How to Grow Your Own Food at Home During Times of Uncertainty

Worried about coronavirus and food supplies? Growing your own at home could be a viable alternative to shops.

grow your own food

It’s safe to say we are currently living in uncertain times with the recent outbreak of COVID-19. People are being urged to stay home except for essential work and travel, and panic-buying has cleared supermarket shelves of fresh food.

Many people now feel that they need gardening in their life more than ever before for their mental and physical wellbeing during this national emergency. This applies to everyone from those who are having to self-isolate to families planning, maybe for the first time, to grow their own food.

In this blog post, we have compiled some advice on what systems you can use to grow your own vegetables and fruit in the comfort and safety of your own home. Also feel free to check out our top 10 easiest vegetables to grow at home guide.

Advice and Tips for Growing Your Own Veg

We've been growing vegetables since the1970s, so we're pretty good at it by now. Whether you want to grow your own veg in one of our holiday-proof planters, your own pots or your garden we can help you on your way to bumper, healthy harvests.

If you’ve never tasted garden-fresh vegetables (lots of people haven’t!), you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy flavours and vibrant textures. There’s absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, especially if you grow them yourself—which you can!

Holiday Proof Vegetable Planters

If you are looking for Veg planters that take care of your plants whilst you are on holiday have a look at our vegetable planters range. Our planters have been designed to grow bigger harvests of your favourite vegetables & cleverly keeps your favourite tomatoes, chillies & more perfectly watered for up to 2 weeks at a time. Whether you’re looking to grow on your windowsill or in a greenhouse, we have a solution for you to grow your own veg.

Quadgrow

Getting Started

Plants

You can buy vegetable plants from many nurseries and garden centres - even online. If you do choose to buy plants, rather than seeds, take care to choose plants which are pest and disease free.

Seeds

We think it's much more fun to grow your own vegetables from seed, then you can choose from a wide range of varieties with different flavours and textures. The following suppliers have lots of varieties...

Simpson Seeds
Tel: 01985 845004, www.simpsonseeds.co.uk

Thompson & Morgan
Tel: 01473 688 588, www.thompson-morgan.com

Suttons
Tel: 0844 922 2899, www.suttons.co.uk

We also stock our own range of seeds, here.

Grow Your Own Food with our Planters

Where to Grow?

The key thing is light. South East to South West is best. Avoid North facing if possible. Your plants will grow best with good, long hours of sunlight with no shadows cast by trees or walls

You can grow indoors or outdoors. If you are growing indoors make sure that your chosen pot or planter is drip proof. Many pots have a hole in the bottom for drainage, but that also means you will have water spilling out onto your surfaces! Our Quadgrow Planter and Herbgrow are drip-proof with no holes in the reservoirs.

If you are growing in pots or raised beds in your garden try to choose a spot with easy access to water so you are not trudging across your garden with a heavy watering can. You can collect rainwater in a water butt which will be ideal for watering your plants.

If you growing in the ground in your garden rather than in planters you will need to prepare the soil. Dig in some well rotted organic matter such as the contents of your compost bin or manure. This will add lots of fab nutrients to your soil which your plants and it will aerate your soil (and encourage the local worms into the area which plants love). When digging in you need to dig down to a depth of roughly 10cm.

If you are growing in a pot or veg plot, you will just buy a good quality compost. Which you can buy in bags as small as 10litres from all garden centres.

Everyone has their own favourite vegetables, from the controversial Brussels Sprout that divides opinion as much as Marmite, to the classic humble Bean – but oh so many varieties – and the new fashionable veg such as Chard and so-called super veg like Beetroot. Whatever you choose to grow, you need to make sure that you are sowing at the right time for your plant.

If you have a heated greenhouse, seeds can be sown as early as February but for unheated greenhouses, sowing is best left to late March or early April.

Here are some of our favourite varieties for sowing between March and July, along with notes of how long they take to get from seed to your plate!

Crop

Sow

When to thin your plants (and plant a second row if needed) ...

... and thin again

Time from sowing to Harvest

Spinach, Chard, broccoli, Raddish

15 - 20 seeds per 1m row

2-3 weeks after sowing, thin your plants to 10 - 12 plants per row

4-5 weeks after sowing, thin your plants to 6 - 8 plants per row

6 to 8 weeks

Onion, Beetroot,

15 - 20 seeds per 1m row

2-3 weeks after sowing, thin your plants to 10 - 12 plants per row
Sow a second row of 15 - 20 seeds

5-6 weeks after sowing, thin your second row to 10-12 plants per row

10 weeks

Carrots, Spring Onion, leeks,

15 - 20 seeds per 1m row

3-4 weeks after sowing, thin your plants to 10 - 15 plants per row
Sow a second row of 15 - 20 seeds

5-6 weeks after sowing, thin your second row to 10-15 plants per row

10 weeks

Turnip,

15 - 20 seeds per 1m row

2-3 weeks after sowing, thin your plants to 8 - 10 plants per row
Sow a second row of 15 - 20 seeds

5-6 weeks after sowing, thin your second row to 8-10 plants per row

6 weeks

Kale, Parsley, lettuce, cabbage, Kale, Raddichio, Rocket,

12 - 15 seeds per 1m row

2-3 weeks after sowing, thin your plants to 8 - 10 plants per row

5-6 weeks after sowing, thin your plants to 4-6 plants per row

10 weeks

 

If you are planning to grow in a Salad & Veg Planter you can sow your seeds directly into your planter, and this can be done up to three weeks earlier than plants to be grown in the ground or Raised Beds thanks to the fact that they will be staying in their planter, which can be kept in a greenhouse or your home until risk of frost has passed.

If you are planning on planting outdoors once your seedlings are ready you will need to transplant your seedlings to slightly bigger pots once they are too big for their seed trays.

Sow seeds thinly in trays of moist seed compost and place in a Vitopod heated electric propagator. Take care not to over-water as the compost needs to be moist but not soggy.

Once the seeds have germinated and grown two true leaves, pot on into 75mm pots and grow on in a warm, light space.

Once the plants have established a healthy root system, at approximately 25-35cm high, plant out into final positions.

Salad & Veg Planter

 

Caring For

Watering Your Vegetable Plants

Veg needs careful watering, so our Salad & Veg Planter are designed to keep your plants perfectly fed and watered at all times.

Over and under-watering are the most common cause of gardening problems including yellowing leaves, brittle leaves, and blossom end rot. Providing the perfect levels of water results in healthier plants and bigger harvests.

Watering Tips If you are not growing in one of our growing kits

Check the compost daily - you want it to feel moist but not wet, if you feel your plants need a watering add some water, but not so the soil is saturated, avoid creating puddles. The water needs of your plants will change daily. Take note of the light levels, temperature, and plant size and soil condition and adapt your watering levels to match these. In hot, sunny weather water early in the evening and early morning.

Raised Beds are particularly poor at retaining water, so you will need to water these little and often.

watering plants

Our Vegetable Growing Kits and Watering

Our Salad & Veg Planter keeps your vegetable plants perfectly fed and watered at all times, so you will not experience the problems caused by erratic watering and they actually teach you how to water plants accurately. The watering perfection means healthier plants and bigger harvests.

Our veg planters are simple to use –

1: Add compost to the Salad & Veg Planter
2: Sow seeds or add young plants
3: Care for your plants as you usually would
4: To water simply keep the Salad & Veg Planter’s reservoir topped up.

SmartMats’ link the reservoir with the compost, delivering water and plant food to plants where they need it, when they need it.

Pests and Diseases

The best way to avoid pest and disease problems is to check your plants regularly for early signs of pests and diseases.

You need to make a point of checking your plants every couple of days and removing any insects or insect eggs before they get out of control. Also keep the rest of your garden weed free, so that there aren't any pests lurking there ready to pounce onto your salads!

Aphids are likely to be your biggest combatant, but they can be managed with sticky traps. Washing the leaves with warm soapy water also keeps most pests under control.
Some people swear that planting marigolds near your veg crops disguises their smell and even repel some pests.

Encourage birds into your garden as bluetits eat overwintering aphids and their eggs and any other insects at ground level, robins, blackbird and thrushes eat larvae, slugs and snails. There are also helpful insects such as hoverflies, wasps and ladybirds which eat plant pests too. Click here and take a look at our pest control products for some extra inspiration.

Simple garden hygiene will help prevent the spread of any disease. Clear up leaves of any infected plants, removing any damaged stems, plant at correct spacing and mix plants to reduce problems spreading. Keep your garden or allotment free of weeds.

pests

To get started you will need ...

1) Seeds- from a garden centre or choose from our range of starter seed packs.

2) Compost

3) Seed trays or small pots

To 'grow on' your seedlings you will need ...

An outdoor area, a raised bed or large planter, or one of our Salad & Veg Planter or Quadgrow Self-Watering Planter.

Using Hydroponics to Grow Your Own Food

Our hydroponic growers are great for anything from tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers right through to exotic and tropical plants like bananas and papaya. We understand that dipping your toe into hydroponics can be a bit daunting, but it’s a lot easier than you think.

If you want to be more adventurous in your quest to grow and produce your own food from home, consider growing in water with our Vivigrow and Rain & Drain Hydroponic Planters. You can achieve typically 3-4x bigger yields by growing in water compared to soil-grow plants and your plants will be provided with superior access to oxygen, nutrients & water, so they grow faster, stronger and healthier.

Oxypot Hydroponic PlanterTropical Planter

If you like the idea of the bigger crops that hydroponics gives you but you want to keep things natural by using pots and soil we suggest using the Wilma Planter. With this system you simply plant-up, plug it in, set the timer and let the Wilma automatically feed your plants little and often.

Similarly, the Oxypot is a deep water culture method of growing, which means the roots are constantly submerged in highly oxygenated water. There's no timer to manage and you're never at risk of water logging or the plants drying out. The air pump constantly oxygenates the solution, meaning the roots have 24/7 access to super-oxygenated water and nutrients. The result is seriously speedy growth!

We promise that when your seeds start to sprout and you get out into the sunshine of a warm spring day, you’re going to feel a lot better about things. Good luck and please keep us updated on how you get on growing your own food on our FacebookTwitter or Instagram pages.