The Great Grow Your Own Challenge!

Grow Your Own has proven itself to be one of the standout themes from Chelsea Flower Show this year, with many gardens featuring edible and edimental plants. Here at Millbrook, we've launched our own prestigious gardening competition – The Great Grow Your Own Challenge!

Four Millbrook staff have taken on the challenge to grow as much fruit and vegetables as they can in just 1m x 1m. Entries will be judged on how Planet Positive their patches are, the quantity and quality of their produce and the inventive ways they choose to grow in a small space! Meet the Millbrook growers taking on this very special challenge:
 

Dan Stevens, Senior Plant Manager

I’m competitive by nature. I grew up in a family that has always had at least eight allotment plots! Having an outdoor space to grow vegetables is great for health and wellbeing and Frank, my son, really enjoys being outside – it's a great place to go as a family every week. And of course, there is nothing better than home-grown veg for the dinner table!

Tell us a little bit about your ‘plot’ and what you are planting.

We have an allotment plot in Hawkhurst now in its fourth generation of Stevens'! We’ve always grown a range of veg each year including potatoes, sprouts, parsnips, broad beans, French beans and Frank’s favourite, carrots!

We’ve chosen vegetables that will give us some quick results, and also colour and longer-term produce as well. Frank gave me a hand to plant up the carrots! We have a courgette plant, one is usually enough for lots of produce as they are so fast growing, lettuces for another quick win and we've planted a good outdoor tomato variety called Totem. This variety stays nice and compact so it’s great for a small area. We also have red cabbage, these plants have a lovely colour, Broad Beans and French beans too!

What are the jobs you have been doing this month?

The main job has been digging over the ground under the raised bed to make sure it's weed free. This plot has suffered from Bind Weed and Mair’s Tail for years and these deep-rooted menaces have to be continually dug out to keep the ground clean. After that, we applied some Westland Organic Farm Manure to add nutrients and finally, just before planting, some New Horizon Vegetable Compost as a top layer. This has a lovely consistency and makes planting really easy. Once the plants are settled in we’ll be aiming to apply a layer of Strulch to aid moisture retention and help prevent any surface weeds from developing too.

Have you got any top tips from this first month to share?

When transplanting brassica plants such as cabbages, sprouts and cauliflower, don’t be afraid to plant them a little deeper and firm up around the stem. Brassicas can often get a little leggy when young and earthing them up helps keep them nice and stable and aids the rooting in process.

Try and use companion plants where possible to create harmony in your vegetable patch.  For example, beans are good planted near to potatoes because they release nitrogen into the soil which is food for the growing potatoes and will increase your yield!
 

Hazel Woodward, Garden Centre Assistant

I love growing and coming up with different ways to grow. I find gardening very relaxing, it helps me to forget about the business of life for a few hours. My boys love finding bugs, digging holes and being the kings of the compost pile by climbing it.

Tell us a little bit about your plot and what you are planting.

My plot is 1m x 1m with a slab path surrounding it for easy access. It’s at the end of my garden in a sunny spot where I have had success growing vegetables in the past. The ground is ready, but my structure isn’t just yet!!

I have chosen to plant runner beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, patty pan squashes, melons, watermelon, various leafy salad bits and strawberries. I’m also going to squeeze in some companion flowers to help deter any pests, promote pollinators for a better harvest and to make my plot look pretty.

What are the main jobs you have been doing this month?

I have been sowing seeds in my conservatory and kitchen window ledge, digging over and preparing my soil.

Have you got any top tips from this first month to share?

Think about the location of your plot and what you want to grow, because if you don’t have the right conditions your harvest maybe affected. Plant out things for the wildlife to promote the pollinators for a higher yield. Protect young seedlings with netting to stop them from getting eaten. Get composting!! Be careful planting out early as there may still be frosts. I like to wait until Chelsea Flower Show is on.
 

Jenny Thorpe, Hospitality

I really wanted to take part in the competition to challenge myself, to see what I can achieve in a small space. Gardening keeps me active and out in the fresh air. My grandchildren love to help me on my allotment when they come to stay.

Tell us a little bit about your plot and what you are planting.

My 1m x 1m square plot is on my allotment and has a trellis I made out of some old wooden batons. I’m planning to plant edible flowers, salad items including tomatoes, cucumbers, salad leaves and radishes. Also some peas and strawberries – these are all my favourite things to eat!

What are the main jobs you have been doing this month?

I've been preparing the soil and erecting my trellis, getting ready to start planting out. My seeds are all growing in the greenhouse at the moment.

Have you got any top tips from this first month to share?

My best tip is to make sure you take time to prepare your soil properly before planting out.

Tammy Woodhouse, Millbrook Managing Director

Tammy is creating an edible meadow in her 1m x 1m garden plot. Watch her video to learn more about her competition entry!

Look out for updates from our Grow Your Own gardeners over the summer! Meanwhile, we would love to see what you're growing at home. Tag us in your photos @millbrookgardencentre #millbrookgrowers on Facebook or Instagram and we will share our favourites.
 

Where to next?

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