How does your garden grow?
I thought I would take some time today to write a blog post about growing your own fruit and veg at home, as lots of you seem to be using this time to get out in the garden to do just that. This is great news for so many reasons; gardening and being amongst plants and nature is incredible for our mental health and general well-being. There is scientific evidence which shows that the oils in the plants around us have an impact on our health – amazing right?
Gardening with children encourages them to understand that that they are connected with nature and that they can have a positive impact on the environment. It also enables them to learn about the habitats and the inhabitants that surround them, as well as giving them an understanding of eco systems and where their food comes from. There is also a lot to be said for the benefits of getting their hands dirty and connecting with the earth. Gardening is a gentle activity full of total wonder and we love it.
I will say here and now, that I am not a qualified gardener. I am a mum who has used gardening over the past 4 years to teach her children about history, science, cookery and gratitude. I use gardening as a way to stay grounded, to support my own mental health and well-being, to feed my family and to support the local wildlife. I want to share with you a few tips that I have learned about growing our own.
1. Before you pick up the seed catalogue, think about the food that you and your family actually eat. It’s so easy to order everything that looks interesting, and believe me, I have done that in the past, but think about the essentials first. You need to consider the space you have as well as how much time you are able to put in – the more you grow, the more time it takes.
Things that are good to grow with children are: Potatoes (because it’s like digging up treasure when you harvest them), radishes (they grow quickly), lettuce, herbs, pumpkins, runner beans and flowers like nasturtiums and sunflowers. During WW2 tomatoes were also popular, you need to grow them in a greenhouse or similar, or buy a variety that can grow outdoors.
*Note: potatoes and tomatoes are both in the nightshade family and the plants can be potentially harmful if eaten by children or pets. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow them, but maybe consider separating the vegetables off from the rest of the garden.
2. You can grow fruit and veg in pots and containers; you don’t need a huge garden to grow your own. Use windowsills, balconies, patios, attach pots to walls, make hanging baskets and plant smaller, but equally tasty and nutritious food. Herbs grow well in terracotta pots in full sun and the pollinators love them. Carrots do well in troughs and strawberries can grow well in hanging baskets. If you are growing in pots and containers you will need to water them more often.
3. Compost and soil: I believe that garden centres are still delivering compost, growbags (for tomatoes) and gardening essentials, so if you can order some to plant seeds into, then great. Try to use peat free compost, where possible for minimal environmental impact and only buy what you need as there is also the plastic to consider. (I try to reuse the plastic where I can.)
If you have a bit of ground or a flowerbed that you will be planting into, dig it over and try to break up any big lumps of soil. Also remove any weeds that could compete with your seedlings as they try to grow.
You can of course make your own compost in a compost bin or on a compost heap. There is a bit of an art to this, but if you have the time to research and learn about it, you can make great compost. I dig mine into the vegetable patch before I start planting.
4. Where is the sunshine? A question I often ask myself; think about where the sun is throughout the day and which direction your crops are facing. Lots of them will love plenty of time in the sunshine, but others will be tolerant to shade. Do a bit of research and a bit of trial and error.
5. Fight the need to weed! People often like their gardens to be pristine and although I have just suggested weeding the vegetable bed itself, I do not weed the rest of the garden particularly. In my garden you will find daisies, dandelions, brambles and stinging nettles and other ‘weeds’ that I don’t even know the names of. I love them and so do all the bugs and wildlife in my garden. We need them to encourage biodiversity, so sit back and have a cuppa tea instead of weeding too much.
6. Water wisely. Watering the garden is one of the jobs that I really love, it is calming and peaceful and it smells incredible. The best times to water the garden are either very early in the morning, or in the evening when the sun is going down. This enables the water to soak into the soil more easily without evaporating, and its also a lovely way to start or end your day. Water using a watering can where possible, and if you can use rainwater from water butts, even better. Water as close to the roots as possible. You can stand pots and containers in trays and dishes to stop them drying out over the long hot summer days.
This is just a very quick rundown of some of the things I’ve learned so far, there’s always more to learn. I hope you find it helpful. If you have any questions, please do email me: email@example.com