Have you ever tasted a home-grown strawberry? Or munched on peas freshly harvested from their pods? The taste is a world away from the produce you pick up from the supermarket shelf.

In addition to the superior taste you’ll experience, growing your own fruit and veg has also been shown to improve mental wellbeing. Planting a seed, nurturing it and then harvesting the fruits (or veg!) of your labour is really rewarding.

The environmental benefits are important too...

Lots of energy goes into producing and transporting commercial crops, especially those that are flown around the world. There are very few food miles involved in harvesting food grown in your own garden! Packaging is also an issue with shop-bought fruit and veg, as many items are contained within plastic.

Even His Majesty King Charles III is a champion of home-grown produce. The King, who is a keen advocate for organic gardening and a long-standing climate change campaigner, is the inspiration behind a new three-year initiative called Coronation Gardens for Food and Nature. The project aims to encourage millions of people to grow their own food in wildlife-friendly gardens.  

Gardeners can visit the website mycoronationgarden.org for tips and growing guides, and you can add your plot (however big or small) to an online map. The map has already been populated with hundreds of gardening projects, ranging from community spaces and school plots to mini gardens on windowsills and balconies.

That is one of the great things about growing your own – anyone can get involved. You don’t even need a garden, as many crops can be grown in containers on a sunny balcony or windowsill.

So how do you get started?

All you really need is seeds and soil, as well as regular watering and a good supply of sunshine. While the main growing season generally gets underway around March, but there are still plenty of seeds that can be sown now for a late summer or autumn crop.

Radishes, for example, are quick to grow and will give you a crunchy crop in just four to six weeks. They can be sown right through until late August. They’re a great ‘space-filler’ as they don’t need much room so can be sown in the gaps amongst other plants. They can also be grown in pots if space is tight - not trays as these are not deep enough to accommodate them.    

Salad leaves are another good choice, taking around six weeks to crop. They can be sown up until September outside, and all year round indoors on a sunny windowsill. There are loads of varieties to choose from, and most seed packets contain a mixture of leaves such as rocket, mizuna, mustard leaves and pak choi. Again, they can be grown easily in trays or pots.

July is the last month to sow carrots for an autumn crop. They take around three months to grow, and should be sown about 1cm deep and 8cm apart if growing in rows outside. They need a light, well drained soil, so container-growing is ideal. Monty Don recommends mixing the very fine seeds with sand beforehand to help create distribute them evenly around the pot.  

As well as watering your plants regularly, you might also need to protect them from other creatures who are seeking out a tasty snack. Slugs and snails will often make a beeline for your crops, as well as hungry birds, aphids and more specialised insects such as carrot fly.

However, resist the temptation to reach for the chemicals to keep them at bay, as there are plenty of methods you can employ which are environmentally-friendly. Number one is to encourage more wildlife into your garden! Frogs and toads will gobble up slugs, and ladybirds and wasps will feast on aphids. By creating a small pond, log piles for insects and planting lots of bug-friendly blooms you will attract natural ‘pest controllers’ into your garden.

You can also employ physical barriers around your crops to protect them. Copper tape around the top of plant pots will deter slugs, and you can also buy a gravel-like substance which you can scatter around plants that slugs will not crawl over.

Netting can be useful for preventing birds from reaching your crops, and a fine mesh can be used to protect against carrot fly.

Another popular method for safeguarding your veg is companion planting. This involves growing plants together that are mutually beneficial. For example, growing strong-smelling plants such as mint, onions and garlic alongside carrots can confuse carrot fly, who are attracted to the scent of carrots.

Some gardeners even choose to plant ‘sacrificial crops’ – extra plants that they are happy to leave for their garden wildlife to munch upon! Whatever you decide, growing your own grub and supporting the nature that lives in your own green space – however big or small – is a real treat for the soul (and the stomach!) Happy gardening!

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