Relaxing, gardening and entertaining friends and family are all wonderful ways to enjoy the outdoor space your new home has to offer. However, there's also something truly satisfying about using your garden to grow your own.
Growing your own fruits, vegetables or herbs doesn't always mean compromising on style and space. Many types of produce can be grown with minimal effort, and there are plenty of solutions to ensure your crops are in keeping with the rest of your garden.
So if you fancy getting green-fingered, but aren't quite ready to give up your garden for The Good Life, here are some fail-safe tips for growing delicious produce at home.
Growing your own salads means you're guaranteed to always have the freshest leaves. Plus, by only picking as much as you need, there's no wastage. Salad seeds usually come in variety packs, so you don't need to worry about choosing a mix of leaves which will complement each other. Simply sow your seeds into moist soil, leave in a sunny spot and water regularly, then 3 weeks later you'll have plenty of leafy greens ready for picking. Plant your salad seeds from March to October to enjoy freshly picked salads throughout the summer months.
Spring onions make fantastic additions to salads and stir-frys and they're unbelievably easy to grow in the garden. Simply scatter your seeds over moist soil and cover lightly with 1.5cm of compost, water regularly, and after 8 weeks your spring onions will be ready to harvest! Radishes also offer a simple way to jazz up summer salads and can be grown in similar conditions to spring onions. Thinly sow seeds 2.5cm apart and in around 4 weeks your radishes will be perfect for picking.
These natural climbers are a gardener's favourite. They take up minimal space and their beautiful red and white flowers blend into borders perfectly. Plant your runner bean seeds 5cm deep in well-watered soil alongside a wigwam cane or trellis from May to July, and tie your stems loosely to the supporting structure as they begin to climb. Harvest your beans when the pods reach around 15-20cm long, and pick every 2-3 days to ensure they're at their most tender. If you end up with a large crop, you can always freeze any excess and enjoy them at a later date.
Home-grown tomatoes are always packed with flavour and their versatility means they can be used in so many different dishes. Cherry tomatoes ripen quickly, and so are best suited to garden-growing, however it's best to start growing your tomatoes from seeds in smaller pots indoors from early spring so they're not exposed to frost or bad weather. Sprinkle seeds over soil and cover with 1.5cm compost. Keep the soil moist and transfer the plants to larger post outside when they become bigger and stronger. Watering your tomatoes with a general liquid feed will encourage better growth, and you should start harvesting when the fruits have fully changed colour.
While greenhouses, grow-bags and large vegetable patches maybe great for getting the best out of your crops, if you're lacking space in your garden or want your home-grown fruits and vegetables to blend in effortlessly with your existing flowers, plants and shrubbery, there are some stylish and practical alternatives.
Wall mounted pots or planters are a perfect space-saving solution, and can be attached securely to house, garage or garden walls, and even sturdy fences. Lightweight planters or racks are great for storing herbs,such as parsley, coriander, thyme and mint, all of which can be grown from seeds or potted full- grown. It's a great way to keep all your herbs together, making them easier to harvest and keeping your garden looking tidy.
Hanging baskets are ideal for holding heavier plants, such as strawberries, chillies and tomato plants. Not only are hanging plants more accessible, and therefore easier to harvest, but keeping your crops in elevated baskets ensures they are out of reach of any pests which live on the soil, such as slugs and snails. Crops grown in hanging baskets will need to be watered lightly and more frequently than plants grown in the ground, however hanging baskets give you better control over where you place your plants, for example,in a position which sees sun for the majority of the day.
Raised beds and troughs are great for planting all kinds of fruits and vegetables, particularly those which need a large root space such as carrots and potatoes. Not only are your plants easily accessible, but their rectangular shapes are perfect for neatly planting a variety of different crops. Railway sleeper raised beds are a timeless addition to any garden, and depending on the type of wood used, can vary from clean-cut to rustic-looking.Simply stack and screw your sleepers together before lining with a plastic membrane and filling with soil.
It's a good idea to label each of your crops, particularly if you have several varieties growing in the same bed or planter, or are new to growing your own, as it can be difficult to identify some plants while they'regrowing. Making your own markers ensures your plant labels are in line with the theme and colours in your garden. Painting pebbles or wooden signs is an effective way to personalise your plant labelling, while using blackboard paint on pots and labelling them with chalk, or using small pieces of slate, offer a timeless, more natural look and can be reused in future crop-growing. Antique silver spoons also look great paired with all types of crops, and you can easily create your own using a letter stamping kit or by paying a visit to your local engraver.
Tomatoes, chillies, salad leaves, spring onions and radishes can also all be grown in all weathers from your windowsill, and indoor herb gardens are also a great way to add some colour and fragrance to your kitchen.So if you're keen on keeping a closer eye on your crops or want to maximise the amount of space dedicated to flowers, plants and shrubbery in your garden, then a sunny windowsill may be the answer! Most fruits and vegetables only require a small amount of space to grow and there are plenty of opportunities to be creative with your choice of pots and planters.