With the recent changes to our everyday living habits, many are now beginning to explore new hobbies. One such hobby seems to be gardening; specifically, growing vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Aside from it being the perfect season, home confinement means that more individuals than ever are discovering the joys of gardening. But there’s another helpful reason to get into gardening this spring, and that’s sustainability. With shop shelves becoming scarce, it only seems natural that people are now exploring other ways to keep themselves well nourished, and that (for many) is by growing their own food.
Whether you’re an avid gardening veteran or a budding bloomer, here’s our ultimate guide on how to grow your own food:
Understanding basic plant needs
This is something I wished I looked into before I started growing as it really is the most fundamental principle of plant success. Admittedly I rushed into the matter and learned the hard way that if you don’t balance the core plant needs then you’re going to have the odds stacked against you. So here they are (and remember, moderation is key):
Good air circulation
A good source of nutrition
Space to live and grow and
We all did the cress experiment in school so we all more than likely know that in order to photosynthesise and grow, plants need light. Although it is possible to use UV, natural light will always be best.
Your plants need to breathe too so don’t forget to keep them in a well ventilated location with plenty of fresh air (or if that isn’t possible, good air circulation at a minimum).
It’s a well known fact that you need to water plants to keep them alive, but what they don’t tell you is that there’s such a thing as overwatering and it’s more common than you think. Overwatering can cause you to saturate your plants and this can stunt growth (or even kill them off completely) so it’s important to test your soil daily to check whether it’s too wet or too dry (because underwatering is bad for them too).
Rich compost is the first requirement you’ll need to tick off. Make sure that your plants are potted in good quality soil throughout their life. As your plants mature, they can use the nutrients within fresh compost to grow, and grow well.
Plant food can be another strong tool to have in your gardeners. To grow especially succulent produce, make sure you’re giving your plants the best chance in life by offering foods which are high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
You’ll need to be prepared to pot and repot plants continually as they grow. While some house plants and herbs may stay neatly within the confines of their containers for the majority of their life, bigger and fruit bearing plants will need more space as they continue to grow. This is especially so if you’re planning to grow your plants from seeds or seedlings.
Some plants require different temperatures to grow successfully. Take peppers for example. As a plant which is native to Mexico and the Americas, its evolution has seen it adapt to warmer climates. Due to this you’ll need to make sure that your pepper plants aren’t too chilli.
The best thing you can give your plants is time. Keep an eye on them as they grow but don’t be impatient. Trying to rush their growth by over providing any of their basic needs can lead to disaster, so take your time and be careful when tending to your budding beauties.
The stages of growth
There are several stages of growth to be aware of, all which affect the final outcome. These are as follows:
In this stage, germination occurs when the plant absorbs its nutrients from the seed. The first pair of leaves sprout.
Plant roots begin to develop in this stage. In order to give them a boost, provide your plants with a quick-acting nutrient supplement.
This stage sees the most rapid growth of your plant yet. During the vegetative stage, plants will benefit from a nitrogen boost while they use all their energy to grow foliage and stems.
To achieve a full and impressive bloom, give your plants phosphorus as they’re about to transition into this stage.
To make the most of the flowering stage, potassium is essential for the development and yield of healthy flowers and fruit.
This final stage sees the fruit or flowers reach full maturity. At this stage, the plants no longer need nutrient supplements and are happy with just water.
Tip: Watch out, there’s mildew about - If you start to notice fuzzy mold appearing on your seedlings, fear not. Although the sudden appearance of mould can often be alarming to new gardeners, it is nothing to worry about and can be easily controlled. Normally it can help to cut back on watering slightly, as this mildew thrives in wet conditions. Another interesting gardening hack, cited by DenGarden is to “Lightly dust the soil with ground cinnamon. Cinnamaldehyde, the stuff that gives regular cinnamon its flavor and scent, acts as the perfect natural fungicide and prevents mold growth”.
Specific Plant Needs
If you’re just getting started, it is worth remembering that some plants are easier to grow than others. Good starter plants include the hardier varieties while some of the more tender varieties might pose as an interesting challenge for seasoned gardeners.
Hardy plants are, well, hardy. They can tolerate temperatures below freezing and can therefore go out into the garden the earliest out of all your plants.
Hardy varieties: onions, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, radishes.
Half hardy plants are slightly less tolerant to frost, but still quite robust.
Half Hardy varieties: potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce.
As the name would suggest, tender plants are quite vulnerable and are highly susceptible to frost damage. Frost should be completely avoided with these types of plants.
Tender Varieties: Tomatoes, corns, beans.
Extremely tender varieties are the most delicate of all. They require a minimum temperature of 18C to grow and must only be placed outside once all the frost has passed by several weeks.
Extremely Tender Varieties: cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins.
Although we’ve not gotten into the nitty gritty of how to specifically grow each plant, these are the basic tools you’ll need to set you on a strong footing when it comes to successfully growing your own produce. Keep this knowledge at the forefront of your mind and you’ll be sure to grow big, healthy plants with fruitful harvests.
We’d love to hear from you. Comment below and tell us about your proud produce moments (or mishaps).