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Things I've Learned as a First Time Veg Grower

Cambridge, UK
Growing Veg for the First Time - Veg in a Raised Garden Trug

At the start of this year, before Coronavirus was even a word on our lips, I headed to the garden centre to pick up my first batch of seeds, compost and trays. To say I was unrealistically optimistic was an understatement. I'd done a bit of reading up and was convinced my tiny garden trug and a few pots would bring a plentiful harvest to the table. Oh how wrong I was! Here's what I've learned in my few months as a first time veg grower...

I think the most I'd ever grown in my life until that point were the obligatory cress and sunflowers back in primary school. Our garden is pretty small, and we have a dog who loves to nibble, so planting directly into the ground or building huge raised beds simply weren't an option. 

If you're starting from scratch, set aside a little budget

I started off my seedlings on the windowsill and while they were growing I invested in a wall-hugging trug from a brand called Veg Trug. It was expensive, but it meant I could grow off the ground and it's something solid and sturdy that should last me years. I needed the tools and compost to get me going too.

You can grow veg from other veg, and regrow vegetables from stubs!

Growing from seed or purchasing young plugs at garden centers is one way of starting off your patch or trug, but I found out that you can also grow potatoes by planting old ones, sit leeks, lettuce and other off-cuts in water. It's a great way to reduce waste and it's cool to watch, too.

Growing Chamomile Flowers in Pot

Honestly, half of your seedlings ain't gonna make it

It's true even of veg that only the strong survive! Some won't even germinate. If you want two courgette plants in your garden, seed at list 6, if not more, and thin out the small or floppy looking ones as they grow and you'll be left with your very best plants.

Herbs Growing on Window Sill

Patience is a virtue

I put some of my herbs out too early, without hardening them off, and they died a slow and miserable death. Have a google about what you're growing and note the best way to care for your young plants, or you'll be holding a tiny memorial service around the compost bin before you know it. 

I'm now looking impatiently at my potato shoots in their pots and willing my squash to flower. Good things come to those who wait though!

It's really rewarding, and actually quite relaxing

I've started looking forward to going out to water my plants each morning, and I don't even mind picking pesky little bugs off the leaves either. It gets me outside and gives me something to work towards. There's something almost ancient about it.

Other than the herbs (which now live on my windowsill) and some spinach leaves, I haven't harvested a whole lot, however I picked my very first courgette yesterday! It's teeny tiny, but I can't wait to roast it with some root veg and even if it tastes terrible I'll enjoy knowing that I created it from a seed. 

Lavender Plant

The other thing I've been doing is growing certain plants for herbal/medicinal purposes. I've started a small lavender planter so I can dry the flowers and add them to bath salts for extra relaxing aromas, and the chamomile flowers currently drying on my windowsill will be going into a tea pot soon.

I want to do so much more

Although my skills definitely aren't up to snuff enough for an allotment yet, I'll be looking to grow even more next year. You can get big pots really cheaply (or second-hand, even better) and grow just about anything in them. I'm hoping to try my hand at carrots, strawberries and peppers next year, and planning to get some kind of mini greenhouse or nursery in on the mix. I've definitely got the bug!

If you're even slightly interested I'd recommend purchasing a book or a few issues of Kitchen Garden magazine (my fave), and choosing some seeds to get started with. It doesn't matter how much space you have - even a windowsill or small patio is enough if it gets sunlight! Good luck!

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