How to ready the garden to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and cut flowers
Growing your own vegetables, fruit, herbs and cut flowers is a great garden pastime the whole family can enjoy. Nurturing plants is a great way to reconnect with nature and is good for our physical and mental wellbeing and at the end you get a harvest of goodies to enjoy.
How much space do you have for growing?
Start by thinking about how much of your garden you want to use for growing produce. Do you fancy a full-blown vegetable garden, or just a few selected plants?
If you have less space, 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. You can even use hanging baskets for trailing plants like strawberries and bush tomato plants.
In larger gardens, devote a whole bed or border to growing vegetables, fruit or herbs. Or invest in some raised beds.
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 and cut flowers as it helps your crops 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. Make sure you read the instructions on the seed packet for specific information on the best environment to grow your chosen plant.
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.
Wherever produce you are growing, make sure that there's good drainage. Damp plants are vulnerable to fungal infections and their roots may rot.
Consider your growing options
Don’t forget that all edibles have a preferred growing period so be sure to sow your chosen fruit, vegetables or herbs at the right time, according to the seed packet instructions. This is also the case for cut flowers, many of which are annuals and may require protection from frosts.
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. With so many types out there, many of which are ideal for beginners, there's nothing to stop you getting your fingers green in no time.
Here's our seed planner to help you work out when best to sow and harvest your favourite veggies.
Select your vegetables
Here are our suggestions for the easiest vegetables to grow:
- Runner beans
- Tomatoes - we know they're technically not a vegetable, but they sure do taste delicious with other homegrown salad veggies.
- Lettuce and salad leaf crops - look for mixed salad leaf seeds
For step by step guides on growing your own vegetables, take a look at our Grow your own pages.
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 pick up a young plant to add to your garden. Our recommended easy-to-grow options include:
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 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 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. The trees that provide the most plentiful crops include:
- Apple (choose between eating or cooking apples)
What could be nicer than a vase of your own home grown cut flowers. There is a wide variety of plants to choose from that make good cut flowers and they can be grown in a number of ways from pots to borders to raised beds. You can also choose from perennials that will come back every year or annuals which will grow quickly and flower for one season.
Some of our favourite cut flowers are:
- Sweet Peas
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.
If you’re just starting out, 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. 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.