For me, growing my own veg is a way of life. It’s not something I do as a hobby – it’s something that permeates our life. We grow our veg in no dig beds, with permaculture principles, and in a successive way so that there’s fresh food all year round. But it’s something that affects how we live in loads of different ways: how we eat (veggie, and with ‘what’s ready in the garden’ as our starting point); how we shop (to supplement the produce from the garden); how we spend our time (we don’t see it as a chore, but rather as something we really enjoy and are privileged to be able to do); how we interact with our community (we grow loads of plants to share, and produce too). We’re privileged to have the space we do – about 1/4 acre of food-growing space – but we’ve also made the conscious choice to turn most of our garden into food space. We’re not self-sufficient – I don’t think that’s possible on this scale – but we’re pretty much self-sufficient in fruit and veg, which has taken quite a bit of planning and experimenting, as well as changing how we eat: instead of being guided by what we’d like to eat at any given point, we’re guided by what produce is available in the garden and in the larder. Our other big consideration is time and energy: I have a lot of time and little energy, Seamus has little time and quite a bit more energy. We grow as much food as we can with as little effort as possible, and in harmony with nature. That means that our growing space isn’t neat, and that we don’t use chemicals for pest control or fertilisation.
There are lots of different approaches to veg growing, and what I’m going to share with you in these tutorials is based on how we do things here. That isn’t to say it’s the *right* way to do it, but that it’s the way that fits our life best. Like with making bread, where the best bread you make is the one you actually make, the best way of growing veg is the one that actually fits into your life. It’s tricky to offer generalised advice: your growing space will be different from ours, as will your climate and weather conditions (even if you only live a few miles from us). Please don’t hesitate to message me with questions specific to your situation – I’ll do my best to recommend resources and chat you through how you might be able to adapt things for your space.
To me, there are three ‘levels’ of veg growing:
1. you buy plug plants from a garden centre or online shop and finish growing them at home.
2. you grow your own plants from seeds.
3. you save your own seeds and put in perennial plants – fruit bushes and trees, and perennial veg such as asparagus.
Where are you at? This isn’t a judgment or a competition! I’m mostly at 2 with the some of the perennial stuff from 3 added in, but I’m not yet saving my seeds. It’s something I’d like to start doing, and I’m working my way through the resources here at the moment. But – back to time and energy – I don’t have the energy and brain space to really plan this properly at the moment, and like opting for a yeasted bread that doesn’t require any kneading, opting to buy seeds is something I can do right now. And when it’s a choice between buying seeds and growing food that feeds us all year round, or diverting some of that energy to figuring out how to save most of my seeds, then the former wins every time. I’m telling you this as a general ‘don’t beat yourself up’ anecdote: you do what works for you, and the more familiar you are with that the more time and energy you’ll have to make changes.
Things to bear in mind
Any ‘grow your own’ advice is always going to be a guideline only. Because it isn’t based on your specific space, location, climate and weather, it will be an approximation – something to start with, and develop your own version of. I’m thinking of things like sowing and planting times; the kinds of crops that grow well where you are; infrastructure such as beds, paths, hedges, etc.; and harvest times. Up here in my corner of the Highlands, light levels play a big part – it’s dark half the year, and it barely gets dark the other half, which really messes with plants that are bread for different conditions. Wind is an issue for us, too, and sea fog/low cloud. Snow and frost aren’t usually that much of a problem in our space, but they are for friends just a few miles away. And every year is different, so what works one year really doesn’t work the next, and it’s hard to know whether it’s us, the conditions, or something else entirely. Over the past few years, we’ve worked out some things that work well for us: no dig beds, woodchip paths, polytunnels, starting seeds in multi-cell trays and transplanting them later, growing things all year round, when to expect fruit and veg to ripen, what to do with our harvests. But that’s taken time and, like a science experiment, we’re forever keeping notes and changing things up. This is the first thing to keep in mind: veg growing isn’t a static thing. It changes, and the more you do it the more you figure out what works for you.
For us, figuring out how to grow food reliably all year round was a combination of several things: learning about no dig and permaculture; finding the right equipment that works for us; figuring out what crops do well and how to enjoy them; keeping effective notes. These are all things that will be covered by these tutorials.
The course is made up of 4 tutorials:
- Where to Start
- Planning your space
- Seeds, Sowing and Propagating
- Planting, Weeding and Enjoying your space
Click on the image to get started: