How to grow your own without a garden

When we talk about “grow your own” it’s all too easy to assume there is a garden or allotment available. However, with the trend of being self-sufficient becoming increasingly popular, here at Notcutts we are being asked how people without an open area can still grow their own vegetables. Without an outdoor space the number and choice of crops you can grow is limited, but certainly it’s still possible to achieve bumper crops of healthy food.


Some flats are lucky enough to have an outdoor space in the form of a balcony, which gives you the ideal spot to grow a few fruit and veg. Growing in containers can give just as good a result as growing veg in a raised bed or greenhouse. The only trick to know is when your crops need to be planted out into bigger containers. There are many crops you can grow on the balcony, even if it’s totally shaded. Here is a guide to what crops to look for:

•    If you have three to six hours sunlight a day, choose crops that prefer partial sun or partial shade.
•    If you receive a continuous stream of light through the branches of trees or something similar you’re looking for plants that like dappled or filtered light.
•    However, if you have less than three hours of sunlight a day, you need to look for crops that love to be kept in full shade.

Top Tip: It isn’t just in containers where you will be able to achieve a bumper crop; hanging baskets are also a great alternative.

The windowsill

No matter where you live, you don’t just have the option of growing a herb garden or strawberries on a windowsill, there are plenty of veg and tropical fruits you can grow too. Tucked into containers you can also enjoy growing the likes of figs and mini-pineapples. When growing such fruits as well as herbs and veg, all the cardinal container growing rules apply; good soil and regular watering and feeding are essential. However, many of these crops do need to be kept in full sun.

Here are some of the foods you could be growing on your windowsill at home:

•    Tomatoes
•    Herbs
•    Mixed greens
•    Taro
•    Celery
•    Radishes
•    Watercress
•    Carrots
•    Peppers
•    Lettuce
•    Spinach

Top Tip: If your windowsill doesn’t provide enough light for some of your crops, such as peppers and tomatoes, use fluorescent, HID or LED grow lights.



Teenagers and Gardening 

My name is Matthew Kirkum and am 15 years old, currently completing work experience at Notcutts Garden Centres. I feel I have grown up with gardening, what with my mother a keen gardener and my father working in horticulture. However, my gardening expertise is very limited; in fact mowing the lawn is possibly the only gardening skill I possess.

There is a sense that many people my age are oblivious to gardening and the joy it gives to many people. There is a danger that the stereotypical gardener is one of an older generation.  I believe this is a false assumption and feel it’s important for people my age to become aware of this fact and do something about it. An easy way to get into gardening, even for a novice like myself, is growing your own vegetables and fruit. Whether it’s simply just growing a tomato plant, an asparagus or a bunch of carrots, the sense of achievement felt at dinner time when you eat something you have grown, is of utmost satisfaction.

It doesn’t seem right however, that we should be so uninterested in gardening, what with bright colours being all the rage; surely flowers would be well suited to a teenagers bed room? Maybe it’s just that we don’t recognise the benefits of plants and have the wrong impression?

When I was young I received a small cactus as a present. I watered it every day caring for it as if it would die on me at any second. It was the sense of owner ship and caring that excited me. Asked to do the weeding the answer would unquestionably be a no. But when I do get the chance, usually because money is involved, getting the roots of the weeds out of the soil is a therapeutic task with a sense of achievement.

Gardening could be introduced to children and teenagers through school projects and trips to gain more knowledge on the subject. Gardening has captured the imagination of many people so why should children and teenagers be any different?   The Venus fly trap and other carnivorous plants appeal to me and, I dare say, to others like myself. Exotic, curious looking plants fascinate young children along with the ability to grow their own gardens. A misconception can lead to teenagers believing that flowers are the essence of gardening, yet BBQs, greenhouses, water features and more, all fall under the same category.  

Work experience has meant that I have been able to be involved with many aspects of Notcutts including the garden centre. Whilst I was there, I did notice a gap in the market for teenagers and children who are interested in gardening. On the other hand, I was pleased to see many young families walking through the entrance with children excited by the plethora of colours displayed in the scene before them.   Hopefully this negative attitude towards gardening can be amended in teenagers across the country in order to continue the British love affair with gardening.


Firepits and chimineas

When the heat of a barbecue disappears and evening draws in, why not cosy up to the warmth of a chiminea or firepit? Just because the sun has gone down doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to being indoors; why not enjoy your garden under the moonlight?

Not only do firepits and chimineas provide warmth, they also make attractive focal points in the garden too. Choose from a variety of designs that best suit your garden and enjoy all the benefits they can provide you, your family and guests.

When it comes to the collection of chimineas, we recommend the Mini Cast Iron Chiminea for the smaller garden; it’s large enough for you to benefit from the heat it gives off, but small enough for you to incorporate it into the garden without having the fear of it taking over the whole garden. We really like the safe-guard mesh used around the chiminea; it enables you to place it anywhere in the garden as the beautiful flames will be seen from all directions.

For larger gardens, we think the Tangier Metal Chiminea is a great choice; it closely resembles the design of the Mini Cast Iron Chiminea. However, it’s taller and has been designed with cooking in mind; a metal plate is placed in the middle of the elegant bowl. It’s an extremely attractive piece to have in the garden and is ideal for heating large areas.

Firepits are another incredible feature to have within the garden and they offer a reliable source of warmth. From the shape of a pit, ideal for large gardens to the design of a basket, perfect for small spaces, there are many firepits for you to choose from. We still can’t get over the beauty of the Napoli Firepit and it’s so convenient too. When not in use, you can also benefit from it as a coffee table; the perfect place for you to rest your summer Pimms and lemonade, whilst reading a book in your back garden. Having the best of both worlds means this firepit is certainly reasonably priced at £149.99; Enjoy the garden with the warmth of a chiminea or firepit this summer; you can also find some of our outdoor heating in our fantastic half price summer sale as well.



On the Allotment

July is one of my favourite months and thanks to some bouts of sunshine and a bit of elbow grease I have been able to harvest an abundance of crops. As soon as I walked onto the allotment I was greeted by a wonderful sight and once I came home arms filled with crops, Mrs McGregor’s face dropped, astonished at how much I was able to harvest.

However, there was a tragedy; my lettuces bolted, but on a positive note I’m still able to grow some more this month. I will just have to keep a beady eye on them this time round. However, I did manage to harvest: French beans, beetroot, peppers, carrots, potatoes and spinach; a pretty healthy yield if I do say so myself.

My son eventually got to pick his tomatoes as well, which he was very proud of. Over the past couple of years he has been watching me grow them, so this time around I thought it would be nice to have him see how brilliant it is to grow your own. He was getting a little impatient coming to the end of June, walking out into garden a couple of times a day to check if they were ready yet. Now that they are, the whole McGregor family are enjoying them in an array of salads; my favourite has to be the Greek salad.

Now that all my early crops are lifted, I will be replacing them with some winter vegetables. Later this month I will be sowing peas, turnips and kohl rabi (and more lettuce). It’s also a great time for me to start planting some winter cabbages, broccoli and leeks. Now that the danger of frosts has passed the pumpkins I sowed in May can be planted outside too; Halloween this year is sure to be a lot more fun.

Lastly, my never-ending job, a lot of watering and keeping the weeds down.

Mr McGregor


Getting Children back out into the garden

Get your children or grandchildren off their game consoles and into the garden with our fantastic range of outdoor games. Today, it seems we don’t see much of our children as many prefer to sit in front of the TV playing and talking to their friends online. However, next time you have a BBQ why not ask them if they would like to have a few friends over, set up a little corner where they can sit and put out a few games outdoors? As soon as they see that they have their own little spot to play they will want to be out in the garden all day long. There are so many fun activities you can incorporate into the garden, simply by setting up a cricket set or blowing up a paddling pool; kids will forget they had a console.

When it’s nice and hot outside it’s fantastic to know that your kids can cool off in a padding pool. As soon as the pool is blown up you will put an almost instant fun factor into your garden; children won’t be able to resist splashing each other and playing games once they’re in the paddling pool.

Here are a few games you could place in the garden:

Mini Badminton Set
X-Base All Surface Swingball
Catchball Hand Shaped Game
Square Sandpit With Soft Cover

Setting up a place for them all to sit together to eat the BBQ food is also a great way to keep them outdoors and away from the television set.

After the barbecue is over, there is another way to get your kids enjoying the garden more frequently; why not get them involved in growing their own veg and herbs? With this great range of kids seeds and kids tools your children are sure to love getting their hands dirty planting and digging up their prize vegetables.