Wednesday, 6 April 2011

10 Essential Items For Growing Veggies (In My Humble Opinion)

I decided that if I'm going to attempt to start a veggie growing revolution, I must provide as much useful information to veggie growing novices as I can.  I did not have a clue what I would need to start growing my own veggies.  I was lucky in that my husband comes from a family who has always been very avid vegetable growers, so he was a great help.  However, not everyone out there will have the same advantage.  With this in mind, I thought it would be handy for me to provide a list of things that I found essential when embarking on this exciting adventure.

So, here goes...

1. Seedling Trays

These are the trays that you initially sow your seeds in.  After germination and when the seeds have grown into something vaguely recognisable, you will either transplant them into pots or alternatively plant them out to their final location.

Seedling trays are relatively inexpensive and there is a huge variety of them available on the market.  Some seedling trays decompose so you can actually plant the germinated seed together with its little container into its next location.  I don't have these ones and I have to remove my sprouting beauties from their compartment within the seedling tray, but this is easily done by simply pinching the bottom of the compartment.

2. Pots, Pots And More Pots

Some seeds don't need to be planted into seedling trays and can be planted directly into pots or even their final location.  Read the back of the seed packet to get an idea of your seeds needs.  Carrots and peas can be planted directly to their final location, whether that be the ground, a pot or a grow bag, although I first sowed them into seedling trays.

Ensuring you have plenty of pots is very important.  When you sow your seeds, you will inevitably sow quite a number and when the time comes to move them into pots, you may well need a few just for one variety of vegetable.  My chilli seeds took really well and so when the time came for me to transplant them to pots, I needed five or so just to accommodate them all.  Some of these may eventually die (having not handled the transplant too well) or may be thinned out in due course when it's obvious to determine which are the strong ones and which are the weak ones, but until then an abundance of pots is necessary.

It is nice to have a wide range of different shapes and sizes to add a bit of charisma and flamboyance to your greenhouse, windowsill, blacony, patio or wherever it is you intend to grow your vegetables.  You can also be creative in respect of what you use as a pot.  We have an old fish tank at home that is no longer in use and I have decided to use that to plant my herbs in when they are ready to be moved to their final location.  It's different and I think it will look lovely.  When being creative, remember to be mindful of drainage.  Most vegetable plants like well drained soil.  This is easily rectified if you are using a fish tank like me or even a pot with no hole or holes in the bottom.

Tip: A really handy tip is to place some gravel or stones at the bottom of the pot and then place the soil on top of them.  This will allow the water to drain right through the soil and into the gravel, leaving the soil well drained.

3. A Trowel

A trowel (or a small spade) is an obvious necessity.  You will need one of these little gems to dig up compost and to transfer compost from the bags that they come in into the seedling trays.  When you are putting compost into pots or grow bags, you can simply tip the bag into them, but seedling trays are a little too small and this tactic might just result in compost being strewn everywhere, which is a bit of a nightmare.

A trowel is also handy to help loosen the compost, which can sometimes be quite clumpy.  Vegetables like carrots need the soil to be loosened because if they hit a clump when they are growing, they will alter their shape to grow around it, which could leave you with some mutant-looking carrots, as opposed to nice, straight ones.

You will also need a trowel to dig holes for bigger plants when planting them out to their final location.

4. A Dibber

"What on earth is a dibber?" was my first question when such a thing was put to me.  A dibber is a tool for 'boring' holes into the soil into which you will sow the seeds.  Again, they are relatively inexpensive.  A dibber almost looks like a plastic, small, upside down hammer with measurements on the side.  You will notice that the seed packets will advise you to sow seeds at a certain depth.  The dibber will help you to make a hole that is the correct depth to maximise your seeds' chances of success.  They are also very handy for digging holes when planting out smaller plants.

5. Seed Packets

This is quite an obvious one.  Without seeds, there will be no veggies.  When buying your seeds, have a look at the back of the pack to see what time of the year they can be sown and when you can expect a harvest.  Different seeds need to be sown at different times of the year, so making sure you're getting the right seeds for the time of year you're sowing is essential if you are going to get going as soon as possible.  Also, be sure to check that the veggies you are interested in can be grown in containers, if you don't have a garden.  The back of seed packets contain a wealth of information and will tell you everything you need to know about that specific seed.

Tip: Potatoes are great because you can simply place some left over potatoes that you have bought from a shop in a dark room and wait for roots to grow from them.  Once the roots turn green (they will initially be white), the potatoes can be stuck in the ground.  It's as easy as pie!

Tip: When cooking with fresh chillies and peppers, dry the seeds that you remove from them.  These dry seeds can be sown to grow chilli and pepper plants.

6. Seed Sowing Compost

It's a good idea to get seed sowing compost, as it is specifically designed to provide seeds with the correct nutrients.  This compost is easily available at any good garden centre.  I ensured that I used this when I started growing my veggies because I thought I could do with all the help I could get.

7. Fruit & Veg Compost

There are all sorts of different composts out there designed to make gardening of any nature easier.  I found some compost specifically for fruit and vegetables at B&Q.  As with the seed sowing compost, this compost has been specifically formulated to assist in the growing of fruit and vegetables.  It's rich in whatever nutrients fruit and veg need.  You will need this compost when the time comes to transplant your seedlings into pots.

The one thing that I have noticed is that a lot of compost goes a very short distance when growing veggies.  Fortunately, it is extremely inexpensive, so you shouldn't be too concerned about the vast quantity required.  It will not cost you an arm and a leg to keep an ongoing supply.

8. Watering Can

The watering can is an extremely essential item.  It is especially important to have one with which to water your seeds.  When you have sown seeds, it is very easy to scatter them if the pressure of the water when watering them is too much.  This will affect the depth at which they are sown and can, in turn, hinder the growing process.  This is where the watering can comes into its own.  It's the perfect tool to ensure that scattering is minimised and that the watering process is a gentle one.

9. Plant Labels & Pencil

If I'm honest with you, plant labels and pencils probably aren't an absolute necessity, but they are a great thing to have, particularly when you have a variety of seeds growing in your various seedling trays.  The plant labels enable you to label what seeds are where.  It's also a good idea to state the date on which you sowed them.  This will allow you to keep track of their progress more effectively.  I also placed plant labels into the pots and grow bags once I had transplanted my seeds and noted the date on which they were transplanted.

When I started with my veggies, my husband said to me, "All good gardeners write in pencil".  This will enable you to use your plant labels over and over again without ever having to replace or replenish them.  Apart from that, I personally don't think it makes you a bad gardener if you decide to use a pen.

10. Greenhouse

I've listed greenhouse last because I think it's probably the least important item on this list.  You most certainly do not need a greenhouse to grow veggies at home.  Many veggies can be grown indoors and in pots and containers, so if you don't have a garden or the space necessary for a greenhouse, do not be disheartened.  You can still grow veggies till your heart's content, just be sure to check the back of the seed packs to make certain that you are placing your pots and containers in an area that is the right temperature for the seeds that are growing in them.

However, if you do have even just a small garden, I would recommend considering a greenhouse of some description.  There is such a wide variety of greenhouses available to suit all shapes and sizes of gardens.  My garden is extremely small, so I got a small lean-to greenhouse, which takes up very little space.  If you have a larger garden, take a look into what is available that's suitable for the space that you have.

The benefit of a greenhouse is that you can place your veggies outside without them being harmed by harsh weather conditions.  The greenhouse is designed to retain heat and so will always be considerably warmer than the outside temperature, provided of course that it is placed in a sunny spot in the garden.  Some vegetables require warm conditions to grow and a greenhouse can fool them into believing that they are being grown in a warmer climate.  One such example is Basil.

This is my little greenhouse.  It's perfect for me because it really doesn't take up too much space.  Although it doesn't look particularly full in this picure, it has plenty of space inside and can hold loads of pots.

Right, so that's my list of the 10 most essential items to get you on your way to growing your own veggies.  I hope that it has inspired you to bite the bullet, take up this hobby and to start a more organic and fulfilling way of life.


  1. Wow that greenhouse is seriously nifty - I had no idea you could get those! Lou I'm looking forward to all the recipes that I've read about on FB that you are going to be making(and hopefully sharing!?) using your garden produce! xx

  2. Lol. Watch this space Tam. That'll no doubt be a direction this blog will lead to. x