Grow yer own

Despite appearances, making people wait geological timescales for nests isn’t my only passion.

‘Grow yer own’ is something I’ve been getting into for the past few years.
The benefits are numerous; it’s immensely satisfying growing food from seed and if you struggle with depression and other mental health problems, working outside can really help during the bad times and beats the crap out of basket weaving at the community centre.
The produce also tastes infinitely better than the force-grown pish that the supermarkets stock, you have total control over what you’re eating (no pesticides etc) and last, but by no means least, it’s a small and mild mannered ‘fuck you’ to Tesco. Well, Every Little Helps.

Obviously this year I’ve had to start all over again from scratch, and an extremely limited budget meant a bit of ingenuity was called for. One thing I do have plenty of here is space. Very neglected, overgrown, bramble infested space.

Here is the main veg plot as it is at the moment.

Still looks pretty rundown, huh? I can assure it looks amazing when compared to how it looked a couple of months ago.
I’ve dug out the worst of the nettles and brambles (making foul smelling fertiliser from the nettles) and the right side is pretty much clear of weeds now.

Because of a lack of time (and inclination earlier in the year) I’m just concentrating on that side. Later in the year I’ll dig over the left side and cover it with black plastic which should get rid of most of the weeds. The path is edged with reclaimed timber that I got for free (freecycle is great for this sort of thing) and the weed control fabric is seconds quality and cost £20 for a huge roll from eBay. I’m going to get some cheap gravel chippings to finish it off.

Space is nice, but not essential. Lots of stuff does well in pots and tubs, and if you’re not bothered about the place looking like Steptoe’s Yard, tubs are free!

Tomatos in the tubs I buy with fat balls in for the birds. Punch a few holes in the bottom. Job done. No fancy greenhouse this year, so they are having to make do with the kitchen window ledge.

Baby leeks and carrots in a fish box found on the beach. Things like carrots and leeks won’t get huge in this kind of tub, but they arguably taste better when eaten small.

Even small pots can provide something. This is a French Bean that was ravaged by slugs and is now in a 10cm pot. And it’s happily producing beans, much to my surprise.

Greenhouses are great. They are also expensive. The last one I built myself, but even that cost a fair amount. So this year’s cucumber home is a flimsy cheap thing that cost £10. I had to strap it to the wall as it won’t stand up to more than a breeze, but it’s doing the job. Yesterday I bought my last tasteless supermarket cucumber for a while. There are sweet peppers in pots in there too.
I’m pleasantly surprised by how well things do in pots with regular feeding.

French beans climbing up reclaimed netting.

Bumper crop of peas, again climbing on reclaimed netting.

Still awake? Good. You may have noticed the cloches in the first photo. Not tent prototypes – pest protection. There’s always something wanting to eat your crops. Cabbage fly, carrot fly, caterpillars, pheasants, pigeons, rabbits…
The frames are reclaimed 4 x 2 timber, the hoops are seconds quality alkathene water pipe (£25 for 100m) and the mesh is what I used to use on the very first nests. Fine mesh is only needed for carrot and cabbage fly really, but it stops the other beasties too. It can also get pretty wild here so it gives a bit of protection from the worst of the wind and rain. I’m going to turn them into mini polytunnels for the winter in an attempt to have some stuff all year round.

Swedes, shallots and onions

Carrots

Courgettes

Salad bed. Reclaimed timber and old sheep netting to keep the rabbits and the cat out. Oh, and a fireguard pulled out of a skip. I have no shame…

And finally, tatties. No veg plot would be complete without tatties.

So there you have it. Hope it provides a bit of inspiration to someone. The main point is you don’t need much space. You’re unlikely to be self-sufficient from a balcony, but just a few reclaimed tubs can provide salad and baby veg. Herbs do well in pots. Tatties do well in bags of compost (or a stack of car tyres) Cucumbers, tomatos and peppers will thrive on a sunny window ledge (who cares if they detract from your new Geneva Chalk & Anthracite worksurfaces) Mustard and cress grow well in takeaway trays…
Embrace your inner Clampett. Grow yer own. It’s good for the soul.

Costs so far:
I’ve experimented this year with Wilkinson’s own brand seed. 60p for most of the types, as opposed to upwards of 2 or sometimes 3 quid from the well known brands. So far? No discernible difference.
Including buying small pots and seed trays, compost, seed, weed membrane, everything, I’ve spent less than a hundred pounds. Next year it will obviously be much less as I’ll only need to buy seed and compost.

Time so far:
Quite a bit. But then most folk probably won’t have such a big, neglected space and not having a life also works to my advantage. A couple of hours in the evening weeding, making cloches or digging is a fine antidote to 8 – 12 hours on the sewing machine. If you went down the pots and tubs route, you’d need very little spare time at all.