Grow your own goodies
Most of us could benefit from eating more fruit and veg, and the best way to get produce that’s really fresh is to grow your own. Here’s how…
Preparing a patch
If you fancy a home-grown harvest of healthy veggies, now is the perfect time to create a vegetable patch in your garden. Just about any sunny spot will do – but the secret to a successful crop lies in good preparation. Begin by digging over the earth and removing any stones and weeds. Then break up the clods and rake in some vegetable fertilizer until the soil is nice and fine. Carrots are a good crop to start with because they’re relatively easy to grow. Use a trowel to scrape out shallow “drills” about 20 cm apart, then scatter seeds along the bottom of the drill and cover with about 1cm of earth. Once the shoots begin to show, you’ll need to thin them out until you have a row of plants about 6cm apart. Carrots don’t require much watering, but regular feeding with a liquid fertiliser every 2-3 weeks will help produce a healthy crop in 12 – 16 weeks.
If you’re not willing to give up any garden space to grow vegetables, you can still enjoy a home-grown harvest on your decking or patio. Tomatoes grow well in pots or planters, and a single 75kg grow-bag is large enough for three plants – which should give you a steady supply of fresh, juicy tomatoes right through the summer. Place your planters or bags on a sunny patch of patio with a sturdy bamboo cane for support, and water them regularly to keep the soil moist. Feed every couple of weeks with a liquid fertilizer, and you should be enjoying your first tasty tomatoes by early summer.
Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow, and they’ll even thrive indoors where you won’t have to worry about slugs gobbling your juicy berries. It’s possible to grow strawberries from seed, but to give yourself the best chance of a bumper crop, pay a visit to your local nursery or garden centre and buy some young plants or “runners”, which look like small pieces of root. Plant them in containers or pots filled with compost or rich soil, and feed them regularly with soft-fruit fertilizer. The berries should be ready for picking about 30 days after flowering, but make sure you wait until they’re a beautiful bright red, when they’ll be fully ripe and bursting with sweetness.
Herbs are another easy-to-grow crop for the indoor gardener, and the simplest way to get started is to buy a kit, complete with pots, compost and seeds. Parsley, oregano, thyme and rosemary can all be grown on a windowsill, so choose a kit with a good selection of different herbs and you’ll soon have a regular supply of fresh leaves that will add extra flavour to all your favourite dishes. But herbs aren’t just about improving the flavour of food – they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, and they have long been valued for their medical properties.