19 February 2020
The joys of growing your own vegetables in retirement
While in retirement a lot of people turn to gardening to occupy their time. Whether it be within their garden or an allotment, the joys of gardening are endless. However, for some, gardening may not be something they think they can do because of their range of mobility. This is simply not true. Gardening can be enjoyed by anyone. With great prices on stairlifts becoming more than affordable, the installation of an outdoor stairlift or the introduction of some of these simple tips can make gardening fun for even the most mobility challenged person.
A great way to make flowerbeds more accessible is through raised planter beds. They can even be used for growing root vegetables, onions and tomatoes.
These raised beds make it so much easier to get into gardening as it means there is no bending over to dig up soil or watering your veg.
David Marsden from the gardening blog The Anxious Gardener also suggests tips for using a raised bed. He explains, “getting the soil right from the outset is my best tip. And probably the easiest way to achieve that is by building raised beds and filling with a mixture of topsoil and organic matter such as leaf mould, garden compost or well-rotted bark. Add a further deep mulch of organic matter each autumn and rather than digging it in, leave worms to work their magic by taking it down into the soil.”
Another tip would be to “site your raised vegetable beds in full sun which most plants will need to flourish”
Use good compost
Another point to make is that you should always try and use the best quality compost you can. To get great, quality veg that is full of nutrition it is important to provide it with great compost. Blogger, Nick Moyle from Two Thirsty Gardeners suggests, “most veg like the nutritional benefits that a good compost can deliver. If you don’t make your own compost, then look for an environmentally friendly medium to use instead – anything from farm manure to mushroom compost will improve the quality of the soil in your garden” and in turn, improve the quality of your veg.
Picking your vegetables
Deciding what kind of vegetables you want to grow can be a hard choice. You may think that it has to do with the soil you have in your garden or allotment or the level of maintenance you are willing to give it. But really, it should come down to one thing that blogger David Marsden emphasises.
“Grow the vegetables you like, and those that save you money. So, for example, I grow enough garlic to last me from late summer through to early spring. And I eat a lot of garlic. I eat a lot of chillies too and a few pot-grown chilli plants, sited in a greenhouse, conservatory or sunny windowsill, provide me with a year-round supply. Frozen or dried chillies will keep for months.”
The same can be said for La-Di Dardy Flowers who also suggests that another way to choose what to grow would be to concentrate on “growing varieties for taste as opposed to yield. There is little point in growing high yielding tasteless vegetables when you have access to so many incredible tasty varieties”
So, if you love garlic, grow as much garlic as you want. Or if you prefer a bit more of a staple like potatoes, La-Di Dardy Flowers also suggests “our year starts off with potato chitting. I love foraging around the crates of potatoes at our local garden centre”. Go for what suits you the most.
When is best to start?
There is always some sort of gardening you can do throughout the year; it’s just knowing what. For example, if you’re looking to start gardening at the start of the year, you can begin by sowing tomato or cucumber seeds in a greenhouse or warm part of your house. It is also worth, in the colder months, to plant out garlic and shallots in light soils.
When it starts to get warmer in the coming months of March and April, this is when it is best to start planting because the soil is becoming a little warmer as it slowly defrosts from the colder months. But also, make sure you dig over throughout the colder weather as it will expose any soil pests to frost and also to predators, ready for when you want to plant seeds.
This is similar to when you sow flower seeds as La-Di Dardy Flowers suggests, “I like to start sowing my seeds in Feb, starting with sweet peas.
“I sow two seeds to a cell into root trainers and then pinch out the tops when I have two or four sets of leaves.
“When the risk of frost is over, canes will go into the ground to form a 6ft tepee and the seedlings will be planted out around them.
“This year I will try growing beans in succession sowing a few every three weeks or so from March into pots to prevent slugs chewing them. Then they will be planted out when tall enough to grow up canes. I should then be picking beans from June to October. For the classic ‘cut and come again’, courgettes are a winner, and again there are some great varieties.”
Growing both flowers and vegetables can be interchangeable. In fact, many are opting to grow both together as it creates great diversity to some areas of the garden. Also, if you only have a small plot of land it can be very efficient.
If you have an interest in getting an allotment for your hobby, it is always worth looking into a few things before applying for a site.
Look to see about access for wheelchairs or seating. If you have troubles with standing for long periods or are an advocate of seated gardening, you want to make sure that there is plenty of room for chairs or stools that make it easier for you. Secondly, investigate whether you can get a plot near the entrance of the allotment to make travelling far easier.
There are so many benefits to getting involved with gardening once you retire. It can bring you outside when limited mobility can be isolating and it can bring people together. Nick Moyle from Two Thirsty Gardeners is a supporter of gardening with others as he tells us, “I have a toddler who has just started gardening and he loves it. Each gardening task we undertake together takes five times as long and is infinitely messier, but it’s a good reminder to me that gardening should be fun.”
If you wish for more tips on gardening, check out our gardening advice for older people and start gardening today.