Want to grow your own fruit and vegetables but not sure where to start? Check out these tips and your garden will soon be coming up roses. (Or onions, or runner beans... the choice is yours!)
Allotments have never been more in vogue, but there's an inevitable downside to that - supply and demand. Some councils have had to close applications, and others have in excess of a thousand people on their waiting list at any one time.
So what's the alternative?
You may think you'd need a large garden to grow your own produce, with plenty of room to find an unused spot with ideal conditions for fruit and vegetable plants - but this isn't necessarily the end of the story.
While it's true that many fruit and vegetable varieties do best in the right conditions, limited square footage needn't be a barrier. Clever use of the space available to you can yield surprising results - and fulfilling your dreams of The Good Life doesn't have to mean sacrificing all the other ways you currently enjoy your garden.
If outside space is limited, try taking a fresh look at your garden's layout. If you've ever spent a weekend afternoon indoors rearranging the furniture in your lounge, you'll already know that a room can feel bigger if you make the best use of the available space - and the same goes for living space outside.
Yet many people never consider changing the layout of their back garden. Often, we stick to the basic formula of deck/patio adjoining the house, with a shed in one of the far corners. While this might be ideal for entertaining, if lack of space is a barrier to you growing your own fruit and vegetables, it might be time for a rethink.
Plan Your Kitchen Garden
First things first: take a serious look at the space you do have. Perhaps grab a notepad and sketch a quick plan, blocking in anything you can't easily change. Don't forget to allow for gate access, if you have it.
Next, make a note of anything affecting planting conditions in the garden. Is it south facing, or are there areas that tend to get limited sunlight? What about existing planting, such as flower borders? Is there a water source, and if so, where?
For most vegetables, you'll want to identify an area that gets at least five or six hours of sun a day, preferably away from other heavily planted areas - as these are likely to be home to slugs or snails that'll be a menace to your growing produce.
If you're having trouble identifying a free spot that meets these requirements, don't give up just yet. Perhaps an area at the end of the garden would be suitable if you put in a raised bed or two. Railway sleepers are ideal for this, and they look fantastic - as well as keeping your produce away from hungry slugs, raised beds can often make the difference in increasing the amount of sunlight your new vegetable patch gets.
Ground planting alternatives
For raised vegetable beds, choose untreated railway sleepers, as these haven't been in contact with chemicals. And if space is really at a premium, consider using mini sleepers - these take up less surface area, so you'll have more room for your own plants and seeds.
And don't automatically rule out the patio or deck, if that's the only area that gets enough sunlight - consider smaller wooden planters that you can fill with soil and sit on top of a wooden or stone surface. Of course, smaller beds will limit the variety or volume of the produce you can grow, but there are still some options.
And if planting space is limited, don't forget to look up. In smaller raised beds, wooden canes can be utilised to make ideal conditions for growing your own runner beans. Supported by the canes, the plants are real climbers, helpfully making the most of available space. In fact, you might be surprised by just how many of tasty runner beans a smaller bed will yield.
What if you can't find an area in the sunlight to grow your own produce? Some plants actually prefer a little more shade, so choose wisely and a bumper crop can still be yours. Think leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, or perhaps rhubarb - all shade tolerant and delicious.
Inspired? Growing your own vegetables can be the most rewarding way to enjoy your garden. With a little planning and the ideal spot, you'll also be enjoying the fruits of your labour at the dinner table.
I'm going to try this!