For the Best Gardeners in the Cardiff Area

   Jun 22

Your Questions About Gardening

Jenny asks…

Growing your own veg for beginners. Where should I start?

I would grateful for any advise you could give me. I am hoping to start growing my own food in an effort to reduce the amount I spend. Where should I start?
I have a small area in the garden to use but have no idea where to begin.

GardenersCardiff answers:

If you have an area available now, then head off to a garden centre and see if you can find some veg plants still hanging about… One courgette plant would mean you would be getting fresh veg within a month. If there’s some cabbage/kale plants, they would grow on nicely for the winter, but keep the birds off them (frame/netting or they’ll be gobbling the lot, I gave the pigeons a feast). Grab a few canes/rig up some netting, and shove some climbing french bean seeds around the base… You might get a decent late harvest.

Read the back of a Pak Choi packet of seeds, just coming into sowing time for these, sound okay? Grab a chilli plant, most are happy in a sheltered spot, just plant it and leave it be. Try an outdoor tomato (read the labels of the plants for sale), stake it, let it make 3 trusses, then pinch the top off.

Fancy some fresh salad greens? Packet of mixed seed e.g. Italian mix, spicy greens mix, give it 4-6 weeks and you’ll have fresh leaves on a daily basis.

Autumn onion sets are easy.

Head off to a library and get a copy of Joy Larkcom’s ‘Grow your own Vegetables’ – packed with info, a lifeline for beginners and non-beginners alike, and goes through everything from soils to tackling each vegetable on an individual basis. From this, take a look at your plot and it will be easy to translate wet/dry, shady/sunny, sheltered/windy, clay/sand… Into what vegetable goes where/which are unsuitable.

A lot of the vegetable seeds available from the big suppliers are F1s and geared towards mass production, rather than those who want flavour and home/garden suitability – so look for the specialists who seek out varieties that should perform for ‘us’… Solid producers, good flavour, ones you can save your own seed from (so you only have to buy 1 packet, after that, you collect your own seeds from the plants you’ve just grown). Have a look at Alan Roman’s – seeds without the fancy packaging, inexpensive; and there’s ‘The Real Seed Catalogue’, if you want to go straight for the varieties that hit the spot; and the Organic Catalogue…. Plus others.

To reduce the amount of money you are spending on vegetables, do a little maths: do you want to grow the expensive vegetables you like, or go for the staples like onions, potatoes, carrots, turnips; if you roughly know how many (name of vegetable) do you use in a year, then you can work out how many you’d need to grow. If you like beans (french, runner) then these are very easy to grow, and you can freeze bagfuls for the rest of the year – last year 7 seeds/plantlets grew rampant up one west wall and produced a basinful a week, I ended up giving the things away. Courgettes are another one that can give happily all season, and the excess can be frozen as ratatouille, soup, or incorporated into cakes (makes a fantastic moist chocolate cake); winter root vegetables will take a lot of what mother nature can throw, and then can be lifted/stored for a long while; for next year, winter squash (edible pumpkins) can store for months and months, and when growing can be trained up a structure to cut down on the ground space they occupy. Winter radish, the big ones, are another ‘goodie’ that store and eat well, when cooked they loose the hotness. Put some summer radish seeds in now, but dont eat them all, let a few flower, you will find the flowers turn into edible pods, oodles per plant, just shove a few stakes/string around them for support.

It can all be a bit overwhelming to begin with, but a good book, a good look at your plot, and an idea of what you want to grow should get you off and running.

Daniel asks…

How to grow all your own food, etc.?

I want to grow most of my own food. I also want to live in solitude, kinda like a monk so to say. Like live off the land, simply. How would I go about this? Do you know anyone like this?

GardenersCardiff answers:

That is a dramatic lifestyle change and unless you can find a community that is already set up then you will need to learn a lot of skills. I would start by learning to live without buying things, and start getting rid of unnecessary possession. You will need to learn about bio dynamic gardening, because any other type would require outside input. You can either start your own garden or go work on a farm. Learn to source all you food locally, prepare from scratch and how to preserve it. You may also want to learn skill like cheese making, butchering, animal husbandry and bread making.

A good place to start is to learn about the planned simplicity movement.

Lizzie asks…

Do you think it will become illegal to grow your own food?

GardenersCardiff answers:

That would be stupid. Wow

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