Unlike myself, my dad is of the mentality that we should eat to live…not live to eat. I waiver between both states of mind depending on my mood, but what I do know is that it is important to have a wholistic approach to food. This means cultivating an appreciation for the farming/growing process and how the food we eat gets from the soil to our tables.
My dad has been growing some of his own vegetables for as long as I can remember so I recently caught up with him and asked him a few questions out his vegetable garden farm, how he got started and a few tips and tricks. Hopefully you are as inspired as some of my followers on Instagram who also asked him a few questions which he answered below!
How & when did you get in to gardening?
Growing up in the country in Jamaica, I did my fair share of helping parents and grandparents planting banana, plantain, coco, yam, sweet potatoes, beans etc. When my children came along, I wanted to give them a taste of nature so when I moved to a house with a garden, I just bought a selection of seeds and started planting. First attempt was a great success, I had tomatoes coming out of my ears so I just never stopped.
What crop/herbs do you grow?
On a regular basis – Sweet corn, beet root, tomatoes, spinach, corgettes, pumpkin, cucumber, garlic, spring onion, Pak Choi, thyme, rosemary, mint, sweet pepper
I have also grown – Aubergine, Strawberry, Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, chilli peppers and sweet potatoes
What are you favourite crops to grow?
Sweet corn, beetroot and tomatoes
Any essential products or resources you recommend?
YouTube for best practice tips
https://marshallsgarden.com/ for seeds and plants
https://www.diy.com/projects/garden-centre/ for seeds and plants as well as compost and tools/accessories
Any tips or tricks?
Don’t make too much of a fuss, plants grow themselves you just need to provide the right conditions
You have to be a weather watcher, know when the seasons are changing and keep up with weather reports and forecast
How long does ginger & sweet corn take?
Ginger takes about 10 months but I have not had any success personally. I tried once to grow some indoors, the plant got to about 12 inches high but it didn’t survive. I am trying again this year.
You can harvest sweet corn in 60 to 100 days depending on variety and whether conditions.
Do you use any fertilisers?
Miracle Gro, Growmore, crushed egg shell, charcoal ash, vegetable waste, make sure there are lots of earthworm in your soil
How do you protect it from animals?
In a backyard garden there are not many animals you need to worry about unless you have hole in your fence and a neighbour with rabbits. If you have loose sandy soil it can encourage cats to use it for a litter bed
Did you do any research before you started?
I started on experience and accumulated knowledge taking the view that plants grow themselves given the right conditions, I only started researching in order to figure out my mistakes and to improve technique.
Best veg for beginners?
Spinach, beetroot, pak choi, spring onions are easy to grow and you get quick turnaround, if the weather is kind and your timing is right you could get up to three crops between spring and autumn.
How do you deal with pests/insects?
The ones I have had problems with are slugs, Aphids and cabbage worms.
Aphids – Remove aphids by hand by spraying water or knocking them into a bucket of soapy water, Control with natural or organic sprays like a soap-and-water mixture, neem oil, or essential oils, Employ natural predators like ladybugs, green lacewings, and birds.
Slugs – When wondering how to get rid of slugs, a gentle method is to use plants which deter them and act as a natural pesticide. This way, you can keep keep slugs at bay without chemicals. Astrantia gives off a scent that repels slugs. Other plants which deter slugs include wormwood, rue, fennel, anise and rosemary.
Cabbage worms – Cabbage worms are repelled by thyme, so it would be a good idea to plant thyme near your susceptible plants. Cabbage worms are attracted to mustard plants, so planting mustard near more valuable plants can be a good trap for cabbage worms
How do you get your cucumbers to have a good colour?
Make sure they get enough sunlight and prune your plants so that they don’t get too crowded
How long roughly does it take for veg to grow? Is it a long period between harvests?
Most vegetables can be harvested within 3 months some within weeks
Do you choose what to cultivate based on the inconsistent UK weather?
Based on what I like and what can be harvested within five to six months
If growing through winter how to you ensure crop doesn’t freeze?
Some vegetable can happily survive through winter, frost, snow and ice eg, garlic, beetroot, spring onions
Do you have to replant everything after one season? Do some survive the winter?
Unlike most fruits and herbs which are perennial, most vegetables are annuals, sown and harvested within one growing season
How to manage weeds?
Aggressively pulling by hand, in a small backyard garden no more than 30 minutes to 1 hour per week. Use mulching to cover the ground when it’s not being planted as it helps to keep down weed. Use grass cuttings or hay if you are in a farming area, you may also buy special breathable fabric from garden centres.
Try not to use weed killer especially Roundup, you are what you eat and your plants are what you feed them.