Getting Started With Growing Your Own Food

As well as supporting mums and joining together in community, on the other end of the spectrum, I’m also passionate about self-sufficiency and taking responsibility for yourself in appropriate areas of life.

Namely, gardening, and growing your own food.

This, I believe, is an area in which it’s a no-brainer to be some level of self-sufficient. Now, few of us are likely to have the time and resources to never have to go down the shops again. But small changes can make a massive difference. Let me list the ways…:

  • Growing your own fruit and/or veg means access to fresh produce. Some (if not most) things taste better if you harvest them straight before they are cooked/processed in the kitchen, eg. sweetcorn, certain varieties of new potato.
  • Leading on from this, most things taste way better grown at home than the subpar, forced-out-of-season stuff offered by the supermarkets. I cant stand eating a tomato as it is, until I grew my own! Strawberries too, it’s worth waiting until some things are ‘in season’ to eat them and gain not only more nutrients, but a whole lotta taste.

Looking at barriers to Growing your Own

What gets in the way for you? For some people, it may be a lack of space, a lack of time, or a lack of money/resources. Fortunately, with some workarounds, a lot of these things don’t need to hold you back. Again, we aren’t looking to each create a market garden here – and probably you will have to supplement fruit and veg growing with extra produce brought-in. It’s perfectly fine to do both! Here are some ideas for:

  • A lack of space – not everyone has room for raised beds, greenhouses and polytunnels. For growing undercover crops, you could look into one of the smaller ‘pop-up’ types of greenhouse, or even a cold frame can help to extend the growing season a little whilst offering protection for more less hardy plants. Even with a patio or a balcony, you can still get plenty of containers, planters and grow bags to allow you to grow lots of things like herbs, potatoes and much more. Patio apple tree, anyone?
  • A lack of time – If time is your shortfall, you want to focus on crops that don’t require too much work and also give you the most bang for your buck. Herbs fall into both these categories – they can be expensive to buy in the shops but most of them don’t require much in terms of looking after. Consider salad-type lettuces, spinach and rocket too, they are fairly hardy plants and you can even grow some in old mushroom containers and the like on windowledges, where you’re less likely to forget about them!
  • A lack of money/resources – Ok so gardening, like a lot of things now, has All The Products available to buy…and a lot of them are either not very useful or theres a much cheaper alternative. If you’re just starting out there can be more of an outlay, for example bringing in compost and/or topsoil, but if you make your own compost going forwards thats going to save you some cash. Additionally, you could also team up with a fellow self-sufficient gardener and share more expensive purchases such as tools, chippers, mowers etc. Some places have tool share schemes. And don’t underestimate the plastic recycling tub – large yoghurt pots, noodle pots etc with holes drilled make great plantpots, and cut the top half of a largish plastic water/pop bottle off and you have a mini-greenhouse cover to protect a plant or new cutting!

How to get started

The simplest way to get started is to work out what space you have for growing in, as well as choosing what to concentrate on growing.

  • Work out if you are using containers, raised beds or just some prepared ground. Construct any raised beds out of old wood, pallets or pallet collars, or scaffolding boards.
  • Install any covered growing areas – eg. polytunnels, greenhouses, cold frames etc.
  • Prepare the soil! Whether you’re in the Dig or No-Dig camp, or somewhere in the middle, you need some decent soil to grow food in.
  • Choose what to grow initially by looking at what your family tends to eat, as well as the crops that taste miles better homegrown or are expensive to buy in.
  • Some vegetables, such as celery and potted herbs, can be grown from supermarket purchases that you’ve finished cooking with.
  • Consider going to a seed swap to add new varieties to your collection. Many people (including me!) will be selling young tomato plants at a certain time of year and these can give you a head start.

Hopefully, this has given you some pointers on the journey to becoming more self-sufficient. The first step is always just to start something as simple as planting some seeds and remembering, like everything, it’s an ongoing (and cyclical) process that you can tweak and refine along the way.

Happy growing!