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Do you buy all your fruit and veg at a supermarket every week? Next question: Do you have a garden, patio, balcony or allotment? The reason we ask is that you could be growing a lot of your fruit and veg at home. Not only do you get fresher produce on your doorstep and have the satisfaction that you’ve grown it yourself, but it’s a lot cheaper, too!
Recent figures reveal that in the UK, the average household budget for food at home is just over £4,000 per annum. But when it comes to fruit and veggies, are we Brits a healthy bunch or not? As it turns out, we are. Processed meat tops the list but we also spend £226 a year on fresh fruit - £85 on berries alone. We spend £218 a year on fresh vegetables, too, both of which are more than we spend on cakes, buns and biscuits.
But did you know you can save money and have fresh fruit and vegetables on your doorstep all year round? Growing common supermarket veggies instead of buying them isn’t as hard as you might think, and you don’t need much space. Here’s our handy guide to help you get started.
Best supermarket vegetables for the gardener
People in the UK regularly buy these veggies from the supermarket on a weekly basis but we’re going to show that you can grow them at home instead. Plus, you can get the whole family involved in growing them.
How to grow peppers at home
Red, green or yellow, the popular pepper is easier to grow than it may appear, and you can grow them all year round, too. Although they need warmth to flourish, they need a longer growing period than some other vegetables.
- Start the seeds off in a pot or seed tray in multipurpose compost and a warm environment – they need a consistent temperature of 15-21ºC to germinate – like a propagator. You can also grow them on a warm windowsill or even the airing cupboard!
- Once they’ve grown to a size for easy handling, replant each seedling into its own 9cm pot then pop them back on a warm, sunny windowsill.
- Around the end of April or the beginning of May, you can transfer them into a greenhouse (you may need to replant them again into a bigger pot at this time, too). If you don’t have a greenhouse, keep them indoors for a little longer but give them a few hours outside if it's warm and sunny.
- If the plants get quite tall, put a cane in the pot and gently tie the plant to the cane for support.
- In full summer, you can leave them out overnight but if it gets chilly, bring them indoors.
Water the plants regularly but avoid overwatering and be patient as it can take the peppers a few weeks to change colour.
How to grow onions at home
These are another cupboard staple for many households, but they are easy to grow at home, from seed or ‘immature’ bulbs of onions, which are called sets. The big advantage with onions is that once harvested in early autumn, they can be stored in the dark for several months.
- Plant the onion sets in spring, or autumn if you want a spring harvest, in a warm, sunny spot in soil that drains well and preferably not acidic, or grow in deep, wide tubs.
- If growing from seed, you can plant them into well-prepared ground but be prepared to wait a little longer to harvest.
- Water as needed but don’t overwater as they may rot in the ground. There are lots of different varieties to choose from (far more than you’d get in a supermarket!) so choose according to your tastes and harvesting time. Some are particularly good for storage while others are more resistant to disease.
How to grow potatoes at home
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need lots of room to grow your own potatoes. In fact, you can grow them in pots and tubs, raised beds or even grow bags. This is a great option if you don’t have good soil. Potatoes are grown from what’s called seed potatoes (small ones).
- If planting out into the ground, put them in a trench about 10cm down and 30-45 cm apart with the sprouts (eyes) pointing upwards. If in a tub or raised bed, plant fewer to keep them apart.
- Cover with soil, or a mix of soil and compost, and water well consistently to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out.
- As the shoots start to appear and grow to about 20cm, you will need to cover them up with soil, if in the ground, or with compost if in a container.
- You’ll need to do this several times as the plants grow to get a good harvest.
- Like onions, potatoes can also be stored for several months but make sure it is somewhere dark, dry and well-ventilated.
How to grow carrots
Growing carrots is a relatively simple process, but it does require attention to detail. There are lots of varieties so have a go at some of the more unusual ones.
- Grow from seed either straight into well-prepared ground, in raised beds or in tubs, in full sun and shallow rows about 20-30cm apart. Be patient though as they can take time to germinate.
- Stagger your planting times and sow in small batches from spring, every four weeks or so, for nearly all year-round harvesting.
- You may find that you’ll need to thin out the seedlings to avoid bunching.
- Be warned, they don’t always grow straight so you may get some funny shapes and sizes!
Carrots don’t need much watering, but they are prone to carrot fly which tunnel down to the root (carrot) so cover them with a fleece or cloche in their early growing period. This also protects them from slugs and snails.
How to grow garlic
Grown from its cloves instead of seeds, garlic is planted in the late autumn/early winter months, either in the ground or in tubs. That said, there are some varieties you can plant in spring. It has a long growing period for the best crop, but you don’t need too much space and they are quite easy to grow.
- Opt for a warm, sunny position in good soil or compost or a mix of both.
- Put each clove down about 2.5-3cm with the pointed end upwards and harvest when the top growth has started to die down.
- They don’t need too much care but take off any flowers (known as scapes) to promote growth.
- Let the garlic bulbs dry out before use and store in a cool, dry and dark cupboard.
How to grow green beans
Like peppers, you can start the seeds indoors to promote germination, but you can plant the seeds straight into well-prepared, good-draining soil in a sheltered but warm position. Green beans can also be grown in pots/tubs, particularly runner beans.
- Plant in spring for mid-summer to early autumn harvesting and they also do well in cooler conditions.
- Runner beans will need a wigwam of canes, if in tubs, or a line or A-frame (or X-frame) of canes secured at the top to support the plants as they climb upwards. However, there are dwarf varieties to choose from as well.
- Keep them well-watered, particularly when the beans start to grow. The beans come from the flowers they produce, much like many fruits, but avoid leaving runner beans too long before harvesting or they could be tough and stringy.
- Once harvested, beans can be blanched and then frozen to give you an all-year-round
How to grow basil
Although a very popular herb, basil is not that hardy so it’s better to grow it indoors or in a greenhouse or a propagator (or airing cupboard!) as it likes the warmth. That said, you can put basil in pots outside during the day in summer.
- Buy young basil plants from the garden centre or online, or you can grow them from seed but if sown outside, it won’t survive colder late autumn/winter weather so, you will need to lift the plants and start again the following year.
- You can grow basil in batches, too, for an all-year-round
- When the seedlings get big enough, replant each into its own individual 9cm pot of multi-purpose compost or put several into a bigger pot/tub in a group.
- Within a few weeks, you’ll be harvesting your very own, homegrown
Any of these common veggies can be grown at home rather than spending money on them at the supermarket, either directly into the ground, in containers or raised beds, or greenhouses. At Greenhouses Direct, we have a wide selection of greenhouses in all shapes and sizes, as well as blinds and shades to keep out direct sunlight, greenhouse fans and rainwater collection solutions, purpose-built raised beds and greenhouse heaters.