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Revisited! Great 'Grow Your Own' Hunt: share your top tips on home cultivation

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  • My big thing this year is peppers.

    I have 5 really healthy plants in the greenhouse but no flowers or fruit as yet.

    Im hoping for a bumper crop that I can then chop as required and freeze.

    That will save me a fortune as peppers can be soo expensive.

    Keeping my fingers crossed. x
    Make £10 a Day Feb .....£75.... March... £65......April...£90.....May £20.....June £35.......July £60
  • Paced_Out
    Paced_Out Posts: 13 Forumite
    edited 19 May 2011 at 11:00AM
    Keeping chickens is a great thing to do, I have three and they keep me with a constant suplpy of lovely fresh eggs. However, I would recommend learning a little about them and what they need first.

    Top tip here is to got to www.omlet.co.uk and maybe book onto one of their hen keeping courses. These are run by individuals, who have kept hens for a while and usually in their back garden. It's a great way to learn and work out if it is for you or not. They are really inexpensive also, just £10.

    Omlet do sell flash 21st century hen houses as well but there are lots of others available and you could easily build your own.
  • smellymel74
    smellymel74 Posts: 102 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    i'm no expert gardener, just a keen amateur, but it sounds like some of the problems you've had/are having with veg is due to lack of regular watering. this would explain why your spinach isn't growing much and why the onions/leeds went to seed so quickly -- irregular watering makes the plant think there's a drought and it puts on a mad spurt to produce seed in order to continue the species. lettuces do the same sometimes.

    try to water every other day, even daily on a hot day (if we ever get one!) and make sure you water right down to the roots rather than just a sprinkling on top that quickly evaporates. a good way to ensure this is to stick a plastic bottle that's been cut in hald into the soil next to the plant (bottle neck side down) and pour water into the other end. that way it sinks right down to the roots where it's needed, doesn't evaporate and reduces the chance of rot at the stems of things like tomatoes.

    as for the other stuff, courgettes and pumpkins need a tonne of organic material so try and get your hands on some well-rotted muck and feed like mad over the rowing period.

    the soft fruits like strawberries need covering to keep the birds off (some net or chicken wire would do) and if you grow them in hanging baskets off the ground, that'll keep the slugs off. can do this with tumbling varieties of tomatoes too. remember to water regualrly though as baskets dry out soooo quickly.

    the only other suggestion i have is to try planting some herbs. chamomile, parsley, basil, sage and coriander are all easy from seed, and you can get small ready grown rosemary, sage and thyme from garden centres - i got 3 for £4 last spring and they're still going strong. they're easy to grow as they are mainly mediterranean plants so they like dry soil and need little care. i think you can plant indoors year round or outdoors in the warmer months and since they're easy to grow and herbs can be so expensive they're a real momeysaver.
    good luck!
  • Primrose
    Primrose Posts: 10,620 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary I've been Money Tipped!
    cuteusmaximus - I know how dispiriting it is to put in lots of effort and then get poor results but I think you can blame the climate more than yourself as many others have found themselves suffering from the same problems. I would concentrate this autumn/winter on digging in as much compost/manure as you can so that you know your crops are not suffering from a soil deficiency and try Swiss Chard which is hardy, doesn't mind a little shade and possibly some climbing beans which can grow up into the sunlight. I also grow leeks in a slightly shadly position which they don't seem to mind as long as there is plenty of humus in the soil as they're hungry feeders. Lettuces will also grow in slight shade. I'm sure some of your failures are due to the weather so try again next year with previous successes.
  • mcdogfood
    mcdogfood Posts: 12 Forumite
    We grow nearly all of our stuff in pots, because we don't have much room. Weatherwise, we've had the lot, pestwise we've had the lot too. Some things are really worth growing, some things really aren't. Here's what I think is important now.

    1. Spend some time in a book shop, finding a really good book that you like, and will read, and use it. My favourite for starters is Sarah Raven's The Great Vegetable Plot - about a tenner on Amazon.

    2. Don't get downhearted if something eats everything, or a freak storm destroys your crop - it all adds to your knowledge of what to do next time.

    3. Get the right varieties of seed, particularly with tomatoes - some varieties you get one or two fruits a year, others you get twenty at once. Read up about each variety before you plant it.

    4. Things that are worth planting and grow well for us in pots (we are in North Yorkshire) - tomatoes (under a plastic greenhouse (£35)), tomatillos, mangetouts, courgettes, peas, lettuce/salad leaves (planted at the right times of year, you can have lettuce all year round), carrots (in quite a tall pot, otherwise you get carrot fly), chilli peppers (inside on a window sill - this one variety called 'Super chilli' gives me four pounds of chilli peppers a year, and I've had it for 3 years now.), broad beans, curly kale, lots and lots of herbs, and spring onions (two sowings a year will give you some throughout the year). We have had limited success with aubergines and peppers - it's just not been hot enough for them. If we had any space, I would make an asparagus bed, plant some artichokes, some purple sprouting broccoli, a few apple trees, and plenty of spuds.

    5. Get to grips with making compost. This is a skill well worth learning, but it took me several years of getting it wrong. Mix wet stuff, and dry stuff and poke it about every couple of weeks with a garden fork, and it should be fine. I now have four compost bins in rotation that provide us with most of the soil we need. I put rabbit waste in mine - if you haven't got any rabbits, ask someone who has - they're usually glad to get rid of it!

    6. Don't forget the flowers - they attract good insects like hoverflies and bees that are absolutely essential. I recommend sweet peas, honeysuckle, nasturtiums (also edible), jasmine and roses - they all smell amazing to me as well as to the insects!

    7. If you get vine weevils, kill every single one of them. They will destroy absolutely everything.

    8. Slugs aren't too bad if you keep plants out of their way when they're small. When the plants are bigger, they can cope with the slugs. I occasionally use organic slug pellets, but mostly it's just a case of keeping any of the neighbourhood's seemingly endless supply of cats out of the garden, so that thrushes, frogs, hedgehogs, toads and assorted birds feel very safe in our garden.

    Hope this helps someone enjoy a nice, fresh, and free dinner.

    Cheers
  • My mum has had an allotment for years. She has a couple of plots, so has enough room to grow vegetables as well as create an orchard to grow rare local varieties of apples and pears, as well as peaches and cherries. She also has four very happy former battery hens living out their retirement on her plot.

    Mum does a lot of voluntary work so can't get a full-time job, and looking after the allotment does take up lots of hours every week, especially at this time of year. However, she has worked out that the money saved by growing her own throughout the year comes to about the same as if she had a part-time job. Plus their is the added health benefits of running an allotment, the community spirit and the fact that she can dedicate a lot of time to her passion and 'hobby', and that the whole family gets the most delicious fruit, veg and eggs throughout the year.

    With regards to keeping chickens, as a few people have pointed out already, yes you do have to check that the deeds to your house or allotment allow for the keeping of certain live-stock - Mum's house and allotment deeds, for instance, allow hens but not pigs!

    Also you do have to be meticulously careful about foxes. Mum's hens are kept in a well secured run during the day, and every night they are locked back into the hen house. They are never let out to fully roam the allotment (but as former battery hens, they're in heaven as it is having space to flap their wings and lie in the sun). Every week or so the whole house and run is moved to a new part of the allotment so they get some fresh grass to peck throughout the day. A good test has also been getting my terrier (Pickles) who is desperate to get inside the house and run, to come and have a go at trying to get in - is quite chilled out so doesn't stress the hens, which you need to be careful about of course. This way we can check out the weak points around the coup where a fox will probably also try. We were amazed to see Pickles almost force open parts that we thought were well secured.

    Mum has written some great articles about starting an allotment as well as growing your own fruit and veg in small spaces for my web site. You can see all her articles here: http://www.bookshelfboyfriend.com/articles.php?l1_id=1&l2_id=15 . She hasn't covered keeping chickens yet - maybe I'll get her to do that next!

    The most important tip is to enjoy growing your own, and not to put yourself off by taking on too much at first.
  • flea72
    flea72 Posts: 5,392 Forumite
    First Post Combo Breaker First Anniversary
    its been a bad year this year for home-grown, due to the wet weather, the slugs are having a field day, so your only option is a torch a dawn, or pellets.

    However, it is still early in the season, and i wouldnt be expecting big harvests yet. plants that havent looked as though they have done much over the past month, should now start to put on a spurt, and start producing. i just think the weather has put things back a few weeks

    As for easy grow things, personally i would steer clear of mixed lettuce leaves, as within 2wks you have eaten enough lettuce to last you a lifetime. I much prefer whole lettuce, that you can sew a few of at a time, and that way you dont get too bored, and it doesnt bolt before you get chance to eat it

    i think the easiest plant to grow for a beginner is potatoes. just chuck a few in a large tub of compost and sit back and wait. no weeding, no feeding/watering usually needed, and you still get something at the end.

    As for time involved, the setting up of your plot takes the longest. i just dug a 8sqm patch of lawn up and gave it a rough fork over. Took me the best part of an afternoon to do that, but now the weeding/feeding only takes about 5-10mins a day

    The thing that takes up the most of your time though is actually deciding on what to grow. i think ive got a list as long as my arm of what i plan to grow, what i actually get around to planting, is probably 1/5 of that.

    Its also getting into the mindset of what you need to plant this month to reap the rewards of next month/year. before starting growing my own, i thought you planted winter veg after you had grown and eaten your summer ones, but it seems that things like sprouts/root veg need planting in the spring and not in Sept/Oct as i thought. which is why i would recommend buying a book that is in the diary format, where it tells you what you should roughly be doing that month. alot of veg growing books, tend to have the vegetables in alphabetical order, which means you have to then set up your own planting diary. much easier to have it ready done for you.

    Flea
  • tracey29
    tracey29 Posts: 274 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Our garden is all gravel and patio so we're trying to 'grow our own' in tubs and pots. It's great fun and very rewarding.

    At the moment we've got carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries.

    Does anyone have any other suggestions we could try?

    Thanks

    Tracey
  • Hi all..with regard to starting your own vegetable plot there are a few things to keep in mind,are you wanting a continual harvest all year round,or will you just harvest when everything is ready?
    This is my second year in veggy gardening and have recently dug up borders in my back garden, its a good idea ive found to invest in a greenhouse or make your own with wood and plastic as i have. Why? you may ask,because it gives all seeds a good headstart and makes them nice and hardy before going outside,also tomatoes grow insanely fast in them.
    Good idea to have few raised beds to stop diesease in crops such as carrot fly,and to cover your vegetables in netting or fleece to stop pigeons. Get yourself a good variety of tools,bamboo canes and string. Also the best tip i have recieved is doing your bit for the environment and getting a waterbutt or large pot to save rain water, good for plants as keeps nutrients and also saves on your water bill!!!!
  • tomsolomon
    tomsolomon Posts: 3,613 Forumite
    You dont need to spend loads of money on a vegetable plot. You could quiet easily get your hobby of to a great start for as little as £20. All you need is a garden fork, some seeds and a little know how.
    To travel at the speed of light, one must first become light.....
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