Ever since I started My Baba, I’ve wanted to get a gardener to help write not only about the importance of getting children into gardening, but growing your own food. I have so much fun with the children planting seeds and watching tomatoes grow. I’m really pleased to introduce the wonderful Mike Kitchen, founder of Rocket Gardens, who makes life easier with a few brilliant tips for planning ahead well into spring.
When my children were little, I took 18 months off work to get stuck into family country life, growing vegetables and living off the land. This proved very time consuming and I was inspired to create a product that offered people the chance to live the good life, without needing to give up quite so much time.
A Rocket Garden is a box full of baby plants already given the very best start in life, lovingly reared on our Cornish farm. They aren’t sent to their new home until they are ready to flourish, so all you have to do is prepare their new home for their arrival and then enjoy all the tasty organic treats they produce.
Rocket Gardens‘ Instant Gardens include a one off delivery full of plants ready to be popped into the ground and harvested over the coming months, while Constant Gardens comprise of a series of deliveries through the year, yielding seasonal produce all year long. All deliveries include a comprehensive growing guide.
If you’re short on space, time and expertise but you’re keen to try growing your own food then fear not – you can still live the good life with a little preparation. Here are my top tips for growing some of the most popular crops.
Plant: April – August
Harvest: June – December
Plant rows of carrots six inches apart in warm dry ground – spring is normally a good time to do this. Firm in around the plants and water carefully if the ground is dry. Remove weeds whenever they appear, don’t leave them to flourish. Lift the first baby carrots as they reveal themselves, in order to further increase space for the remaining crops. These are super tasty steamed and eaten with butter and pepper immediately after being harvested from the ground!
Plant and harvest all year round!
Most herbs are fairly easy to grow, requiring a sunny location, fairly well drained soil and regular picking to keep the plant compact. Rocket Gardens herbs will grow well in the garden, pots, containers, window boxes or even hanging baskets. Weeding should be carried out regularly and trimming of invasive herbs such as mint should be taken care of before a problem occurs. For convenience we recommend that where possible, your herbs are placed as close to the kitchen as possible.
Plant: April – July
Harvest: June – October
Plant your seedlings approximately 3 feet (90cm) apart, ideally using mulching film around the base of the plant which keeps down weeds, retains soil moisture and keeps growing courgettes off the earth. Smaller courgettes are more flavoursome and the fruits will grow extremely quickly almost overnight in some cases! So, unless you want your courgettes to turn into giant marrows you should check and pick them regularly. A well grown courgette plant can product twenty or so courgettes!
Plant: March – August
Harvest: May – December
Potatoes can be successfully grown in potato planters, barrels, tubs or other containers. Use a multi-purpose potting compost mixed with well-rotted manure or wormcast fertiliser. Put a 10cm layer of your chosen compost in the container, then place 2 -4 potato tubers on top. Cover with a further 10cm of compost mix and water and when stems reach a height of about 15cm, add another 10cm of compost mix. Repeat this until the plants are about 5cm below the rim of the container, then add a final layer of compost mix. Keep the container well-watered and harvest your potatoes when plants have flowered. Carefully dig about beneath the foliage to check on the size of the potatoes before harvesting.
Plant: April – July
Harvest: August – October
Onions like an open sunny spot with well-drained soil which has been fertilised with well-rotted manure or wormcast. Our onion seedlings are grown in small biodegradable pots containing approximately four plants per pot. These can be sown directly into the ground without the need to remove the pot, making your life lots easier! Space the pots 12 inches (30cm) apart each way and be sure to regularly hand-weed or hoe between the plants. Water when the weather is dry but stop watering when the onions have swollen.
Plant: April – June
Harvest: July – October
There are various ways of growing runner beans and a wigwam is a good way to do so when space is at a premium. Alternatively, you can use bamboo canes approximately eight feet in length. A rich, light, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter is ideal for this popular treat, which should be watered well during periods of dry weather.
Plant: April – July
Harvest: June – September
Soon after delivery you should soak your strawberry runners in water for half an hour, which will bring them back to life. Plant them so that the spot where the shoot meets the root is level with the soil, because if they are planted too deeply they run the risk of rotting. Grow under fleece if you are keen to produce an earlier crop, for added protection. You can also plant strawberries through black polythene which will help stop weeds from interfering with your strawberry plants.
By Mike Kitchen, founder of Rocket Gardens