Ten Tips for Top Crops
Growing your own food is one of the most satisfying and nourishing hobbies you could undertake. But if you’ve never done it, these ten top tips could help you get the most from your crops..
Yes, failing to plan can mean planning to fail. Although it’s wonderful and ecologically sound to have a wild part of the garden attracting bees and butterflies, nature will take over if left uncontrolled. Make a realistic plan so you don’t have to spend more hours than you have available to maintain your garden.
2. Keep a Journal
Jotting down when and where you sowed your seeds or placed your plants will be invaluable as the season goes on. If you can see at a glance that the seeds you thought should be coming up were sown over two months ago, for example, it’s probably time to move on and try something else.
3. Choose a Theme
If you keep your garden as a showpiece and enjoy it that way, focus on that and be the best! Otherwise you could choose a theme for part of your outdoor space. A wildlife area will encourage the good bugs, a herb garden will keep you in fresh herbs for the kitchen all year round and fruit and veg plots are invaluable for their food content.
4. Design your Veggie Plot
There are many different ways to grow your vegetables. From large squared off allotment type spaces to small potagers , raised beds and walled gardens. Remember the larger the space, the more weeding and digging, so if you don’t have that sort of time or inclination available, create small beds that are easier to maintain.
5. Make the most of your Space
Many plants climb and need very little ground area to survive. New hybrid fruit trees can be trained to fan out across a fence or a bare wall, making it attractive to look at as well as producing fruit. Make sure the fence or wall gets plenty of sunlight and remember to water plants regularly.
Instead of growing all your tomato plants in a line, try dotting them round the garden. This strategy will help out manoeuvre viruses and bugs. Root crops are probably easier to grow in a line although short lines sown at regular intervals are easier to maintain.
7. Know what you’re doing
You don’t need a degree in botany or horticulture to grow your own food, but it’s a good idea to learn what you can before you start. Many first time gardeners make the mistake of starting all their seeds in trays and pots with the intention to plant out later. This will work for many crops but definitely not root crops. Carrots that are transplanted will fork or split an won’t mature properly. Check your seed packets before you start.
8. Check your Soil
It’s not absolutely necessary but not a bad idea to check the ph levels of your soil. Different plants will thrive in acidic or alkaline soil. For example brassicas (cabbage, broccoli etc;) don’t tend to thrive in acidic soil. If you can get the soil to be fairly evenly balanced so much the better, although it can be adjusted every year with a little lime or other supplements as needed.
9. Take it Slowly
Don’t attempt to dig over a huge plot in one go. It’s tempting to ‘do’ the garden in the first sunny weekend of the year, but unless you are used to hard physical work, you could end up with an aching back for weeks. Spend a little time working out where your frost pockets lie, or where the sunniest spots are and dig over the ground a little at a time. It’s surprising how much can be grown in a square metre of soil.
The real secret to a successful garden is to enjoy it. Try not to let it become a chore. If you feel it’s getting too much to cope with, re-think and plan it to suit you or enroll some helpful young to get you out of trouble. The garden is a place where we can enjoy a serene and pleasant environment without having to max out the credit card or even find the car keys!
P.S. Check out the growing guides and herb downloads available to get you started – links at the top of this page.