The food plants everyone should grow
Ask anyone who’s been growing food for a few years and most will tell you it’s easy to get carried away at this time of year. I think the sights and sounds of nature waking up from its winter nap gives us a false sense of security that we’ll somehow find room for all the seeds we’ve sown and plants we’ve picked up from friends, family or garden centres.
One thing I’ve learned from my years of growing food is that it’s good to start with a plan of what I want to grow each year and work from there. I do this so I can use my time and resources efficiently because I also want to enjoy the (often literal) fruits of my labour without feeling like the weeds are out of control and the slugs are getting more to eat than me.
I usually start my plan in the depths of winter as I think about what went well last year and what I’d like to do differently this time but, without fail, the plants below always make the cut.
Plants that provide lots of produce – You can’t beat a plant that keeps on giving. Some amazing plants give just one picking but with others the more you pick the more you get. My three all-time easy to grow high yielding crops are tomatoes, beans and courgettes and you’ve still time to sow all three.
A couple of words of warning: these plants don’t cope with cold weather so keep them indoors until the risk of frost has passed (mid to the end of May in Barnet). If you’ve already got baby plants on the grow then move them into a slightly bigger pot to keep them happy until it’s time to plant them out. And, don’t sow or grow too many courgettes. One plant is often enough for a family, as courgette glut is all too common with growers new and old.
Salad – you don’t have to settle for a year-round salad that consists of three generic-looking leaves and maybe some rocket if you’re lucky. Growing your own means you can try different tasting salads throughout the year (including winter) as different plants do well in different seasons. It’s also very hard to buy organic salad so growing your own organically means a healthier meal for you and leaves behind healthier soil for the future.
Soft fruit – the typical berries we buy in the shops, such as strawberries and raspberries, are some of the easiest food plants to care for in any garden. As perennial plants (those that come back each year) planting once also means you’ll have fab fruit for years to come. And it’s not too late to plant them for your first batch of fruit this year.
Herbs – Stick to the old faves of sage, rosemary and thyme and, as they’re also perennials, you’ll save stacks of cash. But the world of herbs is much wider than this. Perennial herbs are often hard (and slow) to grow from seed so you may be better browsing what’s on offer at your local garden centre. Herbs are also great in salads, make tasty teas and many are also loved by bees so make an excellent addition to any wildlife-friendly garden.
Hopefully, my list will give you a good head start on the season if you’re a new grower looking to grow some of your own food this year. And if you’re an experienced grower I’d love to hear what’s on your ‘go to’ grow list.
If you have a question about what you're growing or just fancy a chat I will be at my community plot on Mowbray Road in New Barnet every Saturday in April from 10 am to 12 so please pop by to say hello.
Wendy is a trained horticulturist who promotes growing food to growers in Barnet and beyond as @HaveAGrow on Instagram. She grows organically with protection for the soil, nature and planet at mind and believes in the permaculture ethics of earth share, fair share and people care.
Wendy set up the community garden Incredible Edible Barnet in 2016 when she ran out of room to grow food in her back garden. With a small group of volunteers, she grows fruit, vegetables and edible flowers outside a church in New Barnet and she is available to support other people or groups wanting to set up growing spaces in the borough.