How we started to grow food at home

When lockdown hit back in March, like many in the UK, I panicked about food as everyone else seemed to panic about loo roll. My response, helped by a hubby on furlough, was to panic, buy compost and plant anything I could think of.

Very quickly there was a 3ft square raised planter installed in our back garden, with a (looking back, unmanageable) selection of peas, lettuce, cauliflower and leeks quickly installed. All germinated pretty quickly, and the peas took over. The first of my many lessons: have an idea of what space the finished grown plant will Inhabit. Oops.

Our enthusiasm was bolstered by the quick germination, so we rapidly installed four sacks of potatoes growing in bags we got off Amazon. These were joined by another raised planter which hubby built from old wood panels we had lying about. So we now had carrots, radishes, more lettuce, more peas and some broad beans. Add to this hanging baskets of trailing tomatoes and strawberries, and a small plastic greenhouse for more tomatoes and cucumbers, and you may be agreeing with my mother-in-law's thoughts that perhaps we were getting carried away.

Joining CFINE's seed sharing project

Then we started on the side garden, and I made contact with the CFINE's seed sharing project. We had all the seeds we needed, and our glut of tomato seedlings was taken down to CFINE on a lovely sunny morning. I came home with a chilli plant as a swap, which is still in the small greenhouse, doing just fine.

Lessons learned

We’re now coming to the end of our first growing season, and many lessons have been learned.
Radishes. Easy to grow, terrible to eat. Why would we do that to ourselves?! Potatoes in sacks were easy and pretty much looked after themselves, yielding around 2kg per sack. Definitely doing those again! Carrots took ages to grow and when we harvested, they were all kinds of wonderful shapes, so maybe sieving the soil next time could help. The flavour was terrific though! The tomatoes still haven’t ripened, whether in the raised beds or the greenhouse, so maybe our growing season isn’t long enough for those here.
Cucumbers are tiny but so, so tasty. Strawberries in the hanging basket have been easy, and lettuce straight from the garden for burgers has been amazing. So tasty!

Peas were tasty but loads of work for a tiny crop. Broad beans, though, what a revelation. Never had those before, and we’re definitely planting them next year. Pretty plant, easy to look after and yield is quite high with beans going down well with the entire family.
We also planted spinach and kale in the raised beds elsewhere in the garden, which also gave a great yield with little hard work. As did our existing rhubarb, an easy crop.

All in all, we’ve learned lots this year and have enjoyed our labours and their fruits. Next year we plan loads of kale, spinach and broad beans. An earlier start with tomatoes and courgettes might yield a crop of some kind, and we're going to plant more potatoes, carrots and try onions in yet another raised bed. Beats cutting the grass!

A final note, we also planted a pumpkin and some sunflowers in a part of the garden visible from the road, and it’s proven quite the talking point with passers-by on the finer days. A great conversation starter!

Happy growing!