Prepare your outdoor space to grow your own produce
Growing your own vegetables, fruit and herbs is a fun garden pastime that everyone can enjoy. Never done it before? No problem. Limited for space with a small garden? Don’t worry.
Getting outdoors and growing your own is a great way to encourage children to try new flavours and there's the satisfaction of sharing and serving your food to friends and family. And you could be harvesting and enjoying your home-grown efforts throughout most of the year.
So, let's start planning your outdoor space, ready to make room to grow some delicious edibles.
Top tips for creating a growing garden
How much space do you have for growing?
Start by thinking about how much of your garden you want to use for growing produce. A full-blown vegetable garden may be too big for your needs and your space, so don't worry if you’re limited for room.
Any standard pot or planter can be used to grow edibles. And some are shaped to complement different crops. For instance, we recommend square pots for salads and herbs as their wider tops better suit leaf growth and easy watering. And don't forget hanging baskets. They're great for trailing plants like strawberries and bush tomato plants.
If new to growing, try dedicating a small space, or some pots to trying out some varieties. Or have a go with a compost grow bag – they’re low-maintenance and can be placed anywhere in the sun. In larger gardens, devote a whole bed or border to growing vegetables, fruit or herbs. Or invest in some raised beds. Our Kitchen Garden range offers them, along with plenty of other items, so that can mix-and-match your growing area to make it as big or small as you fancy.
Select and prepare the area
Now that you know how much space you have, it's time to better understand the conditions you'll be working with.
Sunshine is the key to delicious home-grown produce as it helps edibles grow strong and disease-free. So, choose a bed or border that gets plenty of sun before deciding to plant there, or move your pots into a bright spot.
Check that your soil is in decent condition. If your soil is thin, full of stones or is naturally water-logged, you may want to build raised beds or grow in pots or grow bags.
If you're growing in the ground, choose an area that won't be disturbed by you or your pets. And help your plants establish quickly by preparing the soil before planting. Dig in plenty of organic matter, such as soil improver or manure. These will also help prevent the soil from drying out during sunny spells or becoming waterlogged during wet weather.
And wherever your produce is growing, make sure that there's good drainage. Damp plants are vulnerable to fungal infections and their roots may rot.Shop compost & soil improvers
Consider your growing options
Do you have a food that you're keen to start growing? Or are you just eager to serve homegrown produce at the dinner table? Either way, it's important to remember that all edibles have a preferred growing period and no amount of care and attention is going to nurture it out of season. So be sure to sow your chosen fruit, vegetables or herbs in their recommended season so that they get the right conditions for healthy growth.
If you know what you want to grow, why not plan it out first on a calendar so that you know when you need to start sowing? It’s a brilliant way to start planning your space.
We recommend researching before buying plants so that you can find ones that best suit your garden's conditions, your gardening abilities and the amount of time you can dedicate to the project. There's no point in selecting one that demands time and attention that you can't give it. And with so many types out there which are ideal for beginners, there's nothing to stop you getting your fingers green in no time. So, do check that your chosen edible suits your set-up before buying.
Select your vegetables
Here are our suggestions for the easiest vegetables to grow:
- Tomatoes - we know they're technically not a vegetable, but they sure do taste delicious with other homegrown salad veggies. For more on how to grow tomatoes, head to our How to guide
- Lettuce and salad leaf crops - look for mixed salad leaf seeds
- Potatoes - check out our step-by-step advice for help on how to grow
Here’s our vegetable seed planner to help you work out when best to sow and harvest your favourite vegetables.
Find your fruits
Here you have two options – soft fruit plants and fruit trees.
Soft fruit plants
Soft fruit plants, such as berries, offer delicious fruit that the whole family can enjoy. They’re also packed full of healthy antioxidants. Grow from seed or come in-store and pick up a young plant to add to your garden.
Our recommended easy-to-grow options include:
- Strawberries - find out how to grow with our expert advice
- Raspberries – look for ones without thorns
You don’t need an orchard to grow fruit trees. They come in all shapes and sizes, so even the smallest garden or balcony can enjoy a pot-grown one. If you do have the space, consider investing in three trees and so once planted together, they’ll pollinate each other.
Before you buy, remember to check how tall the tree will grow and when you can expect it to produce fruit. Even with such common and familiar fruit trees as apple, there can be massive variations - up to six metres(m) in height and five years in when it will crop - so don't be caught out expecting one thing and getting something else.
Different varieties of fruit tree flower at different times. If you live in northern England or Scotland, choose late-flowering trees as this means the blossom is less likely to be killed by frost. Remember - no flowers, no fruit.
The trees that provide the most plentiful crops include:
- Apple (choose between eating or cooking apples)
To successfully grow your own produce, you’ll need the right kit. This can either be quite small in scale with just a few digging hand tools, or can be as grand as a greenhouse.
Most importantly, only pick the tools necessary for your gardening needs. There are plenty out there to help with everything from seeding to pruning, planting to feeding, so take the time to think about what you'll be using. It's easy to get carried away and think that a serious grower should have every piece of equipment on offer. We suggest investing in a few of the basics to start off with, and then build up your collection of tools as, and when, you need them.
A hand trowel and fork are useful, as is a good pair of secateurs and a watering can; you’ll soon know what else you need once you get started, and if you find growing is for you, you’ll be sure to accumulate a collection in no time.