Top five tips for growing your own produce
Our team of gardeners here at The Grove dedicate their time to nurturing the grounds’ luscious gardens all year round. They are green-fingered experts who are responsible for a plethora of flora; from the vibrant flower beds and immaculate hedgerows to our home-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs.
They oversee the seasonal produce of the Kitchen Garden, which is located next to our Potting Shed pop-up restaurant, providing our chefs with easy access to the freshest ingredients. Whether it’s thyme, tomatoes, radishes or rhubarb, 80% of the produce used on the restaurant’s the menu has come straight from the garden.
Feeling inspired? According to our Head Gardener David Roberts, you don’t need to be a gardening pro to get started on your own vegetable patch. There are plenty of vegetables that are easy for beginners to grow, and several solutions to a lack of garden space. Follow David’s top tips below to start your gardening journey:
1. Start simple
If you have never grown vegetables before, it is a good idea to start with something simple, such as radishes, salad lettuce, salad rocket or spring onions. Get a pot, fill it with compost, and sprinkle a few seeds on the surface. Cover with a thin layer of compost, water with a watering can with a rose on – to create ‘raindrops’ – and wait a few days for the first shoots to appear through the soil. It’s important to water them regularly without swamping them.
2. Grow with the season
Some vegetables can be produced all year round, but it is best to grow with the season. When the ground is warm enough, normally around March and April, you can sow the ‘outdoor’ seeds such as lettuce, salad leaves, carrots and radishes. Some produce requires a little more heat, such as chillies, peppers, pumpkins, marrows, courgettes and tomatoes, so these are best grown inside in a propagator or on a window sill until the frosts have finished. It’s important to introduce their new environment gradually though, which is known as ‘hardening-off’.
3. Don’t overspend on tools and gadgets
You don’t need to invest a huge amount of money into equipment to get started. My favourite ‘tool’ is very simply a length of wood. It is perfect for levelling the surface, making furrows and covering seeds. I use the edge to make furrows by pushing the wood backwards and forwards, which creates a furrow or groove that is just right for sowing seeds.
4. Make the most of your space
There are a number of solutions if you don’t have much space, you don’t necessarily need a large garden to be able to grow your own produce. You can grow vegetables and culinary herbs in a small garden, on a balcony, on a windowsill, in a single pot, or even up the wall in vertical planting devices. In fact, you do not even need soil for some; they can grow hydroponically (roots directly suspended into water) with added nutrients.
5. Practise companion planting
There is a lot to be said about mixing the plants up, as the vegetables are protected from various bugs by the scents of other plants. ’Companion planting’ is a strategy that we employ in our vegetable garden. You could plant carrots alongside onions for example, which will deter the dreaded carrot root fly, or you could grow tagetes with tomatoes to deter the green and white flies.