How to start growing your own vegetables

Seed Pantry – getting the kids involved with food growing at home!

It’s Veganuary and many of us are switching to plant-based diets for health benefits and helping the climate. At Seed Pantry we  always encouraged our green-fingered fans to plant and grow their own vegetables, salads and herbs and #Veganuary is a month we fully support!

As well as being cost-effective and environmentally friendly, growing your own food; vegetables, salads and herbs means you can eat completely organic produce freshly picked by you with the best flavours and nutritional value. Growing your own food locally means no high-carbon transport miles which is far better for the planet.  Tending plants is so rewarding and connecting with nature is proven to lower stress levels and improve overall well-being!  So what’s not to love!?

With this all in mind, we have put together a quick guide to help those who want to start off their own journey of growing food! It can be daunting and confusing at first, so make certain to follow this guide to get yourself ahead.

What’s the best thing to start with?

Micro-greens – spicy radish shoots

There are lots of great places to start on your growing adventure. One of the easiest food crops to start with is growing your own micro-greens and herbs. These a great easy way to dip your toes into the world of growing your own food. Try growing spicy radish shoots, you grow them for a 5-7 days in a tray with a little compost (1cm deep) – seeds are scattered liberally and bobs your uncle! Cut them and eat as you need on a sandwich or in side salads. Both micro-greens and herbs can be grown indoors on your window sills and with minimal space and equipment. We have loads of great food and flower options on the Seed Pantry website.

Rocket and chilli crops

From there we would recommend trying fast-growing leafy greens like rocket, lettuce, pak choi, mustard leaves and small single plant crops such as cherry tomatoes, chillies, both grown in pots indoors. They will require a little more attention than micro-greens and herbs but still remains light work. However, the more work, the more satisfying the crop! We have a whole range of tomatoes and chillies in the Grow Club this month (Jan 2020) so come and have a look!

Where and when do I plant and grow?

One of the biggest struggles new growers find is that it is hard to choose what to grow and when. A common mistake with new growers is the belief that they can start growing what they like when they like. With some plants, this may work, however, most plants benefit from being planted at the right time to develop through their desired seasons.

We have put together a very useful Urban Veggie Table with all you need to know about when to sow, plant and harvest various types of fruits and vegetables. With this, you will be able to work out what you can plant around that given time of year and where to grow it.
When choosing what veg to grow, the amount of space you have to grow will have an impact on what choices you should make, so make sure to check how big plants can grow that you wish to grow first.

What do I need?

Sowing seeds, propagators, rice husk pots

All you really need to start growing is some seeds, compost and a small space in the ground or pots and containers, for indoors or outdoors, to start food growing, but there are also a few other bits you could use to make your life easier! Propagators are great for starting off your seeds and getting them going in a protected environment, as quick as possible, particularly for warmer climate crops like chillies. They will help develop seedlings before planting them in bigger pots or veg patches.

Another amazing and smart piece of technology you could use to help grow food is a hydroponic planter. This device helps develop and grow plants as easily as possible by providing the light and water your plants need continually so that you don’t have too! You can see the Seed Pantry Grow Pod 2 here and we think it is rather brilliant!

Seed Pantry Grow Pod 2

How do I keep my plants going?

Caring for your plants is one of the most rewarding parts, so make sure your plants have everything they need to survive. Take note of how much water and sun each plant will need and provide it’s desired amount as it grows.  Some plants need potting on to bigger pots/containers or planting seedlings out in veg patches once they’re big enough and some may need a little maintenance along the way, such as pruning or clipping to keep them tidy and focused on growing your food crops, but most should be happy as long as they get the water and sunlight they need! Look out for slugs and other creatures who may want a nibble also!

One last thing that you will probably need is…patience! Unfortunately, plants do not grow to full size overnight and need a little time to develop and grow. Give your plants the time they need and some love and you will have amazing crops in no time! Watching nature is truly one of life’s most rewarding things!

We’re here to help you get started…

At Seed Pantry we are encouraging everyone to grow some of their own food plants and flowers, as its fun, educational and tasty too! We provide the seeds, bulbs, equipment and expertise you’ll need to grow food at home!
Our experts are also available to help you every step of the way within our online community, via social channels and more – visit www.seedpantry.co.uk

For more information on Veganuary, their website is here: https://uk.veganuary.com/ 

Our New Partnership with Thrive 💚

We recently visited Thrive, an amazing charity that provides social and therapeutic horticulture (STH). With the use of trained horticultural therapists, they work with plants and people to improve an individual’s physical and psychological health, communication and thinking skills. 🌱

Seed Pantry was founded with the mission of helping others enjoy the rewards of nature, so we fully support their cause. All of us here have seen first hand the benefits of spending time in nature and the positive impact it can have on a person’s life.

Please go check them out and support them, they do such great work and we are so happy to be working with them – we are sending further details in our boxes this month 💚

Link: https://www.thrive.org.uk/ 

Seed Pantry Team

Organic food growing 2 – companion planting good and bad plants

In the second of our mini series on organic food growing at home we have provided a table of favourite varieties and their good and bad companion plants!

It is generally thought that all plants will grow happily alongside each other, but this is not the case. There is a lot of competition between individual plants for light, space, water and nutrients.

Some plants will excrete toxins via their roots into the soil to act as a growth inhibitor. These we think of as bad companions and in food plant gardens we make sure to keep them apart.

Others plants such as legumes (peas and beans) will release nitrogen via their roots to encourage plant growth – good companions. It is this ‘plant science’ that we turn to our advantage to make the maximum use of space available in containers and veg patches.

Marigold plants will excrete a substance through their roots that kills harmful soil nematodes and there are plants that contain strong smelling volatile oils that deter or confuse harmful pests.

Good and bad companion plants

The table below highlights the principals above for a select group of edible plants:

This mini series is brought to you from the Seed Pantry team members Mike and Neil.

Mike says: ‘Good and bad companion planting can really help you make the best of growing your own food, it’s always good to use nature in your favour rather than pesticides’

Neil says: ‘I am sowing seeds right now ready to go in next month, so I will be carefully considering what to plant where, to make the most of my crops, I have beans and peas shooting up and beetroot so I’ll be careful not to plant them next to each other!’

Look out for the next post in the mini series, we’ll put a table of companion plants to attract beneficial insects…

 

Organic food growing – companion planting in 6 steps

Plants that help each other grow!?

In the first of a mini series on organic food growing at home we have a quick master class onCompanion Planting for you. Enjoy picking up a few tips to help you grow gourmet food at home, organically!

Companion planting is the practise of growing 2 or more species of plants close together; either to their mutual benefit or, in our case, to the benefit of the food crops we want to eat.

The principles behind companion planting are not complicated, here’s 6 easy steps:

1. Plants with beneficial nutrients

Plants that can “lock” beneficial nutrients in the soil to the benefit of the food crop are a great idea for any food growing space and will provide you with more healthy nutritious crops to eat.

Example: Peas and beans produce nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots that will benefit any leafy crop, so grow lettuce close to them during growing or a crop like cabbages can be grown on top of the roots after the peas or beans have finished cropping and have been cut down.

2. Plants for attracting predators

Certain plants will attract beneficial predators such as ladybirds, hoverflies, and lacewings into the food garden, the emerging young will then feed on unwanted bugs such as aphids that could be present on the food crop.

Example: The poached egg plant (it does look like a poached egg!), Limnanthes douglasii is very good at attracting hoverflies which will feed on aphids and pollinate your plants too.

3. Plants that confuse unwanted pests

Plants can produce scents that confuse and distract the pest by masking the scent of the main food crop.

Example: A great traditional combination is growing basil or dwarf tagetes amongst tomato plants to confuse whitefly.

4. Sacrificial plants

Plants that are used as sacrificial plants to attract pests that then lay their eggs on them so that we can gather the eggs or caterpillars and destroy them.

Example: Grow nasturtiums between brassicas that attract cabbage white butterflies away from the main brassica crops.

5. Plants that secrete unpleasant (but harmless to people!) toxins through their roots

To control soil borne pest and diseases certain plants have defence mechanisms.

Example: members of the dwarf marigold family can be interplanted amongst the main food crop to control harmful soil nematodes such as wire worms.

6. Plants to control weeds

Plants that can be used to control invasive weeds.

Example: Growing Tagetes minuta which has displayed some control over ground elder and convolvulus (bindweed). Again the roots secrete toxins that are poisonous to the plants that need to be suppressed.

This mini series is brought to you from the Seed Pantry team members Mike and Neil.

Mike says: ‘For me I practice all the methods above, but when starting out I think the top 3 are great ideas for this spring and summer’

Neil says: ‘I love the fact that nature simply has the answers needed to grow healthy crops without using harmful chemicals, for my food growing, which is mainly in pots and containers, I will be planting lettuces around my peas and beans this spring’

Look out for the next post in the mini series, we’ll put a table of companion plants together for you…