I love to grow my own food as it is cheap, healthy, fresh and it gets me outside in the sunshine (not seen much of that recently!) What I especially like is to be able to go outside in the morning, have a look at what is ready to pick, then plan the evening meal around my harvest. I wrote an article called Grow Your Own on a Shoestring in early April and since then everything is growing daily; there are small fruits on the fruit trees and bushes, the herbs are very colourful and bursting with tender young leaves, the salads have grown well and the vegetables look amazing. I don’t have a kitchen garden at the moment so I rely on pots. I have had a lot of pots given to me over the years from family and friends and my old buckets, dustbins and plastic grow bags are very much in use again this year. I mainly grow fruit which is expensive to buy in the shops and although I only grow a little fruit, I get a descent amount, especially from the strawberries and raspberries.
My strawberries, which are growing in plastic strawberry bags are flowering their socks off at the moment. The variety I grow is called Aromel and as it’s a perpetual strawberry, it will fruit from June until at least mid-October. The fruit are average sized and they are full of flavour and very sweet. Please see my article on Grow Your Own Strawberries. I make strawberry jam each summer but I buy the strawberries from a fruit farm a few miles away for jam making. The strawberries I grow are simply eaten fresh with sugar and cream …
I have grown raspberries for several years and couldn’t believe how easy they are to grow. Mine are in a large, battered, plastic plant pot. The pot is filled with homemade compost. Raspberries prefer a semi shaded position in the garden, moist soil, and will grow year after year. I clip them down to soil level in early autumn but otherwise they take care of themselves. The variety I grow is called Joan J and the plants produce very large, delicious, firm fruit. The more the raspberries and strawberries are picked, the more they produce. What’s also great about this variety is that they have no spines – a real bonus!
My cherry tree, which is in a large pot, is covered in small green cherries. The variety is called Stella and last year, although only a small tree, it produced about three dozen cherries. They were large, dark red and so juicy! It’s not only my family who love cherries, but the blackbirds too. So, my little trick was to find a few pairs of old laddered tights, cut off the legs (from about the knee upwards) and very carefully slip the foot part over the maturing cherries. This worked a treat and Mr. Blackbird couldn’t get any! (I wasn’t worried about the blackbirds going hungry as there were loads of berries in the hedgerows for them to eat). Cherries are always expensive in the shops so my little tree has well and truly paid for itself over the past three years.
I bought my blueberry bush six years ago and it even fruited in its first year. The variety is called Northsky and when I bought it, the catalogue stated that it was very hardy and could withstand temperatures well below freezing. This has proved to be true! I always put the pot against a sheltered wall over winter and each summer it is Blueberrycovered in fruit. These plants prefer an acidic soil and plenty of moisture so I just add a little extra compost to the pot in the spring and water it when starting to dry out. The bush is covered in tiny fruit at the moment and last year some of the blueberries were the size of grapes! Blueberries are expensive to buy in the shops and the flavour can’t compare at all to home grown ones! I recently read that blueberries should be grown in small groups to maximise their crop, so perhaps I’ll buy another one in the autumn as I am too late to propagate it this year.
I have grown other fruits in the past including apples, peaches, pears, grapes and melons. My peach and pear trees were dwarf “patio” trees and they were very successful, but as they grew bigger and bigger I had to plant them in the garden but we have now moved house, so no home grown peaches or pears this year. The melons were amazing – a cantaloupe variety, but again, they were grown at our last house which had a small greenhouse – a necessity for melons in the UK! Unless anyone has grown them in pots? Please let me know if you have!
I nearly forgot! There is another fruit I have started to grow this year. I put two lemon pips in a little plant pot four weeks ago. I filled the pot with moist seed compost, placed the pot near the boiler for warmth and stuck a piece of cling film over the top of the pot to retain moisture. I was quite surprised to see two little lemon seedling growing last week! Yes, it will be about five years before they fruit and the fruit takes another year to ripen but that’s part of the beauty of gardening; there’s always something new and magical happening outside. Work with nature and you will be rewarded!