I am no expert on gardening, growing, permaculture or The Simple Life, but I’ve always dreamed of creating spaces filled with edible plants and each year our vegetable patch gets a bit bigger and bolder. I am not a traditionalist when it comes to gardening – we’re fans of wild gardening, chaotic mixes and blend herbs, vegetables and edible flowers with fruits and fruit trees. We grow nettles and dandelions, daisies and brambles. We encourage wildlife and the garden is home to frogs, starlings and slow worms, beetles, bees and butterflies.

We’re neither keen nor natural gardeners, but the rewards we reap are very much worth the effort. We never buy herbs, my daughter has grown up on grazing on fresh food whilst playing outside and when on a Summer’s evening we pick cucumbers, tomatoes, peas and baby leaves to make a salad to go alongside the BBQ sweetcorn and beetroot brownies, I’m glad we went through the trouble of growing our own.

The RHS’ website is my favourite resource, here’s some links to the places I visit the most. The Incredible Edible Network and similar projects are my inspiration. I wish we’d all realise that gardening doesn’t have to be a passion – although thank goodness it is for many – but it can be as small a project as growing some herbs and salad leaves on the kitchen window sill.

RHS Advice for Beginners

The Royal Horticultural Society has a great site to get you started in the garden. Their Grow-Your-Own section includes an annual calendar, advice on sowing, weeding, general care and how to deal with common pests and diseases. An extensive plant database is also available with a good search function and comprehensive information on different plants.

Their Beginner’s Guide to Gardening is also less overwhelming than most serious gardening books without skimping on important facts and information. Their environmental section is a must-read before starting work in the garden and offers practical advice on some key aspects – like responsible water use and peat-free compost.

RHS GYO App: Beginner’s level is free and provides comprehensive advice about 39 fruit and veg that are easy to grow.

Incredible Edible

I’ve been following Incredible Edible Network for some time now and think it’s a great idea. I am most familiar with Incredible Edible Bristol and the Bristol Food Network’s Get Growing in Bristol (see map) project focused on community gardening and encouraging Bristolians to grow their own food, but similar endeavours are popping up across the globe. Permaculture is always a good idea. Community growing projects not only inspire people but also serves as a great place to learn and pool resources. A community orchard requires a lot less work than your own allotment.

Sharing the workload provides access to fresh food without the worry of “Who will water my plants whilst I’m on holiday?’ or the ‘I don’t know what to do about diseases and pests’. Many require very little effort from each person – as little as 1 hour a month – at a time that suits them. Some projects even accept help with their website in exchange for a share of the food for those less green-fingered individuals. It’s a win-win situation.

I hope we can manage to keep expanding our edible garden. This year’s goal is to include a few more exotic specimens to the standard fare of salads, peas, berries and root vegetables. What will you grow?