Spring has sprung and that means longer days, more sunlight, and warmer temperatures. This makes it the perfect time to plant herbs, vegetables, or fruit ready to enjoy throughout late spring and summer.
There are so many rewards to be enjoyed from growing your own food. Not only will it save you time and money (no need to pop down to the shops to buy fresh fruit and vegetables!), but it can also be fun watching your plants grow and a great way to involve the whole family.
Whether you have plenty of space to grow a wide array of delicious edible plants, or only space for potted plants on a balcony or even just your kitchen windowsill, there's plenty of potential when it comes to gardening. We've put together some tips on what grows well at this time of the year, along with simple ways to keep plants alive for those of you who might not have the greenest of thumbs!
Top tip: one of the most significant differences between gardening in the ground and planting in containers is that the soil in containers dries out faster and needs more frequent watering (perhaps even daily watering) than plants in the ground. To help with this challenge, choose the largest container or pot that you can, opting for an outdoor self-watering pot if watering every day is not optimal for your schedule.
Best vegetables and herbs to grow this time of the year
- Spring onions
Mulch is key
Mulch is great for so many things, including conserving water and helping to prevent weeds. Mulch will help stop your soil from drying out by keeping it moist, helping to save water and keep your plants hydrated for longer, especially in hot weather. Mulch is something you should provide for your garden not just in spring, but year-round! Mulch also encourages good drainage of your plants, while improving soil structure and helping implement the proper nutrients for your soil.
Join the composting revolution
Composting is another great way to look after your garden with the added bonus of doing something good for the environment. In Newcastle around 30% of our red lid general waste bin is food waste, and we throw away an average of 2.6kg of food waste per household per week - that's over 135kg per household each year. Do your garden a favour and check out our blog on the home composting revolution. For a limited time, all Newcastle residents can buy home composting and worm farming products at 75% off RRP, plus get free delivery.
Some plants benefit from being planted next to others, while others can't survive next to each other. Companion planting is not only beneficial if you have very limited space for your herb and veggie garden, but the right plants together can help ward off pests. Marigold is an excellent plant to position in between your veggies and herbs as they keep pests away while also boasting beautiful, colourful blossoms.
Here's a few other companion planting tips:
- Planting basil near tomatoes will enhance the flavour of your fruit
- Planting onions and garlic near tomatoes or fruit trees will deter aphids, slugs and other insects and weeds
- If you have plenty of space in your garden plant some corn as this will create some shade from the harsh summer sun for your plants
- Planting sage near strawberries or carrots will help to repel white cabbage fly
- Planting thyme next to strawberries makes the fruit taste incredible
- Plant lettuce under taller plants for shade.
Don’t plant together:
- Carrots and tomatoes - it can stunt the growth of tomatoes
- Sage and basil
- Tomatoes with the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower), asparagus, or corn.
For the potted balcony garden
Combine multiple herbs in the one pot. It doesn’t need to be a deep pot, though the wider the better. Mint, spring onions, parsley, basil, thyme, oregano all go great together. Tomatoes and cucumbers grow well in wide pots with plenty room for their roots to grow. Try growing them in a hard plastic paddling pool with some holes drilled in the bottom and ensure you stake the tomatoes and cucumber vine as they grow.
The kitchen windowsill garden
If you're limited on space, you can still grow a garden! Hang pots on hooks or place small pots in a sunny place near a window. You can purchase some ready to eat herbs from your local grocery or gardening store and place them in the pots. Snip off small amounts as you need them, and give the plants a small amount of water every couple of days.
Here's a few other vegetables and herbs you can easily grow from your windowsill:
- Carrots - you usually chop off and throw away the ends of carrots, but did you know you can grow carrot greens if you put them in a dish with a little water? Set the dish in a well-lit windowsill and you'll have carrot tops to use as a garnish or in salads. Leave them for a few weeks until they begin to grow roots, and then plant them in pots or in the garden. By summer they will be large carrots ready to eat. You may even get two or three carrots just from the one carrot top!
- Spring Onions - in as little as five days you can completely regrow a full spring onion from the scraps. Leave about 3cm attached to the roots and place them in a small glass with a little water. In a few days you'll have all new spring onions to either cut and use, or plant in the garden or pots
- Garlic - when garlic starts to sprout, the little green shoots are too bitter to cook with. Rather than throwing away sprouted cloves, you can put them in a glass with a little water and grow garlic sprouts. The sprouts have a much milder flavour than garlic cloves and are great in salads, pasta and as a garnish
- Basil - put a few basil clippings with 5cm stems in a glass of water and place it in a spot with direct sunlight. When the roots are about 1cm long, you can plant them in pots to grow a full basil plant
- Romaine Lettuce - if you have a stem from a head of romaine lettuce that's still intact, place the stump in a bowl with about 1cm of water and put it on a windowsill. You'll start to see new leaves in about two weeks, and they'll be fully grown in three to four weeks
- Bok Choy - just like romaine lettuce, bok choy can be regrown by placing the root end in water in a well-lit area. In a week or two, you can transplant it to a pot with soil and grow a full new head.
With the end of lockdown inching ever closer, now is a great time to make the most of your free time and get your herb or veggie patch underway. Come summer you'll be glad you did when you can enjoy the fruits of your labour!