Most kitchen gardeners want to grow loads more herbs, fruit and veg than they have room for. Here’s how to make a realistic planting plan for your edible garden, to have the greatest growing success and save the most money.
Start with a wish list
The best place to start is usually with what you absolutely love to eat. My other half and I made wish lists last year. He chose rhubarb, raspberries, peas, carrots, cabbage and swede. I chose asparagus, globe artichokes, purple sprouting broccoli, salad veg, strawberries and cherries.
I know I said a realistic plan, but you don’t need to start off being completely sensible. If you choose things mostly because they are good for you or they grow productively in your garden, but you don’t really like them, you might end up not eating them after all that hard work…
After you’ve made your wish list, it’s time for those pesky practical considerations to come in.
Look at what you already have
This includes your budget, your growing space and any other resources. If you want to grow your own and save money, keep a very close eye on the budget as it’s easy to get carried away and overspend.
Your growing space considerations include:
- size and layout
- hours of direct sunshine
- areas in complete shade
- soil type
- known problems/pests
Think carefully about which plants are likely to grow well in this space. If your growing space is very limited, research which varieties of plants will grow most happily in window boxes or pots.
We decided that we didn’t have enough room or the right growing conditions for asparagus or globe artichokes. Apparently neither of them respond very well to being dug up by cats – who knew? It’s just as well really, as they can be expensive to get going and don’t give a good yield, at least at the beginning.
We also found out that the soil here is no good for most carrots and swede, so we’ve decided to forget the swede this year and stick with short, stubby varieties of carrots that don’t mind heavy clay.
Work out what will save you the most money
- Some gardeners grow everyday foodstuffs like potatoes and carrots because they know that they’ll use them up regularly.
- Other growers prefer to buy cheap staples like carrots, onions and potatoes at the market and grow their own fancy herbs, vegetables and fruits instead since these tend to be the most pricey to buy.
Of course, if you have a lot of room that might not be an issue, and you can grow both. However, about 40% of households in the UK don’t have their own gardens, so let’s cover all the bases.
At Golightly Gardens, I can’t grow potatoes in the soil because the cat keeps digging them up and nothing I’ve tried has been able to stop her. The other option would be to grow them in patio bags or other containers, but the combined price of compost, pots and seed potatoes means that, for me, it just isn’t cost effective. Thanks kitty.
This year I’ve decided to focus mainly on things that are hard to find or expensive to buy, as I think it will bring down my grocery bills in the most effective way. That includes heirloom varieties of vegetables, unusual salad and stir-fry leaves, and lots of herbs that cost a few pence to grow but £s to buy.
Think about yield per square metre over time
As I don’t have too much growing space, I’m also going to focus on plants that grow quickly, have a long cropping season, or grow back after they’ve been partly harvested. In this garden, cauliflowers are out, and kohl rabi and cut-and-come-again salad are in.
Here’s a full list of what I’m growing this year, if you’d like to have a look at that too.
Feeling inspired? What are you going to grow?