March 6, 2024

Is it worth growing food?

I often get asked if it is worth growing my own food.  It does take quite a lot of time and effort, but it allows me to live on a small food budget and eat a healthy variety of seasonal food. It can be expensive to grow food if you buy lots of compost and have bought raised beds, but I don’t have fancy equipment and I use recycled containers.  I also save seed or use seed from food in the supermarket. I  make most of my own compost and find other methods to improve and reuse my soil in containers. Fruit and vegetable prices continue to rise and the fruit and vegetables that we find in the supermarket often have 7 times less nutrients in them as they are old and have been kept looking fresh through using chemicals.  They have often been grown using chemical fertilisers as well.  Organic food is out of my price range and so in a bid to save money, consume less chemicals and fertilisers, and ensure I have healthy food available, I grow my own.  Homegrown food also tastes so much better than any bought food as it is so fresh.

I am starting to sow my seeds now so that I can be self sufficient in fruit and vegetables for at least half of the year.  I do not have much growing room as most of my garden is terraced and paved.  I therefore have to grow most of my food in buckets or pots,  and amongst the flowers in a small bed.  This year I have an extra raised bed that Mr S built for  me.  We filled it with cardboard, rotting logs, twigs and leaf mould so that we only needed 6 inches of compost on the top.

Another question that I get asked is how do I decide what to grow.  Basically I grow what we like to eat, or  things that I know from previous years grows well in my garden.  I also think about price.  Berries are really expensive in the supermarket and so we grow a lot of those. When I had a lot of space and an allotment I would grow winter vegetables and things like swedes, but now I just grow during the summer as I can preserve enough not to have to grow winter crops. All growing spaces are different and it is best to study your garden for shade, wind, and the direction of the sun before planting.  Most vegetable need at least 6 hours of sunshine.  I live in the North of England and so I sow most of my seeds inside to give them a head start before the frosts go, which makes my growing season longer.  I also plant successional crops to make the most of the space.

One thing that does save me lots of money every year is to grow rocket and lettuce for salad leaves.   During the summer we tend to eat salad with most meals.  We also always plant spinach to use in salads and cooked meals.  I don’t grow whole lettuce but use varieties that can  be grown close together, cut, and then will regrow.  I grow them in large catering mushroom trays that I can place on a table out of reach of the slugs.  I sow some seeds every 6 to 8 weeks so that I have a constant supply from April to at least October.  When I didn’t have a garden I used to grow them on my windows sills in my flat.  They are so easy to grow.

I also grow rainbow chard every year as they crop right through the winter and the stalks can be used  in stir fries or served with cheese sauce, and the leaves can be used like spinach.  The chard looks lovely in my garden and adds colour in Autumn.

Beans are a staple for us. We eat vegetarian half of the time and so they provide us with protein.  I always grow runner beans which I either pod or use sliced. The orange, white or purple flowers look lovely climbing up my fence or archway.  My favourite to grow are borlotti beans as we make baked beans out of those.  All beans freeze well and go in my winter stews.  Some years I have also grown bush beans and some years I have grown broad beans.

Potatoes.  We need some carbs and so I grow potatoes in buckets and a couple of old dustbins.  I don’t plant them all at once, but plant some every couple of weeks so that I have a steady supply of fresh potatoes up until Christmas as I do not have enough room to store them.  Some times I use old supermarket potatoes to plant, and sometimes I buy some seed potatoes if I see them at a good price.  A lot of people with a small space do not grow potatoes as they are not too expensive to buy.  Nothing tastes like a home grown potato, though.

Berries.  These are our biggest crop as I have two beds of raspberries and I also have a hedge of  black, white and red currants.  The currants provide berries right through the winter for pies, smoothies and crumbles.  We eat a lot of the raspberries but freeze some to make a kind of Eton mess on special family occasions as it is a tradition.  Strawberries are also grown in 3 tubs which give us a treat during the summer as a dessert or in a salad.  This year I am planting 2 red  gooseberry bushes

Pak Choi.  This is often the first crop that is ready to use in hot meals.  We use it like cabbage and also in stir fry.  It grows really well in smaller tubs.  I pick the leaves as I need them and don’t harvest the whole plant.

Tomatoes.  We grow lots of tomatoes as we use them to make pasta sauce and to eat in salads.  We grow bush tomatoes as well as ones that need to be staked.  I grow a lot of mine at the back of a metal shed as the sun reflects the heat and light on to them and so they ripen early in the season.  Every year I freeze whole tomatoes to use in winter.  In previous years I have grown tomato plants inside on my window sill and porch.

Cucumbers  These are grown in the green house and outside.  They are grown in pots and climb up a lattice fence or on an arch.  We make fridge pickles and add them to salads.

Courgettes.  These provide a lot of our summer vegetables.  We spiralise them to use instead of pasta, use them in cakes, stuff them, make fritters, use them in salads, make ratatouille and add them to omelettes etc.  I grow yellow ones as well as green ones.  Even when grown in a bucket I get about 20 fruit per plant.  I do use a cotton bud to make sure that they pollinate and grown them all in a line together.

Carrots.  These are so cheap to buy and take up a lot of space and so I only grow a couple of pots of of them.  They are so much sweeter than bought carrots and so I tend to eat them raw in salads or grated into carrot cake overnight oats.  Every September I plant some and they are ready to pick in March without me having to do anything.  They are not massive, but make a lovely fresh addition to meals.

Onions.  These need a lot of sun and I find that they do not grow well in pots.  I only have one sunny area with soil in my garden and I grew them there last year and had a large crop.  This year I will try them in the raised bed which we have built in a sunny area as I do not want to grow them in the same area as I want to reduce the chance of disease.

Peppers.  We grow these in the greenhouse so that we can put them in ratatouille, salads, on pizza, and freeze them for meals in winter.  Last year I grew them all from a supermarket pepper. This is our main crop in our greenhouse.

Chillies.  We only grow these about every 3 years and dry or freeze them, or make lazy chilli out of them.

Beetroot.  I often grow these amongst my flowers as the leaves are pretty.  We roast them, pickle them and make cakes out of them.

Spring onions.  I sow 6 seeds together in pots and transplant them later so that they grow as a bunch.  I sow some every couple of weeks so that we have a steady supply. These do not take up much and I grow them in troughs or amongst my flowers.

Radishes.  These also take up very little room and I often grow them in little troughs.  I sow them regularly so that I have a constant supply.  I use them in stir fry and salad.

Peas.  I sow these to grow up a trellis in a couple of large pots, but also grow lots in a trough to have as pea shoots in salad.  I don’t grow a lot to maturity as space is limited and frozen peas are so cheap, but I do like to pick pods and eat them as I water the garden.

Garlic  I usually grow these from sprouting garlic and do not have the space to grow a lot.  We tend to make lazy garlic out of them rather than use them in meals.

Leeks.  I don’t have a lot of room for leeks and probably only grow about 8 but they are great to pick in winter for a different taste or to make soup.  I grow them in an old plastic toy box usually,

Herbs,  I have a large variety of herbs in pots that come back each year.  These include sage, rosemary, chives, thyme and marjoram.  I also plant coriander, basil and parsley each year.

Fennel  These have been self seeding themselves for years at the back of my garden.  We use the leaves in pickles and salads and roast the bulb.

Last year I grew Quinoa and will probably do so again.  It grows very tall but was a beautiful colour.  I might try some chick peas this year as well.  I watched someone soak and sprout some dry ones and grow them.  Something I haven’t grown for a while is a butternut squash and this year if I have room I am going to try growing them as they will store well for winter.  If grown in tubs I have found that I have only got a couple of fruit in the past.  I would also like to try mushrooms as I have a shaded part of the garden where little will grow.

What do you like to grow in your garden?  Do you think it is worth growing your own food?  I find that growing helps my mental health as well as all the other advantages.   You can’t put a price on that!

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Katie Naden March 9, 2024 at 9:45 am - Reply

    I grow potatoes . Beans peas radish tomatoes . Cucumber . Cabbages kale & chard broccoli. Leeks . Onions
    My leeks were more like spring onions the broccoli& kale & chard did ok but the cabbages didn’t have hearts .
    I’m using them all to bulk out winter veg . I’ve an Apple tree that was laden last year & strawberries & Rhubarb did ok too . I need to be a little more selective with what we grow & stagger the sowing .
    I like how you have worked out how you know what to try in areas affected by light I’ve got shaded areas but perhaps I could get some metal to reflect light or give mushrooms a go . Ive experimented with strawberry plants growing in upright pallets against the fence that I’ve added slats of wood & plastic pockets too & grown sage with it which does ok . I’m feeling more inspired but need to get on top of prepping the soil cleaning inside greenhouse & making some natural fertiliser weed killers .

    • ToniG March 17, 2024 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      There is plenty of time for jobs yet, and it just hasn’t been the weather, has it? It sounds like you have lots to supplement your diet there. I fancy trying mushrooms this year, too.

  2. Agnes March 11, 2024 at 6:49 am - Reply

    I grow tomatoes, cucumbers,beans,peas,lettuce,chard, some potatoes, herbs, gooseberries, raspberries and last year planted cherry pear and apple trees. I love gardening and in the rare moments when the Scottish sun is out, sitting in the garden after doing the work, sipping coffee and listening to the birds singing, i feel like there is no other holiday destination id rather be

    • ToniG March 17, 2024 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      That sounds like a lovely mix of produce. I must admit I don’t like going away in summer either. I would rather look after my plants!

Leave A Comment