With limited items to grow and forage in January and February, now is the time for those looking to start kitchen gardens or vegetable patches to begin their preparation for the coming year.

Growing your own produce is by no means a guaranteed way of slashing ingredient costs but whatever space you have to work with, a kitchen garden, vegetable patch or even some pots on the windowsill can still provide huge value, not just to the food you create but to the business or organisation as a whole. 

In addition to providing extra special homegrown ingredients that chefs can use to create or pimp-up unique, seasonal dishes, a garden kitchen can be a powerful educational, marketing, social and even human resource tool.   

A managed growing area can be an important place of learning in schools and colleges. It can be a sanctuary of beauty and serenity, where pupils, patients, guests or staff can relax or take time out. It can be a place for health, exercise, team-bonding, social interaction and even therapy. 

So, if you’re looking to take a walk on the wild side and get growing in 2023, here’s some tips to help you plant the seeds for success:

Where to grow?

  • Assess what space isn’t being used and what could be used for growing.
  • Work out how much sun each area gets and also what protection from the wind it has.
  • If you have space and ground to dig, do a soil test and possibly look at putting in some raised beds. 
  • If your terroir and space is limited, buy pots or planters to fit your space or windowsills and fill with good compost.
  • If you have walls you can grow up against, fix some trellis for climbing veg like peas and green beans.

What to grow?

Start small with a selection of herbs and salad leaves. Perfect for kitchens all year round, these can be grown in pots, hanging baskets or window boxes and are easy to maintain. Don’t try to grow hundreds of different veg all at once. Begin with a small number of varieties, make mistakes, learn as you go and expand your selection as you learn more about your garden space, what flourishes and what doesn’t.    

Work out the cost of the veg you use by the kg and concentrate on growing the items that are more expensive. Berries and currants can often be expensive to buy so a few raspberry, blackberry, gooseberry or strawberry bushes can prove a great grow. Fruit trees can also offer good yields and can be great for preserving and chutneys. Potatoes and carrots can take up a lot of growing room and can be bought cheaply.   

Salad leaves, tomatoes, courgettes, peas and green beans are a great starting point for beginners and can provide generous crops throughout summer. Grow from seed as opposed to seedlings as it’s more cost effective. A pack of seeds will last years and you can always swap with other growers.

Jobs for January/February

  • Make a plan – what to grow, where you will grow it and when to plant.
  • Prepare your growing area by weeding, digging over your soil, boosting with compost and generally tidying up from last year.
  • Prune fruit trees, herbs and plants back to encourage new growth. 
  • Select your seeds and get your seed trays ready for planting in March. 
  • Creating a compost bin can be a game changer for your growing success and is also a great way of making the most of kitchen waste and scraps. 
  • January is a good time to plant fruit trees to ensure crops later in the year. Just make sure the ground isn’t frozen