Growing food is one of life’s pleasures – and there’s no better feeling than the taste of the food you’ve grown yourself.

Other than the joy of chips made with your own potatoes, the benefits of growing are far-ranging; including reducing your carbon footprint and plastic waste, improving your physical and mental wellbeing, and it’s a pretty valuable skill to have under your belt.

1) What and where are you growing?

Indoors:
When you’re deciding what to grow, have your growing space in mind. For example if you’re growing indoors, think about access to sunlight.

Tomatoes are one of my favourite crops to grow; they will grow best in a consistent sunny and warm spot. Similarly, sweet peppers and chilli peppers do well in bright and hot areas.

If your growing space is lightly or partially shaded, choose crops that are adapted to a bit of shade. Salad greens such as lettuce and spinach will grow here, as well as sorrel, watercress, mustard, and endive. Certain herbs tolerate some shade including, chervil, chives, horseradish, lemon balm, lovage, and mint. I grow herbs on my kitchen windowsill so that I can harvest them easily when cooking.

Outdoors:
If you’ve got a garden with a lawn, no-dig beds are an easy way to grow many varieties of veg all year round without needing dig up the whole garden and with minimal materials – just cardboard and compost.

If you’ve got a concrete yard, patio, or balcony, try container growing. Think about where to place each crop based on the weather conditions and consider companion planting for a higher yield.

Container growing has a lot of benefits, particularly when you’re starting out: there are fewer weeds, pests are more easily noticeable, and containers can be moved to protected areas in bad weather. Adding height to your growing space makes a huge aesthetic difference, so try growing climbers such as peas, beans, and nasturtiums using a trellis, bamboo canes, or string. A bonus of added height in your plot is also less bending or kneeling down when caring for your crops.

2) Choosing your starting point

Ready to start? There are a few starting points to choose from: growing from seed, cuttings, or an established plant. Make sure you have access to some essentials like compost, water, and a pot or container.

Growing from seed:
Growing from seed is incredibly rewarding; you follow the journey from day one. You can easily find seeds for sale and the packets always contain instructions for when and how to sow your seed. If you’re growing outside, some seeds can be direct sown into the ground whereas others need to be started off in smaller pots indoors before the crop can be transplanted.

Watch out for how many seeds to sow depending on the pot size and how deep they should sit under the soil. For larger seeds like nasturtiums, make the holes for your seeds one or two inches deep and for much smaller seeds, like chives, a fine sprinkling of soil to cover the top will suffice.

Check in your local area for seed swaps; people in your community may have saved seed from a previous harvest. This is a sustainable and free way to get more seeds as well as build connections in your neighbourhood.

Growing from cuttings:
Growing from cuttings is especially great if you have friends or neighbours that already grow their own vegetables. Growers are usually more than happy to take a cutting from one of their established crops for you to propagate and grow from. Oftentimes, people sow more seeds than needed in case some don’t germinate so may have a few spare crops. Soon enough, you’ll be able to return the favour and have the whole street growing together.

Growing from established crops:
If you want to speed up the development of your plot, try established plants. Tomato, chilli, and strawberry plants are easy to find at garden centres, supermarkets, and community gardens.

3) Choosing your compost

There are many composts available on the market for different crops and stages of growth. Make sure you choose growing material that is free from peat (a powerful carbon absorbing material that should be left in it’s natural state, not dug up to add to commercial compost) to help combat peat-bog depletion, loss of biodiversity, and global warming.

Seeds prefer compost with little added nutrients as they already contain all the nutrients they need inside them. I add sand to my compost when growing from seed in a three-to-one ratio for extra drainage and to ensure my seeds aren’t sitting in too much water.

4) Looking after your plot

If you're opting for container growing make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom for excess water to escape from. I sit my pots in trays in the summer and bottom-water during sunny spells. Be careful of overwatering and remember to tip out any excess water from the trays if it rains.

When caring for seedlings, keep the soil moist but not soggy. Watering a little every other day is a good place to start whilst you’re figuring out how much water your crops soak up. If they’re in a sunny spot, or it’s been extra warm, they’ll need extra watering.

If you’ve opted to use no-dig methods in your garden, regular weeding is essential. When the weeds are small, pull them out with your hands (wear gloves as certain weeds are prickly), and if the roots are more established a small trowel or gardening fork will make it easier to dig them out. If you spot any insects or slugs, wipe them away using a cloth dipped in a mix of warm water and washing-up liquid.

5) Enjoying your plot

Caring for your plot is enjoyable and eating the fruits of your labour is even better. Follow the guidance on your seed packets about when to harvest but don’t worry if certain crops don’t seem quite ready in time as weather conditions, sunlight, and warmth can affect growth rates and some just take a little longer than others.