At TALOR we know that a garden is not simply an open space, but a blank canvas where you can discover and appreciate nature in a multitude of beneficial and rewarding ways. To help us explore something new this week with gardening at home, we have enlisted the help of avid gardener and wildlife enthusiast April Bentley, to provide some valuable insight on growing your own food and bringing new purpose to what may otherwise be an unused or unsightly part of your garden! With insight on how to start a garden from scratch for beginners and how to grow your own fruit and veg, gardening at home has never been easier.
So with a trowel and gardening gloves at the ready, we now pass you over to April and:
Tips for growing your own food, sustainably
When you think of growing food, your mind likely wanders to daunting visuals of farmers’ fields, or more measly cress-heads, like those we grew in school. Thankfully, growing your own food at home can be anywhere between those two extremes; just as impressive as the wheat fields and nearly as simple as cress.
As a beginner, herbs are great to start with: they’re cheap, quick, and can be incorporated into many recipes, very easily. Fresh herbs also taste much stronger than dried herbs, and the improved taste can be pleasantly shocking. There’s nothing better than the simple act of dancing around your kitchen, picking leaves off herbs on your windowsill, and dropping them straight into your pot! Plus, growing your own herbs help to greatly reduce the amount of plastic involved in buying them from the supermarket. If herbs don’t take your fancy, repotting pre-started crops is also a great way for beginners to get into growing their own food. Tomato plants are commonly found in garden centres, and usually, only take a couple of weeks after purchase to start producing fruit!
Slightly more advanced gardeners will benefit from a propagation station, to help with maintaining the optimum temperature and humidity for germinating seeds. Propagation stations can be pre-bought as kits, or sustainably upcycled from plastic takeaway containers, and can be as complex as you like, some options are even self-watering! Once those seeds have matured into young plants, seasonal gardening would be appropriate to blend into your gardening practices, with planters and pots optimised to display a different flower or crop in all seasons. Many crops can be planted right on top of each other, but make sure to double-check the square meterage and depth of soil required for each species, so they don’t end up out-competing each other!
If you’re a green-thumbed expert, you may find yourself unable to eat everything you harvest. Once you’ve shared everything you can with friends and family, consider learning to preserve your food. This blends the line between gardening and cooking, but knowing you can harvest your onions and pickle them, without wasting any, and turn your excess berries into jams, will allow you to focus on maintaining a healthy plot and avoid stressing about food waste! After all, there’s not much point in trying to grow sustainably, if you end up throwing your harvest away! With the help of preservation, it would also be easier to become or get close to becoming, self-sufficient, which will lower your food bills, and generally is an amazing way to boost your mental health and feel fulfilled.
Regardless of your gardening skills, one universal piece of advice is to start composting! Again, you can buy complex, pre-prepared kits with different types of tumblers or even wormeries, but simple is often best; throwing a good mix of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ waste into a pile in the corner of your garden can still reap excellent rewards. Returning food waste to the Earth helps maintain the nutrient cycles needed for growing, and using scraps you'd otherwise be sending to landfill means you're literally turning ‘trash’ into treasure. There’s a reason why compost is called “brown gold”!
With so many different ways to start your food growing journey, there’s opportunities for everyone to find something that’s right for them; so what are you waiting for? Let’s get stuck in!
April Bentley, MSc Environmental Management
With such an interesting post, like us you may be motivated to get out and start that vegetable patch or herb garden you’ve been dreaming about, but not exactly know where to start. Things like peas, beans and potatoes are easy starters for your extra ground space, and a simple herb garden can be established even on windowsills or in a window box! Peas and potatoes are some of the best vegetables to grow for beginners, not just because they are easier, but also versatile and all work well together. For an example of something simple but delicious, here is a BBC Good Food recipe for pea and mint pesto spaghetti; perfectly suited for impressing party guests, or even enjoying by yourself on a warm summers evening.
Those with a larger space and patio area may also want to consider establishing their own outdoor kitchen, a unique and exciting way to elevate your summer barbeques or garden parties. There’s no better feeling as a host than to be outside with your guests, cooking with ease and having all the most delicious, fresh ingredients right at your fingertips! To discover outdoor kitchens and how to transform your outdoor cooking forever, click here.
Don’t forget that we want to hear from you! What was your favourite part of the blog? What will you be growing first? Get in touch with us on our social media and let us know for a chance to be featured in a future post!