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Edibles

Home-grown fruit and veg
Home-grown fruit and veg

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’).

Even though I have been gardening for many decades, one major fault has haunted me – wanting to cram vegetables and fruit into every suitable and unsuitable spot – and there are many of the latter.

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.

Bumper pickings from courgette Verde di Napoli, August 30
Bumper pickings from courgette Verde di Napoli

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:

Raspberries growing in potato sacks
Raspberries growing in potato sacks

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.

A very poor show from tomatillos in 2019

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.

Almond blossom on Robijn
Almond blossom on Robijn – no nuts though

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.

Kale
Cavolo nero and Red Russian kale

Don’t cram too much in

A big fault of mine. You’ll get fewer crops, and disease and pests will spread more rapidly.

three-year crop rotation diagram
A basic three-year crop rotation diagram

Crop rotation is GOD

ALWAYS obey crop rotation rules. Growing the same type of vegetable in the same patch of soil leads to a build-up of pests and diseases and a depletion of minerals, such as clubroot in brassicas.

Jewel-like blackcurrants
Jewel-like blackcurrants

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.

Cherry tomato Rosella awarded AGM status by the RHS
Cherry tomato Rosella

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!

Apple in a barrel Red Falstaff
Apple in a barrel Red Falstaff

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.