/ Home & Energy

How does your garden grow?

I’m a big fan of growing veg that I cook with often, so I grow in bulk. But I also like to grow unusual varieties that are hard to track down on my weekly shop. What do you produce and how do you grow yours?

Reading BBC online news the other day I was amazed to see an enormous onion weighing 18lb 1oz that took the World Record for the Heaviest Onion at the Harrogate Show. That’s the weight of a nine-month-old baby!

My onions (autumn-planted variety ‘Troy’ as recommended by Which? Gardening) produced a decent crop this year, but nothing bigger than a cricket ball. I was very pleased by these as they’re more than big enough for cooking and are free of chemical residues as I grew them organically.

But it made me think of all the different reasons we grow veg and what we’re trying to achieve. What drives you to keep at it?

Basic green or gourmet veg?

For many of us, growing our own has primarily been for money-saving reasons as we try to make our cash go further by not spending so much at the supermarket.

There are two ways to look at this; ‘gourmet’ veg such as Jerusalem artichokes are one of the most cost-effective veg to grow when you compare the size of crop you can get from a small area, compared to the price they’re sold for in the supermarket. However, do you really want tonnes of these rather bland-tasting veg best known for their rather unfortunate side effects when eaten?

I prefer to concentrate on growing lots of the veg that I really want in quantity, such as my onions, even though they’re relatively cheap to buy.

Challenging crops

I also try to grow some unusual varieties that are hard to find in the supermarket, and I love getting my two daughters (aged three and six) involved so they know that veg comes from the ground not a plastic bag.

It’s been a tough year for growing veg as we’ve struggled with such a long, cold wet spring that rolled into a cold, wet summer for many. Some crops have recovered to some extent in the last month or so as decent weather finally returned. But some, such as butternut squash, didn’t even pretend to try.

What’s been your experience of growing veg this year? Will you be growing it again or is it just not worth the effort?


Patio pots and bags work well for us in the garden, easy to maintain and the kids love helping (especially the eating part). We’ve done potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, spring onions, chills, herbs and salad leaves so far. In the kitchen, we grow sprouted seeds, cress, rocket and more herbs.

This years crop wasn’t as good as previous years with lots of rain and very little sun but we got some tomatoes and our indoor things grew well.

I’m a Kitchen Garden grower, I will grow what will grow in the North East, save as much seed as I can.

Rear Garden is split between raised beds and bags of all shapes and sizes, I also help out on an allotment in which I can start my Veg in the greenhouse, luckily I have a conservatory that for Feb to Apr, I can grow on my plants before planting out. I don’t grow veg in pots as I find they lose moisture too quickly, where as a deep bag seems to really help the plants especially carrots and Courgettes. Tomatoes have a hit and miss outside, but always grow one plant of each type to one truss then cut, so i can use it to grow one good tomato for seed.

I do trial certain Veg and after a disastrous year for Potatoes, I tried the Sarpo Variant’s and they have been the best for some time and will certainly use them again next year.

Deb Maddock says:
23 September 2012

I had very grand ideas for growing veg this year and purchased a lot of heirloom seeds. I saw myself as a ‘Barbara of the TV series The Good Life, but ended up by being very much a Margo.’
I had some success with tomatoes, cucumber and onions.
It was joyous when I harvested the first small but beautifully round, deep red, teen tiny tomato.
I will harvest the seeds for next year an hope to be better, as well as hope for better weather.

Keen veg grower says:
23 September 2012

I grow vegetables and a few types of fruit, mostly in pots on the patio and on south-facing window sills in the house. A few bits get planted in the ground, but those tend to get decimated by slugs and snails. Even the bits on the patio have to be defended against various pests, typically slugs, snails and moths. I do everything completely organically, so combating the pests is normally the biggest problem I face in the garden.

Some years (such as 2011), we are pretty much self-sufficient for vegetables for half of the year. This year (2012) has probably been my worst year ever, mostly because of the weather. Potatoes, onions, spring onions, carrots etc have done well, as have the bits grown indoors (peppers etc), but tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, courgettes etc have been really poor this year (they are normally all really reliable).

Growing our own doesn’t (so far) work out cheaper than buying at the supermarket, but I know exactly what has been done to our home-grown food – no insecticides, no fungicides, no chemical cleaning etc. Some things taste massively better home-grown, particularly potatoes. Some things currently taste better from the supermarket (our beans never taste quite as good for some reason), but I’ll find the reason one day and fix that, We get the satisfaction of growing it, are much more involved with the environment, get exercise and sunshine and fresh air, help reduce food-miles etc.

As the years go by, the soil quality in our garden is getting better as well, which (with exceptions like this year) does help increase yield going forward and makes the gardening a lot easier. We also support a lot of wildlife in the garden (insects, birds, mammals, snakes etc), whether because of the amount of plants to pollinate, the food/heat sources that are the compost bins, the water that some pots stand in, the knock-on effect up the food chain (the insects attracted by the plants etc, then themselves attract birds, the slugs/snails attract snakes, badgers etc).

In terms of cost, I could do things cheaper. We have a local horticultural society where spare seeds, seedlings and cuttings can be swapped. I don’t currently make best use of that as it tends to run at times that are inconvenient, but one day perhaps. I also don’t have a greenhouse, which would definitely make our vegetable production much more efficient. But overall, we normally do pretty well, and it’s not an expensive hobby as long as things are re-cycled, improvised etc.

Mary-Ann says:
24 September 2012

I love growing veg for more than one reason. We have raised beds, grow bags, pots and hanging baskets wherever they will fit. We grow what works and try something new every year.

It may or may not be cheaper but that is not always the point. I love to be able to pull fresh parsnips, carrots or potatoes directly from the ground and know that they have not been dosed with anything artificial. I love the taste of fresh mange tout raw off the vine. I wonder why we bring green beans from Africa when they grow so well in many gardens here. I love getting my hands dirty coaxing the small shoots to become healthy plants. I love figuring out how to grow something new. I even love learning why something went wrong. I love being outside following the rhythm of the year.

Although I cannot produce all the veg for the household, I love the fact that I am a producer not just a consumer.