How to grow your own food


By Lindy Sharpe

If you wish, you can download this factsheet as a Word document. Click on the link at the foot of the page.

Growing your own food can sound daunting. Books for beginners often start with elaborate instructions about soil preparation and lists of special equipment, which can be off-putting as well as expensive. Our approach is to say: just get going. Grow with what you have, in terms of space and equipment. The best way to learn is from your own experience, and you are very likely to have some early successes, which will taste great and fill you with a totally disproportionate sense of pride. Growing food takes a bit of time, and the more you do it the better you get at it. But by far the best way to begin is ... just to have a go!

What are you going to grow?

Start with easy things, such as lettuce, radishes, potatoes, and beans. Order seeds or plants from one of the suppliers suggested in our Useful Links section, choosing open-pollinated or 'heirloom' varieties, so you can save seed for next year. Follow the instruction supplied on when and where to plant it.

Where are your plants going to grow?

If you have a garden, you can either designate a vegetable patch, or grow your vegetables among your other plants. Generally most plants will like sunny conditions while the soil conditions will vary from Potatoes and Beans that like rich soils with well rotted manure, to cabbages and sprouts that like good quality soil that is limed, to root vegetables that are not so hungry. A very good alternative, if you have no garden or a small one, is to grow vegetables in pots. Tomatoes, salad greens, spring onions, cucumbers, herbs, beans, fruit trees ands bushes, and even potatoes can all be grown in containers.


Some seeds can be sown directly into the ground, or into big pots where they can spend their whole lives. Others need to be germinated indoors, then transplanted.  Sow these in yogurt pots with holes pierced in the bottom, or egg cartons. Don't forget to label them, using waterproof marker and strips of plastic cut from yogurt pots. Some you can start off indoors on a windowsill, but not in direct sunlight. Often plants self seed in the ground from the previous year; they have a natural desire to propagate and we are just making it a little easier.

All of this and how to grow plants can be easily found out by asking a gardener, going along to good gardening groups like the Brighton and Hove Organic Gardening Group or seeking advice in books or on good websites such as:

A Google search will quickly find what precise conditions plants like, however it is not rocket science, seeds want to become seedlings and seedlings want to grow!

Save some seed

Follow the instructions on our Saving Seed information sheet to collect seed and store it until you can sow it again.

Download this factsheet

Grow your own food (150k)
Information sheet (Word, 150k)

This page was added on 26/01/2008.