Want To Start Growing Your Own Food? Here Are 3 Things I’ve Learned

Winter is the perfect time to start getting your space ready for next year. Throughout the five years that I’ve been growing my own food I’ve picked up lots of advice. Here are 3 Things I’ve Learned Through My Growing Journey So Far:

1 – Only Grow Radish If You Love Eating It

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This is a really important first point. If you’re eager to start your growing journey, don’t grow everything that someone on a blog or in a book has, especially if you don’t like it.

Start small and start with your favourites.

Whilst homegrown food can make all veggies taste miles better, you’ll still end up wasting time, effort and produce because you really don’t like certain crops.

In my case, it’s celery and celeriac and all of the aniseed-flavoured vegetables. I’m still not a huge fan of radish either and can really take or leave Jerusalem artichokes. So I don’t set aside space for any of these things, instead focusing on my favourite food. Pumpkins and squash fill the plot, tomatoes and peppers grow nice and ripe in the greenhouse and the strawberries and raspberries surprise me year after year.

Every year I treat it like my first. I sit down and plan out what I want to grow depending on what I like to eat.

However, it’s also about what is going to reward you the most. As a vegetarian, I need lots of protein and iron from my food so I choose to grow leafy greens and peas and beans over broccoli. This is because I know I can get more meals out of a pot or plot of beans than I can from broccoli. The same often applies to potatoes, which take up huge amounts of space.

With Small Space Garden launching officially next year, I’ll be offering guides on some of the best crops that you can grow for nutrition as well as for quantity and ease.

2 – Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

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It can be easy, as I found out, to grow a ton of plants in the first year, yet when it comes to maintaining the plants, you’ll find yourself swamped. With only a couple of hours to spare you want to keep only a few really productive crops at first.

If you’re a single parent, work over 40 hours a week or you’re busy in other ways, most plants will cope very well with just one watering a week. Unless the weather is scorching, you can leave them in peace most of the time. With some tomatoes you’ll need to pinch the tips out and stake the stems to support and encourage fruit. I’ll be creating several handy guides for tomatoes next year, so watch this space!

3 – If You’ve Only Grown One Leek This Year, It’s Still An Achievement

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One of three leeks I managed to grow this year

Weather, slugs and poor seed stock can make growing your own a bit of a nightmare. Whilst slugs and the weather can be controlled to some extent, there is always something else around the corner. What is important to remember for any budding grower and gardener is that even the one tomato you’ve harvested from the ill-looking vine is a powerful thing.

Growing your own food isn’t just about the harvest – although that is very important. It’s also about the power and the independence. The connection with the earth and with nature, no matter how big or small. By nuturing a plant through to fruit, you have taken control of your food and you have engaged with the whole process. Trust me, the world looks like a very different place! After all, gardening is cool and growing food that you can eat and cook meals with is even cooler.

What have you learnt on your allotment, garden or balcony this year? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

Less Gloom, More Bloom: How Plants Help Anxiety and Depression from Experience

Although I’m often writing excitedly here or over on Instagram and Twitter about what I’ve been up to, things have been difficult lately as I’ve been suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Whilst I spend much of my time worrying, lately my anxiety has dominated my life, consuming me and in the process I’ve had to scale back simple tasks. The day to day had been an uphill struggle up until very recently. But this is no surprise.

Anxiety and depression are on the rise, particularly amongst us Brits. With busy lifestyles, job dissatisfaction, daily troubles and more, it’s easy to see why so many of us suffer.

Yet, if you’re reading this whilst suffering from depression or anxiety right now, let’s do away with the doom and gloom. There is a very powerful secret weapon that I’ve been relying on almost every day to ease my anxiety. It’s an antidote not only to short-term symptoms, but to on-going and more serious forms of depression, too. One of the best ways of improving your mood, increasing your energy and helping yourself to get healthier is by spending time with plants.

Whilst research has shown that even just a wander through a green space and interacting with plants as you go is enough to combat depression, by owning your own plants you’ll notice even more improvements in your energy levels and your mood.

Walk, run, sniff, pick – plants and gardens are the best therapists

Unlike the busy towns and cities, the boxy flats and the claustrophobic streets, by getting an allotment with your friends, turning your rented garden into something more or by simply including some essential plants to your balcony or terrace, you can start feeling happier.

You want to build a space that you can completely immerse yourself in. Anxiety is beaten by breaking your thought spirals. You need colour, scent, flavour and texture to occupy your mind with and plants are just the thing.

Scented plants for calming you down

Rosemary

Just a sniff of this richly-scented herb has not only been proven to help with memory, grab a lung of it and you can help to control your anxiety. Feel the waxy leaves, look over the purple flowers and watch the bees working away to relieve all that stress.

The best part is that rosemary will happily grow in pots and you can hang it up around the house or, more importantly, use it on those roast potatoes. Here’s a great website for picking up your own plants.

Chamomile

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Image via Pixabay

Staying with herbs for a second, chamomile is a fantastic plant for anxiety. You can even take a bag of tea and scatter it over a pot full of soil for some easy seedlings. Just make sure the soil is moist and add a light layer of soil over the top of the seeds. Chamomile not only looks good, it smells beautiful too. By sowing lots of seeds, you can create carpets of flowers that will help you with a good dose of mindfulness.

Roses

These flowers come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. You can find some miniature roses that are perfect for patios and terraces. Alternately, get as many of these bright, bold flowers in as you can in an allotment or garden. By growing roses up archways or training them across fence panels, you can create a truly immersive space that will transport you. So long as you give the plants a good dose of manure when you plant them and keep them trimmed back a little every so often, they should thrive.

Colourful Plants to Boost Your Mood and Keep You Healthy

Depression is mood-altering. So how can we help to bring balance to your lack of energy and lack of inspiration? These projects aren’t big: remember, a pot, a bag of soil and a plant can quite literally transform a space. Even by just spending time caring for one or two of the plants mentioned will help you find a little peace and comfort.

Sunflowers

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There’s a real sense of achievement when you grow one of these. Of course, even if you don’t have the space to grow a goliath plant, you can still get some large-headed, bright flowers filling your space with colour. The best bit, of course, is that you can take the seeds once the heads have wilted. Sunflower seeds have lots of nutrients in them to help combat your depression, and from sowing seeds to harvesting a crop, that sense of achievement will also give you a great buzz.

Tomatoes

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Not only do tomatoes taste fantastic, they’re really good for you too. Lypocene, a nutrient that actually halts the build-up of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to depression. Grow cherry tomatoes for the richest source of lypocene. Cherry tomatoes are also highly productive in small spaces and, so long as you give them a good water every other day in dry weather and feed once a week, they should give you a glut. Wander past your tomato plants and take in the rich aromas, watch them growing to huge sizes and observe the tomato fruits as they ripen: it really is mesmerising.

Pop along to your local garden centre or any high street DIY store and pick up some late additions now.

Jasmine

The scent of jasmine is enough to reinvigorate your senses. You don’t even need to be close to smell the deep aromas of this plant. Let the jasmine fill your closed space with greenery and aroma and you’ll feel all the better for it.

Somerset Garden Day

The days are warmer, the sun is out for longer and there is plenty of fun to be had in the garden. Today is Somerset Garden Day, the first garden celebration day of its kind in the UK. Whether you’re the proud owner of a window box, a terrace or a full-blown garden, today is the day for putting your feet up and enjoying the space that you own. In celebration of the day itself, myself and fellow blogger and Incredible Edible Bristol community gardener, Man vs Allotment took time out of our busy schedules to throw a little party.

I’m ashamed to say that I don’t have many visitors to my plot. Although the plot itself is huge, it’s been under development for quite some time. However, with Somerset Garden Day dawning, it provided me with the perfect excuse to get some of my allotment neighbours and housemates over to the plot for some relaxing and unwinding.

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By allowing yourself the time to unwind in these places of nature, or by sitting in your terrace garden with friends, you really do feel the stresses of the week fall away. It’s been proven that spending time around plants and trees and nurturing your own garden helps with anxiety and depression, and as someone who suffers from the former, I can confirm that it really does work.

Not only did we take some time out to immerse ourselves in the allotment, I also learnt more about my allotment neighbours. Ross (Man vs Allotment) is famous on the site for featuring with his innovative pub-shed idea in Big Dreams, Small Spaces presented by Monty Don. Naturally, I had to see it and we wandered up to enjoy a beer and talk about a range of different plans and ideas. Through inviting people into your garden or allotment, you can exchange great new ideas and inspiration, and I came away exactly having achieved it.

What was also brilliant to see was the diversity between the five of us. My two housemates own a colourful terrace garden right in the noisy centre of Bristol. Yet, they surround the space with lots of different plants to create a tranquil space. Tim, one of my allotment neighbours who writes for a local community newspaper has just taken on his second half-plot on the site and we exchanged lots of ideas about gardening and garden writing. Ross, again, has some great ideas for using his space, growing hops over his pub-shed so that he can start making his own brew, as well as lots of other little quirks on his plot. Together, we were all a hive of different ideas and the whole day was a refreshing change from the norm.

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Across the county, let’s escape the stresses of the week and immerse ourselves in our slices of paradise. If you haven’t got enough plants, why not pick some fresh new colour, edibles and more from a local garden centre today?

Don’t forget to follow Somerset Garden Day on Twitter and on Instagram and tweet/take lot of photos of your garden spaces!

Small Space Garden Episode 2 | Sowing Tomatoes and Peppers

Last week I created a small bed, this week I’m sowing tomatoes and peppers.

The Small Space Garden series continues. This time, I’m looking at sowing some late tomatoes and peppers ready for containers in the garden.

Tomatoes and peppers are fantastic little plants for limited spaces and you’ll get rewarding crops at the end of it all too. It might be easy picking up that pack of peppers or those vine tomatoes, but you’ll never get the same flavour as you do by growing your own. Follow me and join in on this fun growing adventure.

If you haven’t seen Episode One, you can watch it here.

Happy planting

How to Grow Chillies Without a Lot of Space

Whenever I get into a conversation about growing food with one of my friends the most common reason for them not attempting to have a go is because of a lack of space. Now, as many of you are aware, my mission in life is to prove to everyone, no matter what you do or how much time you can spare, that growing your own food is actually very achievable.

So I started the Grow Your Own Food Challenge. The aim of the challenge is to show you all from seed through to meal that, garden, balcony or windowsill, there are still plenty of options available to you.

I’ll be posting videos and hashtagging #seedsaturday and #seedsunday every time I sow a new plants or share an update on the plants I’ll be growing this year.

Last weekend, I started my first batch of chilli seedlings. You can see the video below. Remember, if you’re new to this or you know someone who wants to grow their own food, make sure you follow my Facebook page for more information.

How to Grow Salads Without a Lot of Space

Want to grow your own food but you haven’t got a garden? You don’t need one.

Behold the windowsill garden plan:

Continue reading How to Grow Salads Without a Lot of Space

Pumpkin Muffins

Halloween is here, and I’m sure you’ve all been busy carving out your pumpkins.

But what exactly do we do with the rest of the pumpkin once it’s been carved out?

Well, you can take both the delicious orange flesh and seeds and make this delicious pumpkin muffin recipe:

Continue reading Pumpkin Muffins

How to Grow in Small Spaces: Balconies

The beauty of living in the city is that you’re very close to shops. Whilst this is often a very useful thing; you’re bringing home that bag of salad, or those tomatoes still clinging to the vine which are costing you a fortune. The truth is, much of this stuff can be grown easily, and it can be done without huge amounts of space. All you need is a little bit of time and some forward planning and you, too, could be enjoying your very own food.

Continue reading How to Grow in Small Spaces: Balconies

5 Easy Ways You Can Save Money By Growing Your Own

5 Easy Ways You Can Save Money By Growing Your Own

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Every time I go into the supermarket and I look at the veg section I despair at how much money a packet of spinach is.

Spinach is one of the easiest things that you can grow. Yet, gardening is seen as this difficult thing that only people either with qualifications or with the time to spare can do. The same can be said about all of the dark leafy greens, as well as vegetables like peas, potatoes and tomatoes.

In this week’s blog I’m about to blow your mind.

Continue reading 5 Easy Ways You Can Save Money By Growing Your Own