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LATEST: TOP TIPS By Back to Front Committee Member Donna Cutting 

 Growing the Back to Front way doesn’t just mean growing in your front garden, it can also mean doing things differently, turning things on their head!

We have all had our successes and failures. If your year has not been as successful as you hoped have a look at what went wrong and it may help you get better results next year. If you are new to growing and want to start next Spring, this is still the best time to plan ahead. It was good to get together, share food we had made (really wonderful food!) and share our thoughts on what went well and what didn’t, this involved looking at what we could change for the better next year.

Things to think about when planning what to grow next year.

  • Space – how much space do you have? If your space is limited remember that some plants take a lot of room, such as courgettes and need deep pots or lots of ground.  Perhaps stick to smaller varieties such as lettuce tomatoes, beetroots. Have a look at vertical space as well.  Back to Front makes some great hanging baskets from plastic bottles which can turn a wall into a living crop of radish and lettuce.
  • Light – how much light does your area get?  Remember some crops thrive in full sun, but others can cope with shadier conditions such as lettuce and spinach.
  • Wind – if your site is windy make sure your taller plants are staked with a cane to stop them snapping.  Also remember that if you don’t water enough your pot and soil will become very light and could blow over! 
  • Watering – remember that the smaller the pot the quicker it will dry out. The larger the pot the more space for the plant to develop a good healthy root system.  The bigger the pot the better, at least 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep will allow you grow some fantastic crops. If you are struggling with watering, cut the bottom off of a plastic bottle and insert deeply into the pot neck down. Then water directly into the upturned bottle, this will mean that you can water directly to the roots where the water is needed. Also Don’t forget to put holes in the bottom of the pot for drainage! Don’t forget you can over water too!  If in doubt stick your finger in the pot up to the second digit, if its dry it needs water!
  • Budget – how much money can you spend?  You don’t need fancy equipment to grow. Recycle all sorts into practical containers from pallets, bottles tin cans and fruit boxes. But sometimes seed can be expensive.  Can you share seeds with a growing buddy?  You get over 1000 seeds in a packet of carrots or lettuce..share the joy of fresh food and the cost! Also most seeds store really well and can be used again next year (except parsnips!)  keep them in a cool dark place and they will last for a few years.
  • Ready made plants – if you see a reduced herb plant in a supermarket such as mint, remember you can get several plants if you divide it into smaller pots.  This is a plant that will keep going for years if you pot it on.
  • Combination pots – If you get a big pot you can grow all of your salad in one pot.  Plant a tomato in the middle once it is big enough and surround it by salad leaves, spring onions and herbs.  Also throw in a couple of marigold seeds and you will attract bees to pollinate your tomatoes as well as being able to eat the tomatoes.  The bigger the pot, the more you can grow and you only need to water one pot!
  • Support – if you have struggled growing on your own this year, look out for free Back to Front workshops next year.  Can you get together with neighbours on your street or in your flats and grow together?  Is there a community garden nearby where you can get involved and learn how to grow at home.
  • Experience – if you are new to growing stick to the easier plants that aren’t too fussy.  These include radish, beetroot, lettuces, chard, spring onions.  If you are more experienced, how about trying something more challenging?  There are some great catalogues out there that you can get by post or on line, have a look and see what takes your fancy.  If you are more experienced, can you help a friend start to grow, or how about volunteering with Back to Front?
  • Have you considered growing fruit? You may not have space for an apple tree but many fruit bushes will do well in a small garden or in a pot?  They are also easy to propagate.
  • Windowsills- You can do lots of shoots on a window ledge, full of vitamins and minerals. You can also grow micro-greens which are very expensive to buy but very cheap to grow. Again they are a powerhouse of goodness.  Herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander can also add a pep to your meals.
  • Harvesting! – The best bit!  Most crops do better if you harvest early and often, often producing more and more!  If you leave the lettuce/tomato/courgette until it gets really big they can lose taste, texture or bolt and run to seed.
  • Choosing! –This takes us full circle again.  Choose crops that you want eat!  Radish may be easy but don’t grow it if you won’t eat it! To pep things up you can buy carrots in many colours, tomatoes can be beef, cherry or salad size. They can also be stripy, orange and long!

The biggest tips…..have fun, eat what you grow, share what you grow, and if you get stuck ask advice!  Plus always remember you can’t control the weather or the slug population!