Grow fruit and veg crops to save money and suit the space, skill and mobility you have
My garden’s edible exploits have been through many stages and I suspect there will be many more (by the way, you’ll never hear the words ‘veggie’ or ‘lottie’ here – they’re an abomination. It’s a straightforward ‘veg’ and ‘allotment’).
Combined with my ever-optimistic view of the weather in North-East England, failures have been many. I swear I’ll take Monty Don’s ‘Buddhist’ philosophy to heart but it doesn’t always work.
Also, I’m a sucker for a new novelty in the seed catalogues when the nights are drawing in come autumn and I’m drawing up lists for seeds I have no space for.
Learn from my mistakes
The best advice I can give to beginners to save them time and heartache, avoid thinking you know best – don’t try to grow things where they don’t want to grow (learn from my mistakes). At best, you’ll end up with a poor crop, at worst, the death of the lot.
Here are some common-sense tips to avoid fruit and veg failure:
Fruit and veg in containers
If you’re going to grow edibles in pots, make sure you have the time and inclination to keep them watered and fed. It will probably be a daily job to water unless it’s really wet and a weekly job to feed. If you doubt yourself, forget it.
Control your seed buying urges!
Don’t be swayed by all the new products of the season (right, like I’m not…) Buy what you need, not what you want. This sensible approach will save you money and reduce waste – seeds do go off.
Research what you grow
I once bought an unusual almond tree that was a ‘bargain’ and didn’t check whether it would actually fruit where I live (bitter experience there – and not even a bitter almond produced). Even a cheap tree is expensive if it doesn’t earn its keep.
Don’t cram too much in
A big fault of mine. You’ll get fewer crops, and disease and pests will spread more rapidly.
Crop rotation is GOD
Grow things that are expensive to buy
Many varieties of fruit and veg are difficult to pick or have a poor shelf life, so they’re expensive or non-existent in supermarkets. That doesn’t mean they’re difficult for home gardeners to grow. Blackcurrants are really easy but tricky to pick in bulk. Most commercial tomatoes have thicker skins so they have a longer shelf life and growers rely on productivity over taste.
Focus on taste
Commercial growers want the biggest yield possible and while it’s possible to get flavoursome varieties of fruit and veg now, nothing tastes like your own home-grown crops fresh from the plant. I’m especially thinking of tomatoes, strawberries, apples and new potatoes here!
If you have limited mobility…
Grow crops that won’t be hard to reach or pick. Use of raised beds and make sure you can reach the middle without overstretching.
Avoid fruit trees that grow tall – buy them on dwarfing rootstocks so you won’t have to climb ladders or get someone in to prune them.