broccoli eight to twelve weeks to mature and become suitable for harvest. You will save money and receive two pounds of broccoli from each plant.
Because of its nutrient content and adaptability in the kitchen, broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables on the planet. It can be steamed and used as a side dish, as well as added to anything from salads to curries.
Section two: The basics of growing your own
What equipment do you need to grow your own vegetables?
You will need a selection of gardening tools to start your vegetable gardening journey.
A spade, fork, and, hoe are all essential for preparing soil.
Gloves are also important; they protect your hands from cuts and blisters, as well as the transfer of disease.
You also need to consider where you’re going to be planting your vegetables. You can plant a specific vegetable patch straight into the ground (although we’d recommend a raised bed) or grow in patio pots, window boxes, or even on the windowsill of your kitchen.
Should you choose seeds or seedlings?
Starting your garden from little plants you buy – referred to as “transplants” or “seedlings” – instead of seeds is perfectly okay. Lots of people do it!
Doing so can let you start growing delicate veggies early, including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, which need a long, warm growth season.
However, we would say that seeds are the way to go – particularly if you’re looking to save a bit of money.
Firstly, particularly when purchased in larger numbers, seeds are significantly less expensive than seedlings. For example, six kale plants can cost around £3 if you get them as seedlings; but for this amount of money, you could get 300 to 400 seeds. Furthermore, seeds last for years before being planted.
Secondly, compared to the normally limited selection of seedlings in a nursery, seeds provide significantly more variety.
Thirdly, some veggies do not transfer well from one environment to another. Beginning from seed enables you to plant directly into the ground, allowing you to grow crops like corn, melons, squash, beans, and peas that do not thrive when moved from one location to another.
And, finally, by starting plants from seed, you can guarantee their strength and health from the very beginning.
Should you grow vegetables inside or outside?
Everyone loves a definitive answer. But in this case, the answer is: It depends.
However, here’s a simple piece of advice that you can depend on: Always refer to your seeds’ instructions; they will be included on the packet. You can’t go wrong this way.
Some veggies, particularly in the British climate, will prefer to be inside, others outside, and, to make things even more confusing, some will prefer to start inside and then be planted outside.
Having said this, there are advantages to growing inside; particularly if the inside you’re thinking of is a greenhouse.
Growing plants in a greenhouse provides the following advantages:
- You don’t have to worry about weather conditions outside.
- You can keep them warm and protected from windy days (which would dry out their leaves) or cold nights (which would damage their roots).
- You can more easily set up artificial lights.
If you decide to plant outside, you’ll need to choose a spot in your garden where you want to grow vegetables. It should be sunny and warm – but not too hot (ideally 18-22 degrees). If the temperature drops below freezing at night, it could damage your plants or even kill them completely if they’re young seedlings.
To make things easier, we’d suggest investing in raised beds – but more on those later!
How do you prepare soil to grow vegetables?
Your soil is the foundation for your garden and your vegetable growing endeavours. It provides nutrients and water for your plants, so it’s important to prepare it properly before planting.
You’ll need to consider the type of soil in your garden, as well as the climate in which you are growing. For example, if you have heavy clay soil, it may be more difficult for vegetables to grow and they may get root rot when too much water is used. On the other hand, if you have sandy loam or sandier soils (like those found in dry areas), then drainage can be a problem as well.
In general, loamy soils are best for growing vegetables because they’re good at retaining nutrients but also allow water through easily enough that plants don’t suffer from drought stress or overwatering injuries caused by excess moisture around their roots.
Other things to consider are:
- Soil pH: The first thing you’ll want to do is test your soil pH level so that you know what adjustments need to be made. A balanced pH level will help prevent diseases in your plants and make them more resistant against pests. Soil pH levels are a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. The number indicates how many hydrogen ions there are in a given amount of soil. A reading below 7 is considered acidic, and a reading above 7 is considered alkaline. In general, plants grow best in soils with a pH around 6.5 to 7.0, which is considered neutral.
- Soil structure: If there are large clumps or chunks of dirt in your garden bed, break them apart with a trowel or hoe before planting anything else in there! This will ensure that all of those little spaces between clumps are filled up with good stuff like organic matter (aka compost).
- Soil fertility: Next up is adding fertilizer – but don’t overdo it! Too much fertilizer can actually cause more problems than they solve because they disrupt the natural balance between nutrients held by living organisms such as microbes versus those contained within rocks/soils themselves.
Section three: Make growing your own easier
You can get your hands on a number of items to help you start your vegetable growing journey. Below we will discuss raised beds, grow bags, plant halos, and seed disks.
How can raised beds help you?
A raised bed, otherwise known as a grow bed, is any gardener’s best friend.
As their name suggests, a raised bed is a bed for plants to grow in that is higher than the ground it sits upon.
Pictured above are our wooden raised beds.
Here are just some of the benefits that they offer:
- Allow you to separate different soil types – Plants vary in what type of soil they need to flourish. Setting up separate raised beds means you can easily separate these different soil types.
- Increase accessibility – Depending how high you place them, grow beds can minimise the amount you’ll need to stoop or bend over. This can help gardeners with mobility issues gain access.
- Extend your growing season – Soil in raised beds heats and drains more quickly in the spring than in-ground beds, giving gardeners a few more weeks of growth.
- Remove foot traffic – Soil remains loose and aerated because it is not being compacted by the trample of feet.
- Anywhere is a good place to garden – With the help of grow beds, you can grow your vegetables pretty much anywhere! You can grow on top of over clay soils, in front of unsightly buildings, and so on.
- Easier to protect your plants – Covers and cloches are relatively simple to place on a raised bed and offer excellent weather and pest protection for your plants.
- Enhanced maintenance simplicity – Raised beds offer a larger soil capacity than containers, making watering easier.
How can grow bags help you?
Grow bags are exactly what they sound like: Bags used to grow plants and vegetables.
Tomatoes, potatoes, salad greens, herbs, peppers, and other similar foods that don’t have deep roots do well in grow bags. The general rule is that you can grow anything in a grow bag that you can grow in a container. Also, if you don’t have an in-ground garden, grow bags are the ideal answer. They look great lined up in a raised garden bed for a more conventional appearance, but they’re also great for use on a porch or balcony.
Further advantages of grow bags include:
- They are moveable and can be used on the patio or in the greenhouse
- No digging is required
- Can be used year after year
- Grow bags are available in different shapes and sizes for specific vegetables
- Grow bags are a simple and affordable way to increase your growing area
- When not in use, grow bags are simple to store – after thoroughly cleaning them with a strong spray, fold them up and allow them to air dry
- Grow bags, in contrast to conventional containers, let plant roots breathe. A happy plant has happy roots
Pictured above is a selection of our grow bags for specific crops.
How can plant halos help you?
Plant halos make it easier to water and support grow bag plants like tomatoes, peppers, and beans. They can be used on pots, raised beds, and on traditional vegetable plots. The central inner pot creates the planting area which is particularly useful when used with grow bags as it allows a deeper planting zone to develop healthier plants.
A moat and watering spikes that penetrate below the surface will deliver water direct to the plant’s roots. This ensures that water and liquid feed are delivered at a reduced rate that the plant is better able to absorb, preventing wastage which is common with conventional watering.
Pictured above are our tomato plant halos.
How can seed disks help you?
If you’re looking for the easiest option when it comes to growing vegetables from seed, seed disks are the way to go.
A SeedCell is an easy to plant, biodegradable disk filled with seeds. Their manufacturer, Grow Sow Simple, believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the thrill of growing their own fresh herbs and vegetables, no matter their level of experience. It’s their goal to make gardening more accessible.
All you need to do is push the cardboard pod into soil or compost and water well. The seeds inside are kept in ideal conditions away from pests and predators and are much less likely to dry out.
The natural pulp material that makes up the SeedCell disks will absorb any ground moisture once planted. As you water your seeds, it will help deliver a steady feed directly to the seed without the worry of over watering. This will then aid the germination process and continuing to provide vital water to the newly emerging seedlings beneath the soil.
As the seeds grow, the pod breaks down into the soil and encourages healthy plant growth.
Pictured above are our SeedCell grow your own seed pods.
Learning how to grow your own vegetables is a great way to get your hands dirty, save money, and eat healthier. The best part is that it’s really easy once you know what you’re doing! Just follow the tips above, and you’ll be growing your own vegetables in no time.