Into grow your own
Colchester Garden Festival - Grow your own project
Tips and advice on growing your own edible plants and veg no matter your space! More info to come so make sure to check back here during the Colchester Garden Festival from the 21st July - 22nd August 2022.
GROW YOUR OWN!
You've likely come across this page after receiving a grow your own pack at the Colchester Garden Festival. This webpage is filled with tips and tricks and additional links to help you grow your own no matter your space. All of the plants featured on the Grow Your Own postcards are suitable for pots and can grow on your windowsill, balcony, patio, or in your garden. All are also relatively easy and quick to grow so you can start with a win in your growing journey.
Thank you to Thompson and Morgan for sponsoring this project through the donation of seeds.
Gardening and spending time in nature has been proved to be beneficial for mental health and it's a very rewarding hobby when you get to take the first bite into that home grown tomato, or create a homegrown Salad. You can also grow edible flower for cakes and decorating, and herbs for cooking.
There is no limit to growing your own either, if you have a small balcony or only some windowsill space you can still pick up gardening as a hobby. It might also be better to start small and build up to more ambitious spaces too so you can learn as your grow.
THINGS THAT YOU'LL NEED
It's commonly thought that gardening requires a lot of expert knowledge, space, and fancy tools - but this is wrong! There are three simple things you need to grow your own with and they are:
As long as they have drainage holes pots and containers can be anything you want! Maybe an ice cream tub, a lined shoebox, or some old wellies could become your new planter! Alternatively some garden centres may have old nursery pots they're willing to give out for free - all you have to do is ask.
It's important to have peat free soil for your plants. Some compost and soil has peat in it which is beneficial to plants but very damaging to the environment.
You can find a more in depth guide about choosing the right soil for you by clicking here.
If you met us at the Colchester Garden Festival you will have already picked up some lovely seeds, kindly donated by Thompson and Morgan.
If you didn't pick any up some seeds can be bought very cheaply from shops in the town centre including Wilkos and Robert Dyas. The plants we recommend you start with from the grow your own pack are tomatoes, nasturtiums, mixed salad, and basil. As these all have relatively quick rewards and they're all edible so you can taste your hard work!
If you aren't sure about your seed sowing skills you can buy some tomato varieties and basil as young plants and grow them from there.
Other great starter plants include; calendulas, cornflowers, sweet peas, swiss chard, sunflowers.
Things that you don't need:
A watering can
If you're limited in space and money to start your growing journey something you can skip out on to start with is a watering can! You could use a jug from the kitchen an old milk carton with holes poked into the lid or even just a cup!
If you don't mind getting your hands a little bit mucky whilst growing, there's not much need for a spade/trowel. If you need something to scoop the soil out of the bag and into your pot you could use a cup or bowl or even your hands. This cup/bowl could then be repurposed to water your plants too.
Lots of space
A lot of people think that they need a big garden or an allotment to start gardening but this isn't true! There are many people who grow produce indoors or on their small balconies. There's lots of inspiration to be found on the internet one balcony grower recently exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show to demonstrate how others can utilise their space. Jess, who works for InColchester, also grows edible produce on their small balcony.
Tonnes of expert knowledge
You may feel a bit lost when you start your growing journey but there's so much information out there someone is bound to have the answer to your question. Join a Facebook group for container gardening or pick up some books from your local bookshops.
Our recommendations are, Grow Easy by Anna Greenland and The Urban Vegetable Patch by Grace Paul. Sometimes you're able to find these for quite a bit cheaper at The Works and they may be available to borrow at your local library.
It can be daunting to start your growing journey so here are some tips and tricks we've picked up in our growing journeys to help you out.
Watering is key - Make sure that you keep your seeds moist whilst germinating. If your indoor environment has a high humidity you may need to water less to avoid any fungal build up. Keeping your plants watered, especially during hot periods, will be very beneficial to their growth.
Don't be disheartened - You may see on social media that everyones harvests and growing journeys are way ahead of yours. But don't worry, patience is key! You'll have your wonderful edible veg and flowers in no time it may just take a few days, weeks and sometimes even a month longer than what's shown on social media.
Join a gardening group - There are lots of groups both in person online for gardening, the more specific to your method of growing the more helpful but they are also a great way to get inspiration regardless of growing methods. In person allotment groups and community projects can also be a great way to expand your new gardening hobby.
Keep going - Just because one project doesn't work out once, it doesn't mean it won't work the next time or another project won't go really well. A lot of growing is trial and error and some plants work great in some places and not in others, it might not be your growing skills it could be the location or pot that's causing the problem.
Indoor growing means you can grow *almost* all year round - Some plants are very happy to grow indoors, basil is a great indoor plant and salad can very happily sit on the windowsill and grow through the seasons.
Google is your best friend - There is a lot of information about growing on the internet, common problems like pests, overwatering and fungi can be diagnosed easily online. Good sources of information include the RHS, Gardeners World, Thompson and Morgan also have a great beginners guide series.
SOW: February - July
HARVEST: June - September
LIGHT: Sunny / Partial Sun
POT: Small/Medium pot
Basil plants can be grown from seeds but if starting from scratch sounds daunting to you it’s also a common plant you can find in the supermarket for a few pounds.
They can be easily kept on a window sill in small/medium pots. The leaves will droop slightly when it needs watering. Basil is great to use in so many basic recipes so it’s great to have a pot of fresh basil on hand in the kitchen.
This plant can also be a bit sensitive to weather so it’s best to keep it indoors. More information and handy tips for caring for basil can be found online.
SOW - February - April
HARVEST - July - September
LIGHT - Full sun, make sure to keep well watered on sunny days
POTS - Large pots for bigger varieties. Medium pots for windowsill varieties.
Tomatoes are a great starting plant that can be grown in or outdoors! With a quick germination speed and relative hardiness they have a low difficulty level and great outcomes.
Once yellow flowers start to appear start feeding your tomato plants with tomato feed at least once a week to encourage more fruit growth.
There can be some pest issues with tomatoes but there are lots of handy guides online about what to do if something doesn’t look right.
SOW - March - May
HARVEST June - August
LIGHT Full sun, make sure to keep watered on sunny days!
Nasturtiums are a great starter crop. They have quick germination and produce bright edible flowers. The leaves and buds are edible too! With a peppery taste they are great for salad, cake decorating, stir fries and so much more.
There are two different types of nasturtium, trailing and climbing. They look great in any space and can be grown in or outdoors. They can look especially wonderful in hanging baskets.
Nasturtiums thrive in soil with little nutrients so if you have old pots still with some dirt left over you can reuse that and still get good results.
The positives - Nasturtiums are very easy to grow and thrive in poor soil so you can get beautiful edible flowers without having to worry about feeding or and particular special care. They are also fast growing so you get that great sense of accomplishment and reward quickly.
They can grow depending on the pot size - if they're in a smaller pot they might not grow as big as if they were in a larger pot which is great if you need a plant that can be accommodated in your space.
The downsides - Nasturtiums are notorious for attracting pests. They're very popular with caterpillars that can eat through them very quickly and black bugs. If you are growing nasturtiums inside this is less likely to happen and there are tricks for protecting them outside such as using netting above the plant to stop butterflies from laying eggs.
A positive of growing nasturtiums alongside other plants is that it will attract the pests away from them to help protect other crops from damage. They go great as a 'trap crop' for tomatoes.
SOW Directly into pots from March
HARVEST from 6 weeks after sowing
LIGHT Sunny / partial sun
POT Small/medium pot, perfect for the windowsill
If you like to be rewarded for your hard work quickly then Salad is a great place to start. Germination of seeds only takes a few days and you can start harvesting your salad within a few weeks.
You also don’t need a lot of space and can grow salad in or outside.
To avoid over crowding trim back some of the leaves as it grows, you can eat these! If growing indoors you can sow and harvest almost all year round. And think about how many plastic bags you’d be saving not having to buy bags of salad from the supermarket.