A large part of going zero waste is the food we buy. The supermarkets are full of products packaged in plastic and sadly sometimes this is not just the convenience foods! Fruit and vegetables should be zero waste but annoyingly are often packaged in plastic too. So an obvious solution is to grow your own! I have always loved the idea of living in a big farm and living off the land, but never quite got there, the two biggest issues being either a lack of a garden or the fact that I am pretty skilled in killing plants. Over the past couple of years I have been getting better though!
Last year I grew sugar snap peas, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beetroots, strawberries and raspberries. And herbs, lots and lots of herbs. I also failed a lot, my pumpkins (despite trawling the internet to find a reason) just didn’t grow. The courgettes died off. And the tomatoes didn’t even sprout let alone have time to die! Following my success and failures I spent a fair bit of time reading up on gardening and this year, although it is only May, things are looking good in my back garden. So I thought it may be helpful for those who like me love the idea of living off the land, but are prone to killing things or have a lack of space, a bit of a hand with the basics!
What are the best things to grow
So yes, I am not very green fingered, obviously this means I need to pick pretty hardy plants. This also means they tend to grow easily in most places no matter how small your space! I am obviously no expert, but from what I have tried and found easy, this is my list for a first try at vegetable growing:
Sugar Snap Peas
Mint (this grows like a weed!! Great for summer mojitos!)
Where and how to grow them
Whether you have a big garden, a windowsill or just a front doorstep these will work well. Even better, if you have space for it, buy a mini greenhouse and claim your house back! As far as I have seen the most important thing is just having good soil and plenty of water, space does not need to be an issue.
In general when you are sowing seeds, fill a small tray almost to the top with soil. Put the seeds on top in rows spaced about a centimetre apart, you can thin them once they start growing if there are too many! Then just put a thin layer of soil on top. This has worked for me for everything I have grown. I tried reading packets at first and measuring the distances and digging lines as deep as it said, but what a load of faffing for no real gain! Much easier to do it this way and then plant out later!
Grow them in sacks on a patio with a decent amount of light, if you follow the instructions you honestly can’t go wrong! If you have no outside space they may even work in doors, but you may struggle to get them the light needed as the sacks wont sit on a windowsill. A front door step would be perfect though.
To start sow them in a seed tray as above. I planted loads of seeds and then repotted 8 of the plants which grew in big pots on my kitchen floor as I have floor to ceiling windows. If you are short on space, but have a sunny windowsill, grow them there. Just be sure to put them in a nice big pot! They will also grow well in a small greenhouse if you have one. Once they start to grow be sure to attach them to canes to make sure they grow upright. They also like to be given some plant feed, its not expensive though.
Sugar Snap Peas
These are the fave in my house. Zorka loves them, she was literally climbing the trellis to steal them off last year haha!! Again grow them in a sunny window in a seed tray to start, water them every other day and once they are about 2 inches tall plant them out either against a wall or a trellis, just be sure they have something to grab on to. Make sure you water them every few days and at the same time move their little grabbers (that is definitely the technical term) to ensure they are growing upright! Last year I lost lots of them as they started grabbing each other sideways and grew along the dirt! By the time I realised it was too late to move them! Other than that, just watch them grow!
I have never actually grown them from seed, I just bought the plants from the garden centre. They just need a good sunny spot in a garden, you could put them in a strawberry planter, or just a big pot on the patio. Personally as I have a bit of room, mine are in two big planters. All you have to do is water them regularly and put some straw on top of the soil to keep them good.
I love them!!! For years I have grown these, but they have never worked, until last year. The trick is, they don’t like to be moved! Plant the seeds out in April or May exactly where you want the plant to grow. I plant loads of seeds to start and thin them out once they start growing. Basically I will keep the biggest and best looking plants and pull the others out, I may try to replant them, I may not! Once they start to grow be sure to put canes in to hold them upright. Remove the bottom leaves every now and then so the plant is not too big. Other than that they grow themselves! They could be grown indoors I am sure, but they do get quite big so a windowsill wont work for these guys!
Buy the pregrown plants and put them in a pot, whatever you do, do not put them in a garden border as they honestly grow like weeds! The pot can go anywhere to be honest we have had mint grow in a pot where there is little sun and it still grew well! Either on the windowsill or outdoors will work fine.
Again, just plant the seed on a sunny windowsill, water them regularly and watch them grow! Like tomatoes they would also grow well in a small greenhouse.
When to grow them
This month! You can get in there early with most things and get them planted indoors in March, but this is only required if you have a decent sized garden and so can handle a lot of crop. If you just have a small space, or only a window ledge planting in May will work perfectly! You wont get too much veg and it wont take up much space. All the above are also perfectly fine to be sown outdoors at this time of year.
I now officially feel like an old lady writing a gardening post but I just feel it goes hand in hand with trying to be zero waste, not to mention how amazing truly fresh vegetables and fruit actually taste! My garden has way more than just this in it this year so who knows by next May I may be giving tips on how to grow other things. Watch this space!!!
Has anyone else got any fool proof tips for growing, or nice hardy plant recommendations?