A Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit and Vegetables
Got a green thumb? Here’s an interesting thought – it’s not only flowers and foliage that can look pleasing to the eye, fruits and vegetables too can add a range of colours and textures to your garden. Besides, growing your own fruit and vegetables offers a host of advantages, both nutritional and otherwise. .
In these recessionary times, growing your own fruits and veggies will save you money. Seeds are much less expensive than buying fresh produce at your local supermarket – you can probably get some free from like-minded neighbours or collect your own at the end of the growing season.
By growing your own food, you are helping the environment. Also, you not only save on shopping trips, but reduce the need to drive to the supermarket in the first place.
If you are concerned about the effects of pesticides and fertilisers on the environment, you can do your bit by going organic. You have total control over the use of chemicals in your own garden.
What varieties of vegetables and fruits would look attractive in a garden?
Beetroots like a light, sandy soil, preferably not too acidic and plenty of sun. Don’t sow them too early. To extend the harvest, you can sow the seeds at regular intervals, say every two weeks. A good variety is Boltardy, which is less likely to run to seed. Beetroot make attractive bedding plants, with dark red and green leaves that contrast well with other plants.
Chillies like warm soil, in particular a well drained soil rich in organic materials. It will take a variety such as the large red chillies around three months to grow ready for picking. With their bright, red fruit and rich green leaves, chillies would not look out of place in a flowerbed and can also be grown as attractive pot plants.
Sweet corn also needs a warm soil– even corn planted in the best-prepared soil will struggle in the cold. Soil temperature needs to be at least 16 °C. A good hybrid variety is Star 7708 – is best sown in October-November. The ripening ears of corn with silk tassels add a creative touch to an ornamental garden.
Courgettes like a rich, well-drained soil with high nitrogen content. Plant them on raised hummocks of soil where they will get lots of sunlight and keep the water up. A good variety is also the Patty Pan squash, which has a flattened appearance and is pale yellow, green or white in colour. Squash will take up a fairly large area, but with their large, trumpet-like flowers make an attractive addition to your garden.
Runner beans produce large amounts of beans, take up little space and are easily harvested. As well as being productive for food, they also have attractive flowers – Painted Lady has mixed colours on the flowers, while Scarlet Empress has bright red flowers.
Garlic is very easily grown using cloves from the supermarket – just push each clove into the ground where it will get plenty of sun and it’s not too damp. Each will develop into a full size bulb with up to 20 cloves. If you prefer to buy your garlic cloves for planting, Arno produces the largest bulbs of all, while Cristo is more a medium-sized producer. Another popular garlic for the home gardener is Thermidrome, which is frost resistant and high yielding. Garlic grows well with most other plants in your garden, but try to avoid planting garlic too close to beans. However, it acts as an effective natural pesticide when grown close to lettuces, preventing aphid attacks.
Lettuce should be sown in spring and early summer in good, organic soil, but not in a position where the plants will be exposed to hot sun – they need to be kept moist, so water regularly. Try Lollo Rosso –the leaves are medium green, but with reddish-purple fringed edges, making them an attractive flowerbed border. If you let Lollo Rosso run to seed, it will also produce tall attractive seed heads.
Carrots prefer a light, sandy soil that has been improved by the addition of well-rotted organic material dug in before planting. Good varieties to grow at home are the yellowish Amarillo and Chantenay, which is very attractive to bees and butterflies.
Once planted, rhubarb will continue to produce a good crop each year for up to 15 years. A popular variety is Red Victoria. Around a month prior to planting, prepare the soil by turning over and including large amounts of well-rotted organic manure. Plant the crowns so that the tip of the crown is around 2 inches below the surface. The contrast between the red stalks and green leaves makes rhubarb a popular garden plant.
The common garden strawberry is a readily available variety that will give a good yield of berries. Strawberries like a position that receives full sun in well-drained sandy soil. Plant strawberries in the spring, making a hole large enough to be able to spread the plant roots. Raise the centre of the hole and place the crown at soil level, spreading the roots down the side of the hill. Don’t bury the crown, leave it half exposed. The strawberry produces bright white flowers before setting the rich red berries, so it can be used as an edging plant for your flowerbeds.
Blueberries love a slightly acidic soil in a full sun position. Plant the bushes in a hole slightly larger than the existing root ball and pack the soil firmly around the root ball after planting. A good variety for warm climates is Rabbit Eye, which is a vigorous grower. They have a shallow root system, so will benefit greatly from mulching. The Rabbit Eye blueberry takes its name from the colour of the ripening berries which, prior to reaching their rich blue colour when ripe, pass through an attractive pink phase, appearing similar – to some people at least – to rabbit eyes.