Growing your own food is one of life’s unique pleasures. Not only is it cheaper than buying fruit and veg from the shops, but it’s greener too – and eating food you’ve grown from scratch is enormously satisfying. Plus, the growing process itself is relaxing and enjoyable.
It might be cold outside right now, but spring is just around the corner – and because we’re all spending so much time at home, there’s never been a better time to start growing your own food.
What many people don’t know is that you don’t need a big vegetable patch to grow fruit and vegetables; you don’t even need a garden. If you’re interested in boosting your health by growing some nutritious and delicious superfoods this spring, here’s everything you need to know.
What are superfoods, and how easy are they to grow at home?
Whether you’ve always dreamed about growing your own food or have only just started thinking about it, the good news is that almost everybody can grow their own produce from home. While growing your own fresh herbs is relatively common, growing your own fruit and vegetables is a little more unusual – but if you like the idea of growing superfoods yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t do so.
First things first, what exactly are superfoods? Superfoods are essentially just foods that are deemed to be especially nutritious – things like tomatoes, blueberries, broccoli and kale. They usually contain high amounts of vitamins, antioxidants, fibre, or essential fatty acids.
The term ‘superfood’ has become a bit of a buzzword over the past decade, and many people associate superfoods with elusive, expensive and exotic ingredients – things like goji berries, cacao, and ‘ancient grains’ like quinoa. But many superfoods can be easily grown at home – and while not all superfoods are expensive, growing your own still means that you’ll spend far less than you would if you were buying superfoods from a supermarket.
You might assume that growing your own superfoods will be time-consuming and difficult, but this isn’t the case: some of the most delicious superfoods can be grown indoors in pots. So even if you have limited space, you can still grow an abundance of delicious, healthy food.
Before we take a closer look at some of the different types of superfoods you can grow, let’s consider the two different options for growing your own produce at home…
1. Growing superfoods in a garden
It doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is – if you have space for a lawn or raised beds you’ll be able to grow your own superfoods. Growing fruit and vegetables in your garden isn’t especially complex, but you do need to do some research before you start planting. You’ll need to calculate how big your vegetable patches will be, and figure out how to plant in raised beds, how to round out the soil properly, and when different seeds need to be planted.
If you like learning from books, you might want to have a look at Amazon’s best-selling books on growing fruit and veg from home. If you prefer learning from videos, you may find B&Q’s guide to growing your own veg useful – although if you want more personalised guidance, you might want to pop into your local B&Q store and ask to speak to an advisor (B&Q stores are currently open around the country). Alternatively, have a watch of the video below to find out what budding gardeners need to look out for when growing fruit and veg in the garden.
2. Growing superfoods in containers
Don’t have a garden? No problem. If you have a balcony, you can get into vertical gardening, which has rocketed in popularity over the past year. By planting upwards instead of outwards, you’ll have far more space to plant fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. Even if you don’t have a balcony, you can get to grips with vertical gardening from inside your home, too. Window sills are also suitable for growing your own superfoods, so no matter how small your place may be, with a little creativity and ingenuity you can still grow delicious produce – from strawberries to tomatoes.
To find out more about growing food in containers and small spaces, head over to Vertical Veg: this site has a blog, videos and resources, and even a community so you can chat to other small space gardeners, ask questions, and receive advice. You might also want to buy a copy of Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet, which will teach you everything you need to know about small space and vertical gardening – from how to access soil to choosing the right plants for different spaces.
If you enjoy growing your own fruit and veg from home, you may want to think about applying for an allotment in the future. This will provide you with more space and will give you more opportunities to grow different types of produce. Plus, working on an allotment is a great way to stay active, relax, and meet new people. To find out more about allotments, you might want to read our article, How to apply for an allotment.
Which superfoods are easiest to grow in the UK?
The good news is that seeds for most superfoods are best sown in early spring, from February onwards – so now’s the perfect time to start planning your grow-your-own-superfood adventure. You can buy seeds and bulbs and everything else you need from your local garden centre – or, if you prefer, from online stockists like Seed Pantry. Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the superfoods that are easiest for budding gardeners to grow in the UK.
Blueberries are among the most popular superfoods around, and are exceptionally good for us. They’re packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, and are also high in fibre and vitamins. Research shows that blueberries can even boost brain health: one study showed that they can improve memory and learning in older adults.
Blueberries can be grown either in the garden or in containers from early spring. While blueberries are pretty simple to grow, they do need very acidic soil to thrive. You can test the acidity of your soil by buying pH testing kits, which are available from most garden centres or online. Your soil needs to be pH 5.5 or lower for blueberries to grow, so if your garden soil has a higher pH than this, it’s probably best to plant your blueberries in a container, where you can purchase the right soil.
For more details about growing blueberries, have a read of this in-depth article by The Royal Horticultural Society.
2. Jerusalem artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes are very easy to grow, low-maintenance, and ideal for beginners. Jerusalem artichokes are related to the sunflower plant, and their tall yellow flowers brighten up any garden or balcony. However, it’s what’s underneath the soil that really counts here, and the edible tubers are packed with potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B. Plus, they’re absolutely delicious, and can be eaten raw as well as in soups and other savoury dishes.
Best planted between February and April, Jerusalem artichokes thrive in well-spaced soil, but they also grow in large pots filled with high-quality compost. Ideally, pots should be at least 1.5ft deep and a similar width. As a plant, Jerusalem artichokes are pretty resilient, and they grow in just about any soil, although alkaline is best (around pH 6.5).
Tomatoes are one of the most delicious, versatile and accessible superfoods around. You can easily grow them indoors in pots, so if you only have a window sill available, tomatoes are a safe bet. They’re packed with vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K, and growing them in your own home means you’ll always have an abundance of superfoods on hand – plus, they’ll probably taste much better than the ones you buy from supermarkets, too.
The good news is that there are so many different types of tomatoes available – from tiny cherry tomatoes to giant beef tomatoes – that there’s usually a type perfectly suited to every space. If you want to plant your tomatoes outside, it’s best to sow your seeds from late March to early April, but if you’re growing them inside, late-February to mid-March is ideal: you just need to find a sunny spot or window ledge. For more details on planting tomatoes, check out this article by Gardeners’ World.
It might be one of the most celebrated superfoods, but kale is also one of the easiest to grow, so it’s a great choice for anyone who’s just starting out on their growing adventure. Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, kale is best planted in early spring in well-drained, light soil – and whether that’s in raised beds in your garden, or containers on a balcony or patio is up to you.
Kale thrives in both sunny and shady spots, and they’re not too fussy about soil either – meaning they’re one of the most resilient superfoods you can grow from home, as well as one of the most nutritional. Plus, their frilly dark leaves look very attractive, too. You can buy baby kale plants (called ‘plugs’) from garden centres, but because they’re so easy to grow from seeds, it’s often more rewarding to start from scratch.
To read more about different ways to grow kale, from raised beds to pots and seed trays, have a read of this guide by Teabreak Gardener – and to get inspired about all the delicious meals you can make, have a look at these tasty kale recipes by Good Housekeeping.
5. Chilli peppers
Aside from fresh herbs, chilli peppers are probably the most common edible plants that are grown indoors – and that’s because they’re so low-maintenance and thrive in pots placed on window ledges. Chillies may be small but they pack a serious punch in terms of nutrition: they contain lots of vitamin C (up to three times more than citrus fruit!) and are also high in fibre and minerals. Chillies are incredibly diverse, coming in all different colours, shapes, flavours and heat-levels, so growing your own means you’ll always have your favourite chillies on hand. Plus, when the plants start to bloom, they add warmth and colour to your kitchen.
This time of year – late winter to early spring – is the ideal time to sow chilli seeds if you’re planning on growing them indoors. All you need is a small pot, some seed compost, and a sunny window sill. Chillies like heat and humidity, so it’s often helpful to place a clear plastic bag over each pot and tie it with an elastic band: this raises the humidity and helps the plant germinate. As the chillies continue to grow, you can move them into larger pots – and if you have a balcony or garden, you may want to move them outside at this point too (though they’ll be happy remaining in containers inside, too).
For more information on growing chillies at home, have a read of this article by Chilli Plant – and if you’re looking for some fiery recipes you can use your home-grown creations in, check out these suggestions from The Guardian.
Beetroot contains high amounts of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C – and they’re also packed with nitrates, which means they’re especially good for your heart. Plus, their green tops are delicious too, and can be cooked like spinach or eaten raw in salads. More good news is that beets are simple to grow, and thrive in containers as well as raised beds outside. If you’re growing your beetroot in containers, it’s best to opt for round varieties that are at least eight inches deep.
Best sown between February and July, beets are usually ready after 90 days, meaning you can look forward to eating plenty of delicious beetroot from late spring onwards; check out these recipes from BBC Good Food to get inspired. For more details on growing your own beetroot, have a read of this guide by The Royal Horticultural Society.
Broccoli is another popular superfood that grows well in colder climates. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and health-boosting beta-carotene – and because it’s pretty easy to grow from home, it’s another great choice for budding gardeners. Plus, broccoli is versatile and absolutely delicious: just have a look at these mouthwatering recipes from Bon Appetit.
Seeds are usually sown between March and June, and a popular way of growing broccoli is to first grow your seedlings in containers, and then when the plants have grown to around six inches, move them to raised beds or vegetable patches.
However, it’s possible to grow broccoli solely in containers – but because the plants have a widespread, you need to sow the seeds sparingly and ensure the pots are big enough. Have a read of this article by Gardening Know How to find out more about growing broccoli in containers – and if you’re growing broccoli in your garden, check out this article by the RHS for more information.
Carrots are one of the most popular grow-your-own vegetables, and for good reason. They’re quick and easy to grow, packed with nutrients, and take up very little space in a vegetable patch. Carrots can easily be grown in pots and containers too, and are best sown from February until mid-July. Carrots need sun and fertile soil, but because they’re drought resistant they rarely need watering, making them very low maintenance. To find out more about growing your own carrots in raised beds in a garden, have a read of this article by the RHS.
If you’re growing carrots in containers, depth is the most important factor to consider: you need a pot that’s between six to 15 inches deep, so you can space out the carrots and allow them to fully develop. For more details on growing carrots in pots, have a read of this article by Envii or this guide by Quick Crop. As an ingredient, carrots are as versatile as they are delicious, and are just as good baked into cakes as they are eaten as a raw, healthy snack; just check out these recipes by Delicious to start looking forward to all the mouthwatering meals you can make with your crop.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is enjoyable and relaxing – and cooking and eating food you’ve grown from scratch is wonderfully satisfying. If you’re looking to include more superfoods in your diet, growing your own is one of the best ways to do so – plus, as an added bonus, it’s cheaper and greener too. While it might take a bit of research and preparation to begin with, once you’ve got started you may well discover that you’ve found a life-long hobby.
For more ideas for superfoods that can be grown from home, have a read of this article by New Life On a Homestead. Alternatively, if you’d like more inspiration for how to maximise your produce throughout the year, you might want to check out our articles, 15 Gardening to-dos for August and Gardening to-dos for September.
Do you grow your own produce from home – or are you inspired to give it a go? We’d love to hear about your growing experiences and see pictures of your green space! Leave us a comment below or join the conversation over on the community forum.