Why you should grow your own vegetables
If you are reading this I am assuming you want to know why you should grow vegetables at home, what the advantages are to home grown vegetables and if growing vegetables is something you think you could do, and have the right conditions available to achieve it. Valid questions all round, and all too often I have heard people say blanket statements like 'everything I grow dies' or 'I don't have a garden'. These are not reasons not to grow your own vegetables, at best these are excuses not to try! This article is intended to encourage everyone to have a go at growing their own vegetables at home, even if only on a small scale.
I have been growing my own vegetables since I was very young, probably around 7 or 8 years old. This was not something my family had any interest in doing, and it was therefore something I discovered for myself. It has only been in the last six months or so that I found out from my Mother that my maternal Grandfather, (who died before I was born) had a huge interest in growing vegetables. Perhaps on some genetic level I inherited this love of producing my own food, fresh from the ground and why I now feel a need to pass this on to other people.
Few will deny that home grown fresh vegetables are far tastier than anything you will buy in a supermarket. This is probably because not only have most of the vegetables you buy in supermarkets been travelling for weeks before you see them in the shops, but also because the varieties grown commercially are usually the most prolific producers, the ones which will produce the best shaped crops and not necessarily the ones with the best flavours.
Once you harvest a vegetable it starts to lose its vitamin content immediately and the majority of the vitamin content is gone within the first few hours. By growing vegetables at home you can harvest them and have them on your plate within the hour, so maximising the vitamins retained in the vegetable.
Have you ever bought a cucumber or a carrot from a shop and realised it is actually bendable or 'wobbles' when you gently shake it whilst holding one end? I have loads of times, and I am immediately put off buying these vegetables because I know they are dehydrated and old. If I harvest a cucumber from my garden or my greenhouse, or pull a carrot from my allotment, or from one of my containers, I know all will be crisp, fresh, tasty and definitely not bendy!
Everything I grow dies!
Many people will say the statements I began this article with as their excuses for not growing vegetables at home, so I am going to address these here. Firstly, to say 'everything I grow dies', may be true right now, but this only means you need to learn what basic requirements the vegetable plants have, and then provide them. For example, if your plants keep dying because they wilt, then clearly you are failing to water them enough. It is better to give any plant a good soaking as opposed to giving it insufficient water on a daily basis. Watering is a skill, but one easily learned. Work on the principle one inch of water will sink two inches down into the soil. Simply wetting the surface of the compost of a vegetable grown in a container will have little effect. Certainly the water is unlikely to reach the roots. Water your container vegetables until the water starts to drain out of the bottom of the pot, but make sure the compost or soil never dries out completely in between watering or it is virtually impossible to wet again, will shrink in size, and any water poured on the compost will simply drain around the sides of the dry compost and head straight out the bottom of the pot. If your compost has dried out completely then you will need to carefully submerge the entire pot under water, and keep it there until the air bubbles stop rising. Fortunately vegetables grown in an allotment usually survive without additional watering, especially if you use mulches to conserve moisture.
Another requirement vegetables have is light, so to grow the best vegetables make sure your pots or your allotments are in a location where they will get plenty of sunshine, (at least five hours a day) and are not spending the majority of their day in the shade.
Vegetables also need food, so if they are grown on an allotment make sure the earth is good quality, use mulches whenever possible and add plenty of manure or composted waste during times when the allotment is dormant such as over the winter. It is worth leaving some areas free of manures though, as certain root vegetables like carrots and parsnips need a low nutrient level if they are not to produce forked roots. Rotate this area annually to prevent disease build up in the soil. If the vegetables are grown in containers then only feed the vegetables that need food (essentially anything other than carrots and parsnips). Use either liquid feeds like Miracle Grow or add pelleted feeds periodically (including at planting time), for example Vitax Q4.
I don't have a garden!
So you 'don't have a garden'! This doesn't stop you from growing vegetables at home, it just means you have to choose more carefully which vegetables you grow. I have seen plenty of people growing vegetables within their homes, e.g. chili peppers, tomatoes, cress, mung beans, even cucumbers grown across their kitchen ceiling. Even if you don't want to grow the actual vegetables within your home, you can probably place a window box or two outside your property, and sow this with salad leaves, radishes, spring onions, or even miniature finger length carrots. Hanging baskets can be utilised to grow tumbling tomatoes like 'Hundreds and Thousands'. The easiest vegetable to grow at home is probably cress, or mustard and cress combined, mostly because the crop is ready in about seven days and can be grown in a saucer. Mustard and cress is absolutely delicious on a salad, or in an egg mayonnaise sandwich or a cheese sandwich.
Vegetables can also be grown even in a tiny yard, e.g. grow a dustbin or garbage can of potatoes or use an old bucket with holes drilled in to grow yourself some carrots or some salad leaves. The only limit to the containers you use is your imagination and a little bit of common sense as to what you plant in each type of container, i.e. it probably goes without saying a three inch deep pot is not ideal for growing carrots in due to their root length (although you can get very stump rooted varieties of carrot that would cope with this).
If you are still unsure about growing vegetables at home and why you should give it a try, and if you feel you still lack the confidence in your abilities to make a success of this, then you might well find my website helpful, as this specialises in growing vegetables at home. You can check out my website for yourself if you go to the following link 'Grow Vegetables at Home'. You might also be interested in this page on the site 'Why Grow Vegetables at Home?'
Good luck, and I hope you enjoy you first crop of vegetables :)