Grow your own veg – getting started

Grow your own veg - a step to self sufficiency

Choosing a spot for your vegetables


Growing your own vegetables is one of the most obvious ways of saving money, and is something that nearly all of us can do, even if you have little or no garden.  Yes, really! You just need to have a sunny spot, near a source of water (i.e. you need to be able to run a hose there) and you can begin. If you don’t have any spare ground, you can begin your foray into self sufficiency by starting to grow your own veg in pots or containers.

Option 1 – Ground level planting

If you have a sheltered area of your garden that gets good levels of sunlight for most of the year, this will be ideal.  You will need to prepare the ground by clearing it of grass, weeds and any rubbish and large stones.  Then you need to take a fork and dig the area to a spade’s depth, removing all weeds and their roots, and breaking up the clumps of earth – this will take a bit of effort!  Finally dig in some well-rotted compost or manure – about a spadeful per square metre.


Option 2 – Raised beds

If you want to grow your own veg but haven’t got a ready made vegetable patch, a great place to start is with a raised bed.  This is simply a frame that you can fill with topsoil/compost and plant up with a selection of your favourite vegetables.  Raised beds are great for many reasons:

  •  They can be located anywhere, even on a hard surface, making it a great option for those with little or no garden
  • You can choose the soil to fill it with – ideal for those of us with inhospitable soil in our gardens
  • They are (as the name suggests) raised above the ground, so less bending is needed.  In fact they can be built as high as you like depending upon your preference or needs.
  • They provide a barrier and therefore a deterrent to garden pests like slugs and snails (it certainly won’t stop them, but it should help)
  • The soil isn’t compacted as you are not walking over the beds, so drainage is better and it’s easier for the roots to grow

Raised beds on concrete

If you’re locating it on a hard surface like concrete, you’ll have to consider drainage – leave some drainage holes in the frame and line with a porous ground cover sheeting like Mypex, which will allow the water to drain through without your soil leaching out all over your patio.  Then fill the bottom of the bed with some drainage material (broken bricks, pots, gravel etc) before filling with your soil/compost.  Also be aware that the roots won’t be able to grow down into the underlying ground as they would if it was on a base of earth, so you might need to start with shallow rooting plants like strawberries and leafy veg.  Ideally make the bed at least 20cm high.

Make or buy your raised bed?

If you’re handy with a hammer and wood you can build your own raised bed.  Just remember not to make it so wide that you can’t easily reach the middle (about 1 metre) – you don’t want to be clambering over your lettuces to reach the beans in the middle!  You also need to be aware that you shouldn’t use timber that has been treated with toxic chemicals.

Alternatively we have found some great ready made ones that come in a variety of sizes, and are very reasonably priced.  You can stack them to raise them higher off the ground (more soil needed, though!). See below for some options that we’ve found.

Vegetable trugs

For those who would prefer a solution that can be moved around more easily, and that requires no bending at all, you could look at a vegetable trug – essentially a raised bed on legs!  These look great in a sunny corner of a patio – see below for some great ones that we’ve come across.

Finally, simply fill your bed with soil mixed with some compost and hey presto! You’re ready to start growing!


Do I need a greenhouse?


Well, the quick answer is probably not immediately, if you are just beginning.  Greenhouses are brilliant for sowing seeds – especially for early sowing – and for many tomatoes and chilli plants.  However if you leave your planting until slightly later, certainly after all the frosts have passed, then you could certainly get away with germinating your seeds on a sunny windowsill inside before planting the vegetables out later on. You can also choose outdoor varieties of tomato that will work fine outside.   Some seeds you can even sow straight into the ground, later in the spring.

Once you get more experience and want to branch out with your growing, then if you have the space a greenhouse is probably a worthwhile investment.  However, if you don’t have the space (or the funds!) and still want to start some things off under glass, you can find some very good ‘portable greenhouses’ that are space-saving, movable, and great value for money.  See below for a useful compact one that we’ve come across.


Some products you might be interested in


Medium veg trug

Medium veg trug

multipurpose compost 60l

Multipurpose compost 60l

Raised bed base

Raised bed base


4 tier mini greenhouse

4 tier mini greenhouse

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