The Great Grow Your Own Challenge: Veg for less

It's been an inventive month on the veg patch for our Great Grow Your own competitors, from growing melons in old bras and herbs in vertical hills, to saving money and the planet with wonky but delicious veg! Read on for all the news and top tips from our team including some delicious summer recipes for you to try at home.

Tammy, Managing Director

Plastic free salads and finally a courgette!

My salad is growing really well this month, I’ve had several weeks harvest from one small crop which is great!  The edible flowers are also doing well, Calendula and Borage, and they look so colourful on a salad.  Sadly nothing new to harvest although the courgette does now finally look like it’s growing so I'm hoping for a crop in the next few days.

I think my issues with growing courgettes is that they’ve been swamped by the other plants, so I’ve pulled out some of the borage and salad around it and it looks better for more space.  It certainly isn’t suffering from a lack of water! I think I might need to try a regular feed with something like Tomorite to encourage more growth.

I’ve been using a weekly feed with Tomorite on my other crops, and I’ve bought some more cut and come again salad and corn salad which should go through until the autumn. I couldn’t fit them in my competition plot, but I’m also growing basil, coriander and thai coriander which are all doing really well and are delicious on the tomatoes growing in my greenhouse.

The best thing about growing my own this month has been less shopping. I’ve had a plentiful supply of salad which has saved me money, and also stopped me throwing away plastic packaging from supermarket bought leaves.

Hazel, Garden Centre Assistant

Herb hills and tasty cucumbers

My plants are starting to grow well. The pumpkins and cucumbers are trailing nicely and my tomatoes are thriving and producing fruit. The watermelons are much happier since having a good feed and are starting to produce fruit, but they're still a long way off from being ready to eat. My favourite Millbrook product this month has definitely been Tomorite, to keep my crops fed regularly.

So far I’ve managed to harvest cucumbers, herbs, lettuce leaves and peas shoots. My herbs are really thriving and growing strong. I love how they have adapted to this vertical way of growing. I’d love to build a smaller plot like this and create a separate hill of herbs!

I’ve had a few challenges. As I decided not to net my broccoli and cabbages I keep having to check my plants for cabbage white eggs and caterpillars. Even though I’ve been doing that daily my plants are still getting nibbled! Sadly my courgettes are lacking nutrients and turning yellow. I'm hoping to rescue them by giving them a good feed, but so far they’ve not produced anything. With the wet weather, and my pumpkins now starting to take up space, one of my cucumbers has got mildrew, but I think if I tie my pumpkins up and cut back some leaves that will help.

When I get a glut of cucumbers (especially when they are very large) I like to pickle them in white wine vinegar, turmeric, dill, salt and whole peppercorns. This goes really well with pulled pork.

Having the veg patch has been great this Summer. It’s been lovely to go into the garden with the boys and pick veg and see the difference each day. It’s got them off their screens and given us a reason to walk to the end of the garden, even in the rain.

Dan, Senior Plant Manager

Saving money with weird and wonderful veg!

We've been harvesting lots of carrots, French beans, tomatoes and courgettes this month. Our plants have been doing well though some have been struggling with slug attacks! Now that the raised bed is full there is a lot of shady cover for them to hide in. 

It’s been great to see the carrots come on so well, even if they are some very weird and wonderful shapes! This is often the case when transplanting young plants as we did this year compared to sowing them directly. We’ve struggled to get a good crop of broad beans because the blackfly has been so bad and proved tough to control. I’ve tried combating the blackfly with Ecofective’s Bug Control Gun. It’s certainly helped, but we were late spotting the infestation which meant the damage has been difficult to stop.

Our veg patch has been a great way to get the family out of the house for a while, and now we can enjoy eating some of the produce when we’re at the allotment (freshly pulled carrots are a favourite!) it’s even better. With the cost of everything it’s always nice to save a bit of money on the shopping too, especially when you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labour. Our favourite way to enjoy our fresh veg at home is to simply steam it - 4-5 minutes is usually enough otherwise they can get too soft. The taste is just the best!

Jenny, Hospitality

Tasty courgette recipes and melon growing bras!

My crops are all growing really well. This month I’ve been harvesting lots of salad leaves, edible flowers, radishes, courgettes, peas, spring onions, cucumbers and I’m still getting a few strawberries. When I’ve been harvesting my salad leaves I’ve been sowing more seeds in their place so I have a constant supply to see me through the Summer. My tomatoes are fruiting but aren’t quite ripe enough yet.

I’m really pleased that the melons are growing well, even the bees are enjoying all the flowers! When they get too big I recycle old bras to support them so they don’t snap off. I’m also growing a few herbs - sage, parsley, thyme and basil. This time of year I use them a lot to enhance my cooking, home grown ones add wonderful flavour.

The courgettes are also doing great, so much that I have to keep coming up with different ideas of what to do with them! A couple of recipes I've enjoyed making with my abundance of courgettes are cheesy courgette fritters and courgette ribbons with feta cheese.

My top tip for fellow veg growers would be to keep the weeds as low as you can, harvest as soon as things ripen. Don’t let them go too far or the insects will enjoy them more than you!

I’ve really enjoyed my competition patch. Growing my own fruit and veg has helped myself, and my family, because we're spending more time outside in the fresh air, exercising and enjoying watching and learning about the local wildlife. It’s also saving me a substantial amount of money on my shopping bill as I’m not buying fruit and veg at the supermarket, and oh my goodness the taste of home grown fruit and veg is much better than shop bought. I love knowing just how fresh my home grown produce is!

Are you enjoying our Great Grow Your Own Challenge? We'd love to see what you're growing and eating at home. Tag us in your recipes and photos @millbrookgardencentre #millbrookgrowers on Facebook or Instagram.

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