There are few things in life as satisfying and rewarding as growing your own delicious vegetables, and the good news is that you don't need to have green fingers to produce results. You don't even need to have a large garden either, as there are plenty of options for growing a few select items in containers in the smallest of back yards.
Far too many people are daunted at the prospect of growing their own vegetables, but it's important to remember that you don't need to adopt an 'all or nothing' approach. Start small with some of the easier plants that are particularly resilient and before you know it you'll be dishing up your home-grown veg at the dinner table and putting your name down for an allotment!
Choose a sunny, sheltered spot to get your crop off to the very best start, and dig over the ground, adding some mulch which will provide nutrients for your growing plants. Get rid of any weeds, using weedkiller if necessary and add extra mulch to prevent regrowth.
Ideally, if you have the space, you should create four defined areas surrounded by pathways in order to cater for a variety of crops – root vegetables, legumes (otherwise known as peas and beans), salad and herbs and the final area for leafy greens, courgettes and sweetcorn. Every year you should move the crops to a different quadrant as this allows the soil to recover and replace lost nutrients.
Paths need to be at least thirty inches wide to allow for abundant growth – if you have sufficient space you should aim for a vegetable patch that is around 10 feet by 12 feet as this allows for a good selection of plants. Maintaining an area this size will require you to spend around two hours a week during the main growing months of March to August.
When you first think about growing your own vegetables you probably think of potatoes, parsnips and cabbages, but in fact these all take time and are not ideal for the first-time gardener. Focus instead on cheerful, easy-to-grow vegetables that will give you fast results for minimum input, such as lettuce and other salad leaves and fast-growing herbs.
Many salad plants are of the 'cut and come again' variety, in which you select the leaves you need while allowing the plant to continue growing. Every so often you need to harvest the centre of the plant to prevent it from flowering, and you will be rewarded with several weeks of home-grown salads.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard are perfect for the beginner, as are courgettes, peas and beans. Tomatoes and cucumbers can be grown in a greenhouse or in a very sunny and sheltered spot against a west- or south-facing wall.
If you simply don't have the luxury of space then select a few containers and fill them with a good quality compost designed for vegetable growing. Choose a selection of plants from the above suggestions and you're ready to go!