If you ask a handful of gardeners why they grow fruit and veg, not many will reply "because it saves money." People have been gardening and growing food for centuries because it enriches our lives on so many levels, but for many people, 'growing your own' can be a daunting prospect. I often hear my friends saying "I tried and failed / it's too much hassle / I don't have the space! Well firstly, I'll admit I have far more failures than I've had successes, but it's the failures that (eventually) make you into a good gardener. Secondly, I hardly have any time - but I find tending to the garden does me the world of good - working with the earth and being amongst nature is good for you body, mind and soul so it's worth making time for. Thirdly, I only have a little garden, but you can grow quite a lot in the smallest of places ... you just have to use your imagination! Here are a few ideas to help you on your way ....
A mini wooden greenhouse
I love my little mini greenhouse / potting shed. There's no way I could fit a proper green house in my garden so I was overjoyed when I stumbled upon this gorgeous little number from Great little garden for £187. If you're serious about growing it's worth investing in a little greenhouse / potting shed. You can use it to start off all your seeds and as a place to keep your compost, pots and bit's n' bobs. I like my little cottage garden to look quite rustic so I opted for this wooded version, but there are plenty on the market from as little as £19.99. Though if you do go for a cheaper, plastic-framed version, do dismantle and pop it indoors for winter as it will become brittle and snap in the cold.
Making use of wall space
If you've got a small garden then make use of wall space! Hanging baskets are a godsend when it comes to growing. I have quite a few hanging baskets dotted around - some are attached to walls, some to the garden shed ... in them I grow strawberries, tomatoes, salad and herbs. Just keep on the ball when it comes to feeding and watering as baskets dry out a lot quicker - perhaps mix in some water-retaining granules. Another cute idea is to plant in small terracotta pots, then hang them from trees / walls / shed with twine!
Potato / tomato sacks / grow bags
There are plenty of potato, strawberry and tomato sacks on the market and they're a great way of growing veg. Potatoes are easy to grow - but again, just don't forget to water them regularly, but be careful not overwater too! If your unsure there's a section on feeding and watering in my previous post here. Grow-bags are probably the easiest way to start growing - tomatoes and broad beans love a sunny position agains a sunny wall - just make sure you support them as they grow ... and I don't mean emotionally speaking :-) but with canes so they don't bend and break in the wind.
Pots with a difference
You can grow one plant in most pots, but choose wisely and you can grow far more. There are lots of multi-purpose pots on the market and something like the my terracotta one below can be incredibly useful for growing herbs and strawberries - in face I've had far more success growing strawberries in pots and hanging baskets as the slugs can't always get to them, and it free's up a lot of bedding space!
Window boxes, teapots, and the garden sink ... literally
People often forget all about their windowsills when it comes to growing, but there's so much you can grow, both inside and out! I love plating salad, and delicate herbs like basil in my window boxes as it gives them the shelter they need, and they're close to hand. If you only have shade, then take a look at my downloadable herb chart here, as some herbs really thrive in shade. Also teapots, wooden boxes, vintage tins, pots, pans, sinks, baths ... you name it, you can plant in it! providing you can add drainage. To do this either drill holes in the bottom or add a good layer of broken crockery / stones before adding your compost. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall even suggests using an old pair of wellies to grow your carrots! just don't be tempted to try wearing them again afterwards :-)
I've been sowing and planting quite a few things this year. I'm not promising any of it will actually thrive and bear fruit, but it doesn't matter because I'm learning all the time. For example: this week I learned that soaking broad bean seeds before you plant them will help them to germinate faster. How did I learn this? because I had planted my seeds 3 weeks ago and they still weren't sprouting! See? learning by failures. The joy really is in the 'doing' for me ... but if I do manage to grow even one broad bean this year, you can bet it will be the tastiest broad bean I'll eat this summer.