Since becoming a farmer I’ve learned that it’s often the simplest actions that can make a big difference in improving your crops. Take composting, not only does it add nutrients to your growing fruit and veg but it can also significantly reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill or for incineration. Kitchen and garden waste like grass clippings, kitchen scraps and even coffee grounds will naturally decompose and create nutrient-rich compost that will nourish your garden.
Once your compost is ready, you can dig and mix some into the top few inches of the soil before planting or applying it on the surface around the established crops. This is called a ‘mulch’ and will provide the soil with nutrients from the compost to help the soil retain moisture and reduce weed growth.
Many types of fruit and veg can thrive on a balcony in containers with the right care. Even if you don’t have any outside space available, a windowsill with access to light is all you need to grow indoors. If you’re really stuck for light, you can find cheap LED grow lamps readily available to give your plants an extra boost.
As you begin to grow your garden it can be tempting to go out and buy a pack of plastic seed starting trays, but I often find items like yoghurt cups, drinking bottles and milk cartons that can all be repurposed into functioning planters. This is a brilliant way to give new life to those tough-to-recycle containers. Simply cut holes into the bottom of your DIY pot to ensure the seedlings are getting adequate drainage.
You can also repurpose your HelloFresh box by shredding the cardboard and adding this to the compost as an alternative to recycling them. Adding compost to the soil with cardboard allows the roots to spread out and keep from getting tangled with others nearby that may have been planted.
Saving vegetable seeds is a brilliant hack that also saves you a lot of money in the long run. You can even do this with the peppers and tomatoes from your HelloFresh box. Once they’re matured, save their seeds, and keep them in a dry and cool area like your shed or cupboard. You can then use these seeds the following spring season to grow vegetables again without having to spend a single penny.
To reduce water waste and overreliance on your water mains, start leaving out containers to harvest rainwater. This can be used to water plants and veg when the weather is warmer! Water butts are another great way to save on metered water, allowing you to water your plants using rainwater collected from your gutters and downpipes that would otherwise end up down the drain. Many UK water utilities offer them to customers at a discount so be sure to check them out.
LEARN AND GROW
Experimenting is half the fun! There are no mistakes in the garden, even if a crop fails the first time you have learnt precious new skills for the next time. Try different places or containers to understand where they grow best. Whether it’s your first time growing or you have years of experience, it’s brilliant to experience the gentle development of a garden, understand nature on a new level and be mindful about produce and the part it plays in our wellbeing.
JB Gill said, “When I moved back to live with my family in Kent, I made a conscious decision to spend more time outdoors and reconnect with what’s important. I live for being sustainable and loved being able to grow my own vegetables and flowers again. Those living in an urban environment can struggle to find greener spaces, which is why I’m happy to work with HelloFresh and Social Farms & Gardens to raise awareness of these plots across the country. Growing your own foods can help you to appreciate what you eat and be less tempted to throw it away.”