Discover all you need to know about planning, sowing and maintaining your very own backyard family vegetable garden whether it’s a pot or a plot.
If you have any sort of backyard these days you are luckier than most.
Very often the gardeners I meet have to manage with a tiny balcony or window box.
Many of us end up renting an allotment from the local authority so they can satisfy their growing dreams.
Whatever space you have it can be glorious, with a little thought and know how.
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A family garden can mean a lot to us. In particular it can have so many uses from being a football pitch, relaxing area to visit with friends, a playground for your pets to a nice place to be and connect with nature.
Benefits of a family vegetable garden
In our opinion, growing some tasty vegetables, fruit and flowers should be at the top of the things you use your garden for.
Its a perfect way to connect with nature, grow healthy chemical free food to feed your family and spend time together outdoors learning a useful lifeskill.
(I mean do your kids know potatoes come from underground and not just a shelf in a supermarket ??)
It is so satifying to be able to grow a tiny seed, and nurture it all the way up to the point you can harvest and eat your own crops.
Feeding your children homegrown, chemical free food that you have grown from nothing with your own hands is quite an emotiinal experience everytime I do it.
But I dont have a green thumb I hear you shout!!!
No green fingers needed here, just fingers that don’t mind getting down and dirty with the soil.
But I’ve no time…i’ve no money…I don’t have space…
I hear these types of comments all the time and to each of them I say ‘Theres No Excuse!’
Grow in a pot on the windowsill, balcony or hire a plot from a neighbour or allotment plot.
Collect cuttings or seeds from friends. Make your own compost to nurture and feed your soil for free Shop at garage sales or thrift stores for tools and other items you need. Use food containers and cut down soda bottles as pots to grow seeds
There is so many ways to fit gardening into your life and the benefits far outweight to problems trying to find time.
This post about growing healthy FAST food proves time should not hold you back.
So How do you start a family vegetable garden?
First, you need to decide what you want to grow and what kind of garden you want. There is so many ways to get started.
The main rule to deciding what to grow, is to start with what you like to eat. Heres a list of our favourite things to grow which are so easy the kids can grow them.
If you’re short on space, choose varieties of plants that are happy in a pot. You can even grow pumpkins in a single pot if you choose the right variety.
Have a look through some online vegetable growers and seed catalogues to get an idea of what kind of things you would like to grow. You can grow more that one thing in a pot if you think about it carefully.
A fantastic example would the ‘3 sisters’ growing method. It involves planting sweetcorn, beans and courgettes in a raised bed.
The sweetcorn provides the beans something to climb and benefits from the shade of the pumpkin leaves, the pumpkin loves the extra nitrogen given off by the beans roots. 3 plants, using 1 space to benefit each other.
If you can find other plants that are happy together the worlds your oyster.
For example, Grow nasturtuims in a pot with black or red kale and calendula?
Such a pretty arrangement with the tall statuesque kale, contrastung with the colourfull orange calendula daisies and the the nasturtiums adding a pretty trailing effect lower in the pot.
Did you notice theyre all beautiful and all EDIBLE. Calendular flower petals, nasturtium leaves and flowers and kale can all be used in a variety of usefull and tasty ways.
Benefits of starting a family vegetable garden.
Did you notice how many of us turned to our gardens in 2020 when the dreaded virus kept us home?
We used it to balance ourselves, to get fit and to connect with the world around us in a way some of us have never done before. You can even get healthy in your garden
Gardening is not just fun but its a wonderful way to connect with yourself physically, getting outdoors is essential for our mental health too.
We need to be close to trees and green spaces. It’s been proven that microbes in the soil actually make us happy!
Don’t believe me? Check out the science bit here
Whatever family goals you have for your garden, home and personal life, starting in the garden can help you achieve them all
Growing a garden is a useful way to achieve goals you may have. Check out how in this fantastic post.
If you are still looking at me with that ‘look’ cause you have no idea where to start then a great way to boost your confidence is to take my beginners veg garden course.
It gives you a basic grounding in everything you need to know.
It’s broken down in simple managable steps and are so easy to follow.
I know what I want to grow, now what? But where to start?
You need to decided where your going to grow it?
You could for example grow your fruit or vegetables in pots on the patio.
Theres so many advantages to growing in pots so check out our guide here to see if its for you.
Or maybe making a few raised beds is a better idea for your family. This post can help you there.
Fancy starting a full size allotment? Go you! Check out this post for a full guide on starting the right way.
Growing fruit would light up your day. The kids certainly love fruit and picking it is so much fun. Our fruit growing post here, theres even a free book to download with lots of information.
Planning your family veg patch.
I have developed these planning sheets over the last few years and I use them every winter when im planning my patch for the year ahead.
I’ve even included the sowing calender I use and a blank one you can adjust for your are. As well as a few sheets where you can draw out your plot or pots etc.
Getting the kids involved in your family garden
Another reason to start a family veg garden is to encourage your children to eat better, be more active, promote healthier habits.
This is why you should garden as a family and how you can make that a reality. There is so many wonderful activities you can do with your kids to introduce them to gardening and the natural world.
A children’s garden can be many things and it can offer a place to explore, rest, play and create. Find out how to create a garden of your children’s dreams right here.
Seed sowing in a family vegetable garden.
Seed sowing is fundamental for any gardener. In the beginning you can buy in plug plants which are mini plantletts.
Someone has taken the time and care to grown them for sale at a manageable size for planting. They are expensive by comparison to sowing your own, so in my opinion learning to sow your own is defiantly the better option in the long run.
Seed starting kits you can buy are also a great option for total beginners, they help to introduce seed sowing to kids as well as build your own confidence in the beginning so you can build up your confidence and stock pile of seeds.
These kits have everything you need and come with full instructions so they help to take away the guessing game.
Check out our favourite gardening kits for kids over in our shop
Bulb planting is another simple but effective ‘plug and play’methodto gardening. Is relatively simple but the effects can be glorius.
It’s not just flower bulbs either as remember onions and garlic count as bulbs you need to sow in winter. You’ll find garlic growing instructions here
This fun activity is a clever way to introduce bulb planting to kids
A good way to keep track of all these activities and plans is to make a garden journal. You can record what seeds you’ve grown, where you planted, and what you loved or didnt enjoy for next year.
Tools you need for a family vegetable garden
Tools for vegetable gardening can be varied and the choice is staggering. You could go bananas but theres really only a few you actually need as a beginner, check out our list here
There’s also a whole range of kids tools you can buy to make them feel included in the whole affair so pop over to here and take a look at some of our favourites over the years
Chores for kids
If your going to include the kids in the garden then it’s a good idea to have some tasks in mind that are simple enough for kids to complete. Heres some of our ideas
keep jobs simple and short so kids don’t get bored and lose interest. Keeping jobs short mean they can complete it and feel accomplished and eager to start something else.
Weeding your vegetable patch
Many gardeners hate weeding but I dont mind it. It’s one of those repetitve activities that mean you can let your mind wander and think of something else.
Keeping on top of the weeds though can be a full time job for some gardeners which makes planting in a pot a great idea.
Weeds grow on bare soil so if you plant thickly enough there will be less room for the weeds.
If you do find yourself pulling them up, remember that the weeds will compete for food, water and nutrients so pulling them out is giving your vegetable plants the best chance possible.
Weeds however aren’t all bad, sometimes they can be helpful, like clover it actually provides nitrogen to the soil so other plants can enjoy it too.
It also covers the soil to stop water evaporation and erosion so give a second thought before bringing out the hoe.
However, removing weeds early before they have a chance to grow and set seeds is usually the easiest option.
Feeding Your Plants
Vegetable plants, fruit and cut flower crops all need a lot of food. They grow quickly and suck a lot of nutrients from the soil to provide a bountiful harvest so these nutrients must be replaced to makntain healthy soil for your next crop.
A lot of veg crops also need additional food to top this up as crops lime potatoes need a huge boost of nutrients to grow well.
Find out how to make your own compost in this post. It’s probably the most important lesson you can learn.
Compost uses your left over kitchen waste and green waste and turns it into a rich nutritious soil for your plants.
We even have a simple way to make a small amount of compost in a soda bottle. A perfect activity for kids to try or if you just need enough compost for a pot of plants. Another great idea is to make your own fertilizers like comfrey feed or nettle tea which are simple to produce and really boost your plants health.
Check out this post from Gardeners World Magazine on how to make Comfrey Feed.
Trouble shooting top tips
As wonderful as gardening is, there are a few problems to contend with like pests and diseases, mistakes you make or losing a whole crop of something for no reason at all.
Heres a few ways to reduce the mistakes and fix the issues that crop up.
Being prepared gives you the best chance of success, heres our top tips for vegetable gardening for beginners.
Remember to get in touch and tell us how your gardening journey is developing. Do you need any help and advice? Let us know, we can help, we are all learning together!