Vibrant organic chard growing in a raised bed

Grow Your Own

“Anyone who has time for drama, is not gardening enough” unknown
Vibrant organic chard growing in a raised bed


Grow Your Own

 

Before planting my first veggie patch, I stumbled across an article titled “8 no-nos in the vegetable garden”, which quickly prevented me from making all the fundamental mistakes I would have otherwise made. Here is an extended list of no-nos, as well as top tips for growing your own veggies. Avoid these pitfalls, and you’ll be on track to growing an abundant garden of Eden.

 

 

1. Preparation

2. Planting

3. Upkeep

4. Learning More

Before planting my first veggie patch, I stumbled across an article titled “8 no-nos in the vegetable garden”, which quickly prevented me from making all the fundamental mistakes I would have otherwise made. Here is an extended list of no-nos, as well as top tips for growing your own veggies. Avoid these pitfalls, and you’ll be on track to growing an abundant garden of Eden.

 

1. Preparation

2. Planting

3. Upkeep

4. Learning More

Preparation

 

Thinking too big

Don’t get overwhelmed and overworked tending to a giant vegetable patch. Start small and with just half a dozen different vegetables. if you cultivate everything at once without experience, you could be setting yourself up to fail.

 

A vegetable patch of white cabbages surrounded by wild flowers and aromatic herbs

Not preparing the soil

If your soil is infertile, your plants won’t thrive. Preparing the soil must be done before you start planting, once the seeds have started to root, any changes to the soil may cause them to die. The best time to add compost, organic matter or manure is in spring. Contact your local stables for free manure.

Over or under fertilizing

Using too much, too little, or no fertilizer at all will result in sickly, slow-growing plants. Plants need nitrogen, and a good organic fertilizer will help them grow tall and strong. However, too much nitrogen, and their growth will be so intense that they’ll take longer to be ready for eating. Also avoid synthetic fertilizers. Although cheaper, they are chemically based and so harmful to health. A good rule of thumb is a 50:50 ratio of fertilizer to soil.

Companion planting

Certain plants, when planted in tandem, can be beneficial for one another in as much as deterring pests, protection from the elements and enriching soil fertilization. Conversely, some plants don’t grow well together and should not be planted in close proximity. Potatoes do particularly well next to coriander, beans, corn, or cabbage, but wreak havoc on pumpkins, cucumbers & tomatoes.

A spade in the soil of a raised vegetable bed

Preparation

Thinking too big

Don’t get overwhelmed and overworked tending to a giant vegetable patch. Start small and with just half a dozen different vegetables. if you cultivate everything at once without experience, you could be setting yourself up to fail.

Not preparing the soil

If your soil is infertile, your plants won’t thrive. Preparing the soil must be done before you start planting, once the seeds have started to root, any changes to the soil may cause them to die. The best time to add compost, organic matter or manure is in spring. Contact your local stables for free manure.

A vegetable patch of white cabbages surrounded by wild flowers and aromatic herbs

Over or under fertilizing

Using too much, too little, or no fertilizer at all will result in sickly, slow-growing plants. Plants need nitrogen, and a good organic fertilizer will help them grow tall and strong. However, too much nitrogen, and their growth will be so intense that they’ll take longer to be ready for eating. Also avoid synthetic fertilizers. Although cheaper, they are chemically based and so harmful to health. A good rule of thumb is a 50:50 ratio of fertilizer to soil.

Companion planting

Certain plants, when planted in tandem, can be beneficial for one another in as much as deterring pests, protection from the elements and enriching soil fertilization. Conversely, some plants don’t grow well together and should not be planted in close proximity. Potatoes do particularly well next to coriander, beans, corn, or cabbage, but wreak havoc on pumpkins, cucumbers & tomatoes.

Planting

Where’s the Sun?

Plants need sunlight to grow, however, different plants require different amounts of sunshine, which must be considered when planning your veggie patch. Make sure you know how much direct sunlight each plant needs, and plant accordingly. Seed packets will often include such information.

Planting too close together

If your seeds are too close to one another, they will compete for resources, which means weaker and smaller plants. Read the instructions on the seed packet to know what the recommended planting distance.

A spade in the soil of a raised vegetable bed

Planting

Where’s the Sun?

Plants need sunlight to grow, however, different plants require different amounts of sunshine, which must be considered when planning your veggie patch. Make sure you know how much direct sunlight each plant needs, and plant accordingly. Seed packets will often include such information.

Planting too close together

If your seeds are too close to one another, they will compete for resources, which means weaker and smaller plants. Read the instructions on the seed packet to know what the recommended planting distance.

Planting too deep or not deep enough

When it comes to seeds, the bigger the seed, the deeper it should be planted. However, planting a seed too deep will prevent it from growing due to a lack of sunlight. While seeds too close to the surface, can dry out or culminate into a plant that cannot stand because its root system is too weak.

A handful of freshly pulled organic radishes

Consuming more fresh organic fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy, while also reducing your food miles and plastic packaging from your weekly shop.

Upkeep

Over or under watering

Like sunshine, different plants require different amounts of water. Too little can result in wilting and dying, and too much can kill the plant by rotting the roots. Most plants need to be watered about 1-3 times a week.

Not getting on top of pests and weeds

There is a long line of insects, rodents, and birds waiting to feast on your yield. To avoid using pesticides, consider using a scarecrow, or hanging old CDs on strings to scare away unwanted guests. Weeds compete with your plants for resources, so they should be uprooted as soon as possible. Try and stay on top of the weed situation, or surround your plants with a mulch to keep weeds at bay.

Watering lettuces with a watering can
Straw mulch around strawberry plants

Mulching

A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of the soil. Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility and health of the soil, and reducing weed growth. A mulch is usually, but not exclusively, organic in nature. It may be permanent (e.g. plastic sheeting) or temporary (e.g. bark chips). It may be applied to bare soil or around existing plants. Mulches of manure or compost will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms and other organisms.

Learning more...

 

Don’t be shy!

Talk to local gardeners young and old about how they tend to their allotments. They hold a wealth of knowledge specific to your area. Also, pepper your local garden centre with questions. No question is a silly question and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, experimentation is the fun part.

Get inspired

I was inspired to learn about organic farming by watching Fergal Smith’s Growing Series. Coincidentally, some seasons and many ripe tomatoes later, Mossy Earth partnered with Fergal to create our Foraois reforestation project in Ireland. There is a treasure of videos, blogs, forums and free online courses available on the internet about gardening, so get online and get inspired!

Rewilding your garden / open space

If you’d like to attract more wildlife to your garden or open space, check out our Rewild Your Garden guide.

A farmer looking over his vegetable crop with three beetroots in his hand

Planting too deep or not deep enough

When it comes to seeds, the bigger the seed, the deeper it should be planted. However, planting a seed too deep will prevent it from growing due to a lack of sunlight. While seeds too close to the surface, can dry out or culminate into a plant that cannot stand because its root system is too weak.

A handful of freshly pulled organic radishes

Consuming more fresh organic fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy, while also reducing your food miles and plastic packaging from your weekly shop.

Two organic cucumbers in raised bed

Food Miles

It is estimated that we currently put nearly 10 kilo calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kilo-calorie of energy we get as food.

Upkeep

Over or under watering

Like sunshine, different plants require different amounts of water. Too little can result in wilting and dying, and too much can kill the plant by rotting the roots. Most plants need to be watered about 1-3 times a week.

Watering lettuces with a watering can

Not getting on top of pests and weeds

There is a long line of insects, rodents, and birds waiting to feast on your yield. To avoid using pesticides, consider using a scarecrow, or hanging old CDs on strings to scare away unwanted guests. Weeds compete with your plants for resources, so they should be uprooted as soon as possible. Try and stay on top of the weed situation, or surround your plants with a mulch to keep weeds at bay.

Mulching

A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of the soil. Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility and health of the soil, and reducing weed growth. A mulch is usually, but not exclusively, organic in nature. It may be permanent (e.g. plastic sheeting) or temporary (e.g. bark chips). It may be applied to bare soil or around existing plants. Mulches of manure or compost will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms and other organisms.

Straw mulch around strawberry plants

Learning more...

Don’t be shy!

Talk to local gardeners young and old about how they tend to their allotments. They hold a wealth of knowledge specific to your area. Also, pepper your local garden centre with questions. No question is a silly question and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, experimentation is the fun part.

A farmer looking over his vegetable crop with three beetroots in his hand

Get inspired

I was inspired to learn about organic farming by watching Fergal Smith’s Growing Series. Coincidentally, some seasons and many ripe tomatoes later, Mossy Earth partnered with Fergal to create our Foraois reforestation project in Ireland. There is a treasure of videos, blogs, forums and free online courses available on the internet about gardening, so get online and get inspired!

Rewilding your garden / open space

If you’d like to attract more wildlife to your garden or open space, check out our Rewild Your Garden guide.

Two organic cucumbers in raised bed

Food Miles

It is estimated that we currently put nearly 10 kilo calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kilo-calorie of energy we get as food.

Sources & further reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

1. "Practical Permaculture For Landscapes, Your Community and the Whole Earth" - J Bloom & D Boehnlein 2015 - Timber Press - Workman.com

2. "Earth User's Guide to Permaculture" 2nd Ed. - R Morrow 2006 - Permanent Publications - permanentpublications.co.uk

3. "Allotment Month By Month: Grow your Own Fruit and Vegetables, Know What to do When" - A Buckingham 2019 - DK Books - dk.com 

4. "Veg in One Bed: How to Grow an Abundance of Food in One Raised Bed, Month by Month" - H Richards 2019 - DK Books - dk.com 

5. "Fergal Smith - Growing" Episodes 1 - 25 - F Smith 2014 - youtube.com

Sources & further reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

1. "Practical Permaculture For Landscapes, Your Community and the Whole Earth" - J Bloom & D Boehnlein 2015 - Timber Press - Workman.com

2. "Earth User's Guide to Permaculture" 2nd Ed. - R Morrow 2006 - Permanent Publications - permanentpublications.co.uk

3. "Allotment Month By Month: Grow your Own Fruit and Vegetables, Know What to do When" - A Buckingham 2019 - DK Books - dk.com 

4. "Veg in One Bed: How to Grow an Abundance of Food in One Raised Bed, Month by Month" - H Richards 2019 - DK Books - dk.com 

5. "Fergal Smith - Growing" Episodes 1 - 25 - F Smith 2014 - youtube.com