Grow Your Own Veg: Common problems solved

Some of you will have been following our journey  living a more self sufficient lifestyle. This summer we have been working hard growing lots of yummy fruit and vegetables. Most with success, but we have fallen on our backsides a few times with some hiccups. Just yesterday, all of my brussel sprouts fell victim to caterpillars. Ruined!

 For all of the wonders that growing your own vegetables can bring, there’s no doubt it can also be rather frustrating. It’s a process that is never as simple as one would hope. You can’t just plant seeds and then sit back, let the magic of nature take its course and produce a yield bountiful enough to feed the entire family – it tends to involve a lot more trial and error than that. Trust me… I seem to go through a LOT of errors, during my trials! 

Of course, that’s all part of gardening isn’t it? Learning as you go, picking up new skills, refining the ones that you had. It’s all part of the fun. If, however, you find yourself continually hitting a wall when it comes to your vegetables, it can be disheartening to the point you feel you might as well not bother. It’s a huge learning journey, that can be so frustrating. But believe me, once you figure it out, the rewards are huge. Nothing tastes better than the amazing food that you have grown. It’s fresh, full of flavour and so much better for you than shop bought versions.

So, before you give up entirely, it’s worth considering these questions to see if there’s any room for improvement on your technique.

Do You Have The Right Equipment?

It’s one thing to have the right soil, raised beds, and tools – but that’s not all you need for successful vegetable growing. You’re going to need, ideally, a greenhouse 6 x 8 feet in size, fleeces to protect your seedlings, potentially even a cold frame if you want to start the growing season as easily as possible. Luckily for us, our greenhouse was a gift from a family friend. Since we’ve had the greenhouse, the amount of food (and our success) has certainly more than doubled. 

It is possible to grow your own veg without a wide variety of different equipment, but it’s definitely easier to get it right if you have got everything you need to hand. It might seem like a lot of money to spend on something that’s already proving problematic, but these big items will last for years and years once you have made the initial investment. The investment doesn’t have to be huge either. Lots of our equipment has been picked up from second hand selling pages and sites, carboots and eBay.  

Are You Spacing Your Plants?

If you’re short on space or just more accustomed to growing flowers, it can be surprisingly easy to plant vegetables so close together that they have no chance of survival. As a general rule, the bigger the vegetable – such as broccoli, cauliflower, swedes – the more space it’s going to need to grow. We have 4 giant pumpkin plants, that currently have taken over the space equivalent of an average garage!

If you really want to get spacing down to an exact science, then you could try square foot gardening. This method has exact spacing required for each type of veg, so you can’t go far wrong if this has potentially been an issue for you. 

I still fall victim to myself when it comes to spacing. This year my peas ended up in a big tangled mess, because I tried to cram too many close together. I did get a harvest from them, but nowhere as many as I could have had if I had put more thought into spacing. If plants are too close together oxygen and light reaching the plants can be compromised.

Are You Using The Right Food?

Once again, it’s possible to grow vegetables without using an additional plant food – but it definitely helps if you give your seedlings a helping hand. You could try a natural food or fertiliser; egg shells, for example, can be particularly effective when it comes to encouraging growth- and eggshells can also act as a natural slug repellent. You could opt for something store-bought to give your plants the best chance of survival. I still like to buy natural based plant foods and avoid any heavy chemicals. 

If you’re concerned about chemicals, then focus on learning to read labels or stick to natural options. Even used coffee grounds can give vegetables an extra boost when it comes to reaching their potential, so give everything a try before you give up. You can make your own fertiliser from stinging nettles soaked in rain water. Trust me, it stinks but the rewards are huge! Have a Google and look at how to make your own fertiliser. 


Head to the library, charity shops and browse online and read as much as you can about your grow-your-own journey. Knowledge is key. I am a member of some fabulous allotment-keepering pages on Facebook, with many of it’s members being full of essential information, gathered from years spent at their own allotments.

Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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