How to grow your own healthy food on a budget
3 min | 13 February 2023
Are there easy ways to grow your own food on a budget? The key is to start small and discover what you could reap in a short amount of time. Here are some ideas to get you started, which could provide you with some easy ingredients and potentially save you some money at the same time.
Growing greens, herbs and vegetables can be done with a practical approach and a few items in your kit.
If you have space outside
Whether you have a balcony, doorstep or a small paved space, there are options for using pots or grow bags and planters to grow your own vegetables, as long as they have a good supply of light. You can also use peat-free compost for this, although when growing vegetables you could give them a boost by using a general-purpose liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks.
The main growing season for vegetables can vary depending on what you’re planting but is broadly from early spring until autumn. You could try your hand at growing French beans, beetroot, small potatoes, carrots, broad beans, radishes, chillies and peppers, tomatoes, salad onions and more in pots or grow bags, (the size of which will depend on what’s been planted). Chillies and peppers for example may need a five or ten-litre pot to give them the amount of water they need.
Top tips for pot planters:
- Make watering a habit, but don’t waterlog the container. On the other hand, don’t let the soil dry out, either.
- Pot or grow-bag size matters, so that the plant has enough space for the roots to develop. Some grow bags have clear ‘windows’ on the side to check on how the vegetables and their roots are doing. This could give you a good idea of whether there’s enough space.
- Think tall – make use of your outdoor area. An open-shelved unit against a wall could be used to stack pots above one another. Or you could invest in a ‘living wall’ hanging planter, made up of planting pockets that can be attached to walls, fences or even window ledges.
If winter is approaching you could try growing some vegetables indoors, if you have a spot that gets plenty of bright light (at least 4 – 6 hours a day) and is away from radiators. Microgreens are easy to grow on a windowsill and include shoots from peas, watercress, garlic, mustard, rocket, fava beans and more. You could even grow microgreens from broccoli, celery, cabbage and cauliflower seeds. Seed packets can cost less than £1 in some stores.
Larger vegetables that can be grown indoors include:
Potatoes: give them lots of light and space to grow. If you have any sprouting potatoes in your fridge, try cutting them up and planting them with the sprouted part facing up, ensuring you cover the pieces with plenty of soil.
Carrots: there are many varieties of carrots, so you could choose one depending on the space available to you and the size of the container. Long window boxes work well for some varieties.
Spring onions and salad leaves: salad leaves like baby spinach, chard and loose-leaf lettuce can grow in shallow containers in well-draining soil.
Beetroot: as well as the main root part of the beetroot, you can use the leaves in salads. As with most of the vegetables you’re growing, make sure your beetroots are in the sunniest position possible in your home.
Radishes: in contrast to other vegetables, radishes don’t need lots of light to do well indoors. They tend to grow quicker too – compared to potatoes for example – from germination to harvest in around 40 days.
What you will need
Herbs and microgreens can grow in old plastic takeaway trays, fruit containers or yoghurt pots – just punch some holes in the bottom and use old lids as drip trays. For larger vegetables, you’ll need bigger and deeper containers or grow bags so that their roots have space to move. Having a spray bottle handy will help to provide the plants with moisture, too.
You’ll also need a bag of peat-free potting mix (you can get 50-litre bags for less than £10 in many shops and garden centres). Some brands also offer compost specifically for growing herbs and vegetables.
With some forward planning and a few items to set you up, growing your own vegetables, herbs and greens could offer a varied, healthy and sustainable way to approach your meal planning.