Online searches for ‘how to grow your own veg all year round’ have increased by 80% since this time last year. This demand for high quality and fresh produce has been driven due to an extra emphasis on sustainability, saving money and removing pesticides from our food and the environment.
With this in mind, kitchen retail and design experts, Magnet, have done some digging to reveal the top 20 UK locations for avid gardeners to live based on the average garden size, the number of allotment sites, soil fertility, and the number of days with poor air quality. They have also put together a short guide to help you grow your own fresh and delicious produce - all from the comfort of your own home.
What is a kitchen garden?
A kitchen garden is a space dedicated specifically to growing plants for eating, including vegetables, fruits and herbs. If done right, this small garden area can provide you with delicious, fresh seasonal produce all year round.
Ideally, the garden should be located near to your kitchen (hence the name) to make it as easy as possible to grab your ingredients when preparing a gorgeous home-grown meal. Not all homes have a large garden space or any garden space at all, but you can make just as effective a garden using allotments, makeshift containers or balcony space.
The 20 best UK cities for growing your own produce
Magnet delved into data to reveal the top 20 UK cities with the biggest advantages when it comes to growing your kitchen garden. The kitchen garden index analysed over 60 UK towns and cities by taking into consideration the average garden size, number of allotment sites per capita, soil fertility and air quality.
If your city doesn’t make the cut, though, this doesn’t mean you can’t take part in kitchen gardening. It just might take a bit more improvisation and research - but we think it’s worth it.
Crawley in West Sussex is revealed to be the best UK city for those wanting to plant their own produce. Scoring an impressive 87 out of 100, the region offers the second largest garden size (184m2), a 4 out of 5 soil fertility score and over 20 councils recommended allotment sites, along with only 19 days a year of poor air quality.
Also scoring highly on all aspects, Oxford and Wakefield took second and third place scoring 76 and 75 out of 100 respectively.
If you live in Preston (20), London (19) or Burnley (14), it might prove more difficult to grow your own fresh fruit and veg as these cities scored the lowest on the index out of the 60 locations. The soil fertility score of these three cities is a 2 out of 5, and the average garden size isn’t very large - with Burnley’s being a mere 14m2.
London, however, has a huge 737 allotment sites around the city, so there’s still plenty of opportunity for gardening even if you don’t have your own space. On the downside, London also has the highest number of poor air quality days with 47 a year which can have a damaging effect on crops.
The benefits of a kitchen garden - save £1.3K on groceries a year
As well as producing food that is packed full of nutrients and flavour - and will have none of those pesky pesticides used in large-scale farming, there are many other benefits to planting your own kitchen garden. The three main benefits are:
Saves you money. Growing your own food will also save you money in the long run, giving you an unlimited supply of healthy and flavourful food. For example, you could grow 1kg of baby carrots for 25p, whereas this same quantity would cost you over £3 in a supermarket.
In fact, the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardens found that those that grow their own produce spend an average of £202 on growing fruit and veg each year that would otherwise sell for £1,564 in shops - saving you £1.3k. The most cost-effective vegetables to grow include courgettes, aubergines and Brussel sprouts, so if saving the most money is your priority, it’s well worth looking into these.
Encourages you to spend more time outdoors. Tending to your kitchen garden could lead to a more active lifestyle, more vitamin D and an increase in mindfulness as you spend time tending to your crops.
Promotes healthier eating. Households that grow their own fruit and veg also consume 40% more greens per day than those that don’t, so not only will your food have incredible flavour, but you’ll have a healthier diet for it.
A guide to seasonal planting
Even though some cities have a natural advantage over others when it comes to gardening conditions, anyone can build their own kitchen garden with a little bit of work.
Planting your own garden doesn’t have to mean eating the same fruit and veg over and over again. You can grow a wealth of different produce, switching it up between seasons to make sure you’re always excited to dive into your harvest. To know the types of plant to grow and when in the UK, here’s a quick guide to the produce that thrives in the different seasons:
For spring (March-June), you should look to plant garlic, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, and radish.
In summer (June-September), why not try French beans, runner beans, cabbage, carrots, and lettuce.
Autumn (September-December) is best for beetroot, marrow, courgette, squash, and peas.
And for winter (December-March), broad beans, sprouting broccoli, Brussel sprouts, leeks, and parsnips.
Five top tips for planting a great kitchen garden
There are a few things to bear in mind when preparing and nourishing your kitchen garden. Here are Magnet’s five top tips that you can implement to make sure your garden thrives.
Divide your garden into different sections
Keep your different plants separated so you can easily keep track of what’s what, and manage the crops better. This way, when the carrots (for example) are ready for picking, you can go in and grab them all without disturbing the peppers (for example, again).
Choose a spot with lots of direct sunlight
Fruit and veg plants need sun - and lots of it. Ideally, you want your garden to be getting around eight hours of sunlight a day. If you don’t have a sunny spot to put your garden in, you can grow leafy crops and herbs effectively in shady areas. Just make sure you give your desired produce the light it needs.
Keep it small
If this is your first kitchen garden, don’t overwhelm yourself by growing too much to begin with. Start out with a smaller garden than you think you need so you can get used to the routine of caring for your plants. That way, every time you add a new one to the mix, you’ve mastered the skill for the others already - so there’s less to learn at once.
Choose insect-friendly plants
Bees, butterflies, ladybirds and more are your friends when it comes to gardening. They will pollinate your fruit and veg, helping them grow into delicious food. To attract these critters to your garden, try putting insect-friendly plants in between your different fruits and veggies. Sunflowers, cosmos and zinnias are a great place to start here.
Test your soil
As well as light and water, good soil can make or break your gardening efforts. Before you get to planting, test the PH and fertility of your soil using a soil test (easily available at most garden centres or online). Once you know this information, you can buy the correct fertilisers to adjust the levels if needed and create the most fertile ground for your plants to grow in.
Lizzie Beesley, Head of Design at Magnet, commented: “Creating your own kitchen garden is the perfect way to reconnect with nature. Not only will it allow you to grow delicious produce that your household can enjoy, it will also help you save money and develop a more sustainable lifestyle.”
“Finding this time to be at one with nature contributes directly to our physical and mental wellbeing, and can help bring relaxation into your life. This deep-rooted need can also be acknowledged through biophilic design in your kitchen.
“Our Nordic Nature range encompasses this perfectly by incorporating natural materials inspired by the outdoors - as well as shapes and patterns found in Nordic landscapes - into the heart of your home's design.”