How to Grow Your Own Vegetables

Like all plants, vegetables are going to need soil, nutrients, water and sunlight. But they can be grown as easily on a small patio or beside your back door, or even on a windowsill. Some people even grow them completely indoors beside a sunny window. You can grow vegetables all year round using rotation, switching the type of vegetables you are growing to suit the seasons. The added bonus is that you are not only going to be able to eat the vegetables, but the plants themselves are a really attractive addition to your patio whilst they are growing.

How to Grow Your Own Vegetables How to Grow Your Own Vegetables

Choosing the Right Kind of Vegetables

Do not worry if you do not have an enormous amount of space. A window box can supply you with enough salad to last you through the summer. Plenty of vegetables can be grown in pots, and potatoes can be grown in bags or in a stack of tyres or a dustbin. Think organic – you will not need to spend on fertilizers or growth enhancers and you are unlikely to need insecticides. Your choice of vegetables includes:

  • cress
  • tomatoes
  • salad leaves
  • potatoes
  • beans and peas
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • courgettes/zucchini
  • broccoli

Pots

Here are some examples of how you can grow your own fruit and vegetables with very little space, time or effort:

Tomatoes: All they need is a generous pot space. Water them daily and feed them about once a week with a regularly available proprietary tomato food. Nip out the side shoots to encourage them to fruit.

Salad leaves: Lambs lettuce, rocket or quick-growing radishes are all ideal. You can get salad all summer from a handful of plants. Sow them from seed at two-week intervals for a continuous supply.

Strawberries: They could not be easier to grow in a pot or in a window box. They like rich soil and you must not allow them to dry out. Watch the white flowers turn into fruit, but be careful to cover them with some netting so the birds don’t eat them first!

Carrier bags

Potatoes are the ideal candidates for carrier-bag cultivation. Notice how your store-bought potatoes begin to sprout after a week or so? Carefully select the ones with the healthiest looking sprouts and place them in an egg carton on the windowsill. When the sprouts are strong and the chance of a frost has passed, get three store carrier bags and place them one inside another. Fill with compost and plant your sprouting potatoes about 10 cm/4 in deep. Hang them from a hook by the back door but do not forget to water them regularly – without over-watering. When you have strong plants, you should have small potatoes. When the plants flower, your potatoes should be ready to eat. Slice the carrier bags open and harvest.

Freezing Your Crop

Freezing your crop means you need not worry about bumper harvests going to waste. If you have not got a freezer, there are plenty of second-hand ones available. Ninety per cent of freezers are dumped when they are actually still in good working order. They may just not be the latest model.

Most vegetables need to be blanched before freezing. This means you need to immerse them in boiling water. The blanching destroys enzymes that affect the flavor, color and texture. When you prepare your vegetables for blanching, you need to trim off outer leaves, wash them thoroughly and you can even cut and prepare them as if you were going to cook them straight away. So if you like batons, slices, diced or whole, they will be ready in the freezer when you want to eat them. Once you have blanched your vegetables, let them cool, then put them in freezer bags in portions. If your freezer has a super or fast setting, this is ideal. The quicker the food freezes, the more goodness is retained. Blanching times vary, but here are some guidelines:

  • courgettes – 1 minute
  • beans – 3 minutes
  • squashes – 3 minutes
  • carrots – 2 to 5 minutes

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