Our first year of “Grow Your Own”. What worked and we learned for next year.

This year in March we took a big step – moved to the country side, in a proper grown ups home, to get away from the noise, crowds and stress of London, if only for a few hours a day.

We didn’t plan for this initially, but while on a walk with the dogs we saw an ad that some allotment plots are available for hire. The price per year is almost nothing, so we immediately imagined ourselves eating and bathing ourselves in salads and tomatoes. It was like a vegan dream.

The process

We called the council and received by email the plan of the allotment with the available plots clearly marked. We went to visit the place and analysed what’s available. Made a list of pros and cons for each plot and picked one! No 74 was soon going to be ours. We had to wait for all the paperwork from the council before starting any gardening, but the whole thing took about 2 weeks from the first call to the first day of work.

How big is it?

It’s a quarter of a tennis court. And the location is 10 min walk away from our home.

Preparing the soil

The plot was a mess when we started – overgrown grass, rocks – so it took almost a week to tidy up. We did have an asset though: my Mom. She’s an expert in gardening so having her here right at the start of the process was perfect.

Choosing the seeds

There was no choosing. We went to the supermarket and picked up one pack of seeds of every possible plant – tomato, cucumber, salads, radishes, cabbage, broccoli, onion, garlic, beans, herbs, kale. Some of them went right to the plot and some of them were first planted in small pots and then moved into the plot once they were strong enough.

Buying plants

One big issue we had was the fact that we started this at the end of April. Most people start by planting their seeds in pots, inside their homes in January and move them out in March / April. So we were really late. Just to make sure we won’t be extremely disappointed, we bought some already grown plants (already grown = normal size for that time of year) from our local market. We got some tomatoes, beans and 2 plants of aubergines.

Maintenance

Planting the seeds is not even half of the battle. The real work is taking care of your garden – weeding and watering. We’re constantly weeding but never feel like we’re making any progress, they’re out again in a few days! We estimated that a good amount of time to spend at your plot is around 5h every week.

Experimenting

The first year is clearly an experiment – check what grows and what doesn’t, if the soil is good enough or we need to get some compost next year, if some plants can thrive in pots and if we can cope with the amount of work needed. We kept some plants in our home garden, in pots – some tomatoes, beans and aubergines to check if they can do well. And so far, so good. We are also experimenting with growing salads and onions from scraps.The small home garden

What went well

  • Some of our planted tomatoes have done so well that are now as big as the ones we bought
  • We had enough salads, spinach, garlic and radishes to enjoy a few good meals

    The only negative about your own grown plants is that you really have to clean them up well!
  • We already cooked green beans twice and they keep growing
  • Due to the timing of planting the tomatoes, we’ll have enough to eat in the summer and pickle in the autumn
  • The plot had some abandoned potatoes and we managed to grow plenty of them

    Salads, potatoes and Beagles
  • We grew tomatoes by planting pieces of tomatoes (that have seeds, of course)!Our first year of Grow Your Own. What we tried, what seeds we planted and what grew.

What didn’t work

  • From all the cucumbers we planted, only one came out. And it’s really struggling to grow
  • No onion, cabbage, kale or broccoli. They didn’t make it. We don’t know why
  • It’s a constant battle with the weeds

Saving seeds

We did a lot of research and now we’re saving our own seeds to plant next year. We still have to buy some, but having our own will be much more satisfying. If you want to know more about how to do this, let us know.

Tomatoes, peppers and beans

Compost

We have a little compost pile at the plot and we plan to use it. Another resource we could use is manure. Because there’s plenty of it. Cows are roaming around (freaking me out) and they do their business everywhere. This might be the answer for those poor plants that didn’t grow at all. I do love cucumbers, I would definitely get my hands dirty.

At this point, all we’re doing is maintenance and picking up whatever is ready to be eaten. But the work never stops, until probably late autumn for about 2-3 months.

Watering the plants at the end of a hot day

Do you have a plot? Any advice for us newbies? What’s your favourite thing to grow? Do you have any questions for us?

4 Comments

  1. That was really interesting read for me. It’s pretty good to know how to get started growing your own. We are planning to buy a house in Slovenia with my fiance this year and I want to grow my own vegetables there so this will be useful for when that happens. I know you need to use some kind of fertilizer if you want your vegetables to grow better. Did you use any at all? When I was a child I was helping my parents in the field and they always used the cow’s ‘stuff’, seemed to have been essential!

    1. Author

      Hi Petra, thank you for having a read! We don’t want to use fertilizer, but we will use compost, ideally the one we make ourselves. The plot has a small area where we keep the compost pile. The cow stuff will also be used. I remember my grandparents used to gather piles at the start of autumn and used it next spring.
      We don’t want to use store-bought fertilizer because we want to be 100% sure about what’s going in our soil. And of course, we’re vegan, so no pesticide. So far we didn’t have any problems with insects!

  2. Amazing job. Really inspiring too. I need to do a better job at growing my veggies. This was my first year having a garden and I am learning and have been learning a lot. Thanks for the things that you have posted! They are so educational.

    1. Author

      Thank you and so sorry for the late reply! The first year is tough but I’m sure everything we learn will serve us well next year. x

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