Many people now opt to grow their own fruit and veg, as opposed to buying them elsewhere, with endless opportunities in what can be grown in your own back garden or allotment.
With often a milder, sunnier climate than elsewhere in the UK, the South of England is a great place to grow your own vegetables.
According to Consumers’ Association, Which?, cultivating a vegetable patch of your own is easier than you might think.
“To get started, all you need is a couple of pots or a patch of soil and you can make a contribution to your family's five-a-day portions of fruit and veg,” advised Which?.
What should I try to do when growing my own veg?
Grow crops which are compatible with each other at the same time is more likely to reap richer harvests.
Crops which can be grown together include:
Legumes (peas and beans), the onion family, including garlic, leeks, onions, shallots and spring onions; roots and tubers, including carrots, parsnips, beetroot, potatoes and tomatoes; and the cabbage family, including Brussels sprouts, cabbages, pak choi, radish, cauliflowers, swedes and turnips.
Rotation helps you avoid planting the same crop in the same bit of ground to stop root diseases building up.
It also helps you to make the most of resources such as manure, which is only needed for certain crops but not for others.
Green vegetables require regular watering so can be separated from less thirsty root crops.
Lettuces are usually grown with cabbage family crops as they need regular watering, but veg like rhubarb and asparagus grow better outside of crop rotation beds.
What to avoid
- Don’t tread soil from one bed to another
- Keep your tools clean between use. This will help keep soil healthy and reduce the likelihood of the spread of pests and diseases.
Winter allotment tips
If you grow your veg in an allotment, here are the best ways to help your veg thrive during the winter months, according to GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk.
Weed, rake fallen leaves and remove the remains of summer crops in preparation.
Apply a layer of compost or manure to give allotment beds a nutritional boost in the winter. Move any vulnerable species into safe storage before bad weather hits.
Pick Brussels sprouts from the bottom up. Only pick parsnips after the first frost - the drop in temperature gives them their sweet flavour by turning starches into sugars.
Check if any of your tools need fixing or replacing and do so before the spring and summer months.
Don’t forget to water soil and any winter plants - even if the temperature is low. Take the watering can around the plot if it hasn’t rained for a while.
The most cost-effective veg to grow in your garden
According to Anglian Home Improvements, these are some of the most cost-effective vegetables to grow in your garden.
Tomatoes don’t require much space to grow and are a good option for smaller gardens and balconies. They take only 12 weeks to grow, and the same plant can continue to produce fresh tomatoes for up to six years.
Kale is healthy, great to cook with and the seeds are cheap to buy.
Although asparagus can take up to two years to be ready for harvest, the same asparagus plant will continue to produce the vegetables for up to 20 years, saving you a lot of money over the years.
Similar to tomatoes, broccoli grows quickly, taking eight to 12 weeks until it’s ready. Each plant will offer you around two pounds of broccoli.
One potato plant will produce nine potatoes and with the average four-packet of potatoes in a supermarket costing around £1, an average seed pack with five seeds grows 45 potatoes for around £1.50.