There’s never been a better time to start growing your own fruit and vegetables at home. With food bills rising across the UK, it’s just the thing to help you cut costs from your weekly grocery bill. Not only that, but creating your own fruit and veg garden can do wonders for your mental and physical health, helping you get outdoors and making it even easier to make healthy choices in the kitchen.
Giving growing your own fruit and veg a go may be something you’ve been thinking about for a while, but for beginners, knowing where to start can be a real struggle. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by deciding what to plant or even where to plant it, but with the help of this handy lesson plan, you’ll pick fresh fruit from your garden before you know it.
From learning how to check your soil to gardening sustainably, we’ve covered everything you need to know.
- Identify the key terms relating to growing your own fruit and vegetables
- Understand how to plan your garden
- Activity: Planning your garden
- Learn how to garden sustainably
- Understand how to prepare your soil
- Learn how to improve your soil quality
- Identify the best fruit & veg to grow in the UK
Seedlings are young plants that have been started from seeds but have not yet been transplanted into the garden.
This measures the degree of acidity or alkalinity in the soil. Identifying your soil’s pH levels is important as it will inform which plants will grow best. A pH of around 6.0 – 7.5 is considered ideal for most fruit and vegetables.
Completely decayed organic matter used for conditioning soil. It is dark, odourless, rich in nutrients, and usually made from kitchen scraps, garden waste, and other organic materials.
A chemical or natural substance is added to soil to provide it with essential nutrients and improve its fertility.
This is the practice of sowing seeds so that plants can help each other to grow instead of competing against each other. For instance, planting marigolds beside tomatoes is beneficial as it will help to repel pests.
The process of picking fruits and vegetables from the garden when they are ripe and ready to eat.
Varieties of plants that complete their life cycle in one year or less require sowing every year.
Varieties of plants that live for two or more years.
How to grow fruit and vegetables at home
Planning your garden
Never underestimate the importance of planning your garden. Before you can enjoy watching your plants sprout to life, you’ll need to figure out what and where they will grow. Common mistakes made by beginner gardeners often happen at the planning stage.
Optimising the space you have to work with is often overlooked as excited first-time gardeners rush to plant all their favourite veg. However, it’s important to figure out the number of plants you can realistically grow, especially if you’re working with a small space (you don’t want to take on too much, get overwhelmed and give up on the project halfway through). If you live in an urban area without access to a garden, ‘container gardening’ is perfect for you. Think about the types of fruit and veg you want to plant and research how much space they will need. Then, you can plant them accordingly, ensuring they have enough room to grow.
When it comes to location, choose an area in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day and then ensure that the spot is close to a water source so it’s convenient for you to keep the plants hydrated. Also, consider placing your garden in a well-fenced area to shield it from strong winds and wildlife. And, as previously mentioned, make sure that the area is big enough to accommodate everything you want to plant.
To ensure cost savings and limit impulse purchases, you should choose what you will be planting according to your family’s preferences, considering how much fruit or veg you will need. This will ensure you plant the right amount of each, maximising your yield and avoiding over-planting, which can contribute to waste. This is just one of the many things to consider when gardening sustainably.
Begin planning your fruit & veg garden by following the steps below. Be sure to grab a pen and paper and note your plans.
- Carefully measure the space you have available to plant your garden, taking note of the exact measurements and how much sunlight the area receives per day.
- Speak to your friends and family and note what fruits and vegetables they prefer. Add your own preferences to the list.
- Take this list and cross-check against our table and guide below to identify what fruit & veg is best suited to growing in the UK. Complete further research if necessary.
- Carry out checks on your soil to identify its pH levels and decide on the final types of fruit & veg you will be planting using this information.
- Be careful to consider the measurements of your space and choose a number of plants that will fit comfortably. You can even sketch a design for the finished garden to help with this process.
- Purchase the necessary seeds/plants and begin!
How to garden sustainably
Gardening with sustainable and organic practices in mind is important for many reasons. Implementing composting and natural pest control methods instead of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides can limit environmental damage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not only that but there are also significant health benefits. Growing fresh, organic fruit and veg increases your nutrient intake and reduces exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
So, what sustainable practices should you consider when planning your garden?
- Conserving water: You can water your plants more efficiently, using less water by watering in the morning or evening when the temperatures and evaporation levels are lower. You can even employ Mother Nature to help with gardening by collecting rainwater in a container rather than turning on your garden hose.
- Avoid chemicals: It’s incredibly important to avoid using chemicals in your garden by opting for natural pest control methods like insecticidal soap and organic fertilisers like compost. Creating a composting bin in your garden allows you to collect food scraps, grass clippings and other such materials that can then be used as a natural fertiliser to enrich your soil. This eco-friendly option is much safer than chemical-heavy alternatives.
By adopting these organic and sustainable gardening practices, you’ll create a garden that is not only beautiful but that supports the health of your family and the planet.
Preparing your soil
Next, you’ll need to start preparing your soil. This is an important step in the process because the higher the soil quality, the healthier your plants will be. Your soil provides the necessary nutrients, air and water that they’ll need to survive. So, to ensure that your soil is in good condition, you’ll need to conduct some quick checks.
Check the texture: Scoop up and squeeze a handful of your soil. Does it feel gritty? If so, it may have too much sand. Does it feel sticky? It may have too much clay. Healthy soil should feel crumbly in texture and have a good mix of sand, silt and clay. To learn all about the different soil types, check out our beginner’s guide here.
Check for drainage: To ensure your plants receive enough water, you’ll want to ensure that your soil has good drainage. To check this, dig a small hole and fill it with water. Ideally, it should drain quickly. If not, your soil may have drainage issues that could negatively impact your plants’ growth.
Look for signs of life: Healthy soil should always show signs of life. So, dig a small hole and look for earthworms, insects and other small bugs. They will help to decompose organic matter and improve the structure of your soil.
How to improve the quality of your soil
Having trouble with the texture of your soil? Improving its quality can take time, but it can be done. Most plants prefer a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. You can pick up a pH test kit online or at your local garden centre to test this. If your soil isn’t sitting within the right level, you can make adjustments using organic fertilisers or adding lime. To learn more, check out our post about understanding pH levels here.
You can also improve your soil by ‘mulching’ to reduce water loss and avoiding over-tilling which can damage the structure of your soil and increase the risk of soil erosion.
Let’s get planting!
Once you’ve chosen your location and prepared your soil, it’s time to consider what you’ll actually be planting. For a little inspiration, please take a look at our list below.
Best fruit and veg to grow in the UK
- Apples: Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith
- Pears: Concorde, Red William
- Strawberries: Albion, Chandler, Red Gauntlet
- Raspberries: Heritage, Caroline, Encore
- Blueberries: Bluecrop, Duke, Jersey
- Potatoes: Maris Piper, Charlotte, Jazzy
- Carrots: Deep Purple Hybrid, Lunar White
- Tomatoes: Early Girl, Red Alert, San Marzano
- Lettuce: Looseleaf, Romaine, Iceberg
- Peas: Early Onward, Kelvedon Wonder, English pea
Be aware that each type of fruit and vegetable going into your garden may have a different planting season and it’s important to plant at the right time to ensure proper growth. You’ll need to research the best planting dates for your fruit and veg according to your region. This table is a good starting point for ideas.
|Type of Fruit/Vegetable||Planting Time||Harvest Time||Example Varieties||Required Tools|
|Apples||Autumn or Spring||Late Summer to Autumn||Cox’s Orange Pippin, Bramley, Golden Delicious||Secateurs, Ladder|
|Blackberries||Autumn or Spring||Late Summer to Early Autumn||Loch Ness, Apache, Oregon Thornless||Pruning Shears|
|Raspberries||Autumn or Spring||Summer to Autumn||Autumn Bliss, Heritage, Joan J||Garden Fork, Garden Trowel|
|Strawberries||Autumn or Spring||Late Spring to Early Summer||Elsanta, Florence, Cambridge Favourite||Garden Trowel, Strawberry Planter|
|Plums||Autumn or Spring||Late Summer to Early Autumn||Victoria, Marjorie’s Seedling, Czar||Ladder, Secateurs|
|Carrots||Early Spring||Late Summer to Early Autumn||Nantes, Chantenay, Imperator||Garden Fork, Hand Trowel|
|Broccoli||Early Spring||Summer to Early Autumn||Calabrese, Purple Sprouting, Romanesco||Garden Trowel, Pruning Shears|
|Cabbage||Early Spring||Late Summer to Early Autumn||Hispi, January King, Savoy||Garden Trowel, Pruning Shears|
|Potatoes||Early Spring||Summer to Autumn||Maris Piper, King Edward, Desiree||Garden Fork, Hoe|
|Onions||Late Winter to Early Spring||Late Summer to Autumn||Sturon, Red Baron, White Lisbon||Hand Trowel, Garden Fork|
You’ll also need to ensure you’re planting at the right depth. Planting too shallow or too deep will likely lead to your plant failing to develop a strong root system and struggling to grow. Ensuring that you are watering each plant correctly is also essential. Different plants require different levels of watering. For instance, parsnips and tomatoes require less water than cabbages and peas. So check how often you should be watering each type of plant.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables at home is an incredibly rewarding experience. We hope this lesson has given you the confidence to get stuck in. Keep your eyes peeled on our knowledge hub for even more information on caring for each type of fruit and vegetable. We’re to help ensure your garden thrives each step of the way. You can also check out our store now to grab all the necessary bits to get started.
That’s it for today. Hopefully, you have more of an understanding of how to grow your own fruit & veg and how easy it is to get started.
The next stage of our course is Module 16 – Low Maintenance Garden.