There’s something really rather lovely about growing your own fresh produce from the comfort of your own home. From preparing and planting and nurturing and looking after your crop to picking, cooking and enjoying the fruits of your labour, there’s a lot of enjoyment and goodness to come from creating your own fruit and veg patch in your garden.
It’s all very humbling, taking us away from the rush and busyness of modern-day life, the smartphones, the internet and the TV, and back to a much simpler life that our ancestors would have lived.
And that’s the wonderful thing about gardening and agriculture – it’s timeless.
Plus, it is a relatively inexpensive pass-time that the whole family can get involved in, and a great way of teaching little ones about how food grows and where it comes from.
At a time when more and more of us are opting for more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways to live and consume food, it’s not surprising that demand for allotments is on the rise.
But actually, you don’t need to have an allotment to get in on the home-grown action. You can create your own fruit and veg patch, or mini allotment, in your own back garden.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need a huge amount of garden space, either.
With the flexibility of making your own raised sleeper beds, you can create growing beds and patches, around your existing garden space.
Here at Equestrian Fencing, we stock a wide range of sleepers, ideal for making sleeper beds for homegrown fruits and veggies.
You might already have your planting plans sussed for the upcoming year. But if you’re new to the grow-your-own game, we’re here to provide you with the year-round go-to planting schedule for all of your favourite seasonal fruits and vegetables.
In particular, this article focuses on the best fruits and vegetables to grow in raised sleeper beds. Where talking about your root veggies, onions, tomatoes, leafy greens and cabbages, plus a few other easy growers.
Well not only do raised sleeper beds look great, offering a contained area for all of your fruit and veg growing goodness. But, they are also ideal if you’re limited on space.
Plus, many of the most experienced home-growers use raised sleepers as they are great for ensuring superior draining as well as more control over soil content and growing conditions.
They are relatively inexpensive to build, and a superb DIY project to do whilst you wait for the weather to warm up!
Check out the best time of year to sow different seeds, get to know how long fruits and veggies take to grow and get an insight on how to use raised sleeper beds to their fullest potential.
With a cold bite in the air, frost on the ground and the bleak dark evenings still looming around, this early start to the year may not seem like the best time to be getting outdoors and kickstarting your fruit and veggie patch.
Typically, January is a quiet month in the garden, however, you may be surprised to know that there are a few family favourites that can be sown at this early stage of the year.
This is the time to get your prep work in, ahead of the prime growing season.
Clearing weeds and overgrown hedges, building your sleeper beds and stocking up on pots, fixing that broken hose and getting yourself geared up with shovels, forks and other tools needed are, certainly, jobs for this time of year.
When we talk about sowing in January, we tend to be referring to planting seeds into pots, rather than directly outdoors. Because of the cold weather, most seeds sown in January need to start life either indoors or undercover, simply because the ground is too cold (maybe even frozen) or wet.
There are plenty of seeds that, under the right conditions, such as on a south-facing window seal, or if you have the luxury of a greenhouse, under glass, can be sown and germinated, ready to go into the ground when the temperature heats up and the frost subsides.
This can be transferred and planted outdoors in the spring and summer.
If you haven’t got the space or the equipment, fear not. Just hold on a couple more months until the weather warms up, and there are plenty of seeds that can be sown directly outdoors.
Kale really is quite the superfood. Not only is it good for your body and tastes great, but it’s also a pretty hardy all-year rounder in the grow your own world.
Unlike many veggies, it actually likes the colder conditions, however can be grown throughout the summer. The colder temperatures give it a sweeter taste.
To start kale off, it’s recommended that you plant away from the main vegetable bed. The reason being – it’s a slow grower. However, if you want a good stock of kale for the summer, the end of February to early March is the time to get started.
Once you can see 4-5 leaves on young kale plants, they are ready to go into the main raised bed. Keep them hydrated, particularly during warm, dry spells.
You can also plant kale roughly 6 weeks before the first frost to harvest a great winter stock of kale.
Radishes are a bit of a love it or hate it kind of food. If you’re a fan of radishes, you’ll be pleased to hear that they are quick growers. In fact, from germination, radishes can be harvested for four to 6 weeks.
They can also handle colder conditions, and can actually be sown outdoors as early as February with the right coverage to keep heat in.
If you want radishes for those summer salads, sow your seeds outdoors between late February / early March through to August. For winter stock, sow from July to August.
They are easy-going and can be grown alongside other veggies.
So, if you find you’ve got some spare space in your raised bed, why not add some radishes to the mix?
Spinach is another veggie that can bear cooler soil. That being said, whilst you can sow spinach seeds as early as February, it’s recommended that you keep the seeds under a cloche until mid-March.
By sowing this early, you’ll be eating freshly picked spinach by May, all the way through to the end of October.
You can, in fact, grow spinach all year round. However, between October and February, the spinach needs to be protected from the cold using covers or straw.
You simply can’t beat the taste of homegrown tomatoes. So fresh, so juicy and full of flavourful goodness! Plus, they are super easy to grow.
Now hang on a minute, we know you might be thinking ‘surely not – isn’t February a tad early for tomatoes?’.
Whilst these are warm-ling plants, the answer here is no.
You see, there are two ways of growing tomatoes. You can either start them from seed, or you can buy young plants from your garden centre. If you’re starting from seed, February is the time to sow. If you’re buying young plants, they shouldn’t be planted until it’s warmer.
Seeds need to be sown and germinated indoors, or undercover. You don’t need a greenhouse to do this. Indoors on a south-facing window seal will do the trick. Sprinkle a few seeds into each pot, pop your pots on a tray and keep the soil moist.
The seed will germinate and after a month you’ll be ready to plant them outdoors. From mid-March, they can go outside, and you should be harvest-ready by early summer through to late summer.
Tomatoes love the heat, so plant in a raised bed positioned in a warm spot where they can bathe in the sun. If it’s still cold or frosty, hold on an extra week if needs be and continue to grow them indoors.
Depending on the type of tomato plant you’ve opted for, you may need to provide additional support using trellis or bamboo and string, and a little tomato feeder every week will help them to grow big and juicy.
As the temperature starts to rise, and we leave the frosty mornings behind, March marks the start of the spring and the start of the growing season for many fruits and vegetables.
Now is the time to start sowing seeds and transferring any seedlings you’ve germinated into the outdoors.
One of the most used vegetables in the kitchen is the humble onion. They are a great option if you’re new to grow-your-own.
Onions start life as bulbs, which should be planted outdoors from mid-March through to mid-April. They like to spread their roots through nutrient-rich soil, such as rotted manure, therefore deep raised beds offer the perfect growing environment.
They are fairly easy-going. They don’t demand constant watering, and once they have swollen in mid-summer, it’s then advised that you stop watering them.
A classic grow-your-own veggie, broad beans grow from seed. If you’ve already planted and germinated the seeds undercover in the late winter, they are now ready to go into the ground. And if not, you can plant your broad beans directly in the ground in March.
They can be planted outside any time between March and early May. Opt for a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Sow in rows, roughly 17-25 cm deep and 23 cm apart.
You may need to support the plant with sections of timber and string. The pods will be ready to pick from mid-May until the end of July.
Lettuce is a great veggie to begin growing in March. It grows fairly quickly and will be ready in time for those fresh summer salads and light lunches.
Seeds can be sown directly into the ground from late March, right the way through to late August. If you continue to sow the seeds every 2 weeks, you’ll be provided with a harvest for the summer through to early winter.
They are relatively easy veggies to grow – just watch out for the birds. You may need a wire mesh covering to stop them from packing at your crop.
Keep lettuce hydrated by watering early in the morning.
Brassica oleracea, or more commonly known as Broccoli, is a firm British all-year-round favourite and something that can be easily grown in the back garden. Broccoli is in fact part of the cabbage family, which also includes kale and cauliflower.
Seeds can be sown into small pots as early as late March, but for a continual crop, you can continue to sow again in early May, then again in early June. Allow them to germinate and grow, and once they have four or 5 leaves, they are ready to be planted outside.
If you want to grow broccoli, you’re going to want to make sure that your raised sleeper bed is positioned in a spot where there’s lots of sunlight.
Broccoli usually takes between 10 and 12 weeks to grow into the full broccoli plant we know and love. When you harvest the broccoli, cut the main central head first. This will allow the development of side shoots which will grow and can be cut a few weeks later.
Peas are great fun to grow. They are so versatile; a super sweet and tasty veggie that can be picked out from the pod and eaten fresh from the garden, added to a salad or boiled up. The easiest pea varieties to grow are mangetout and sugar snaps.
They generally take 11-13 weeks to grow. Peas can be sown as early as February, however, they’re not a fan of cold or soggy soil, so most gardeners sow from March onwards when the weather is generally warmer. Early sown pea seeds will grow and will be ready to harvest in June, later sown peas will still be suitable to harvest in October.
As a root vegetable, carrots need loose and aerated soil where they have space to spread out. Raised beds are ideal for this. Carrots are relatively easy to grow, and you can have some fun experimenting with different varieties.
April to early July is the prime time to sow carrot seeds outdoors. Compared to other veggies, carrot seeds do take a fair bit of time to germinate, so don’t panic if you don’t see any activity in your raised beds for a couple of weeks. However, after germinating, they’ll take about 12-16 weeks before they are ready to be harvested.
Carrots are pretty tough and don’t require as much watering as other plants, making them the ideal choice if you know you might frequently forget to water your crop! However, be aware that during long dry spells, they will need soaking.
You also need to make sure that your raised bed is free of rocks. Anything in the way of the root will stop the root growth and cause your carrots to be misshapen and small.
Keep your carrot patch weed-free by removing the fast-growing weeds that will grow around your carrots.
Squash should start its life indoors out of reach of slugs, snails and frost. For the best results, sow them into small pots in April, allow them to germinate, and plant outdoors in May.
Alternatively, buy young squash plants from your local garden centre and plant directly in your sleeper bed as late as the end of June.
You need a rather rich soil that combines manure or compost. The young plants will grow and start producing squash fruit from late June right the way through to the end of September
Don’t forget to pick the squash when it’s ready. This will encourage the growth of new squash fruits.
Great for pickling, a colourful addition to any salad, and if smoothies and shakes are your things, beets offer a bold, punchy and antioxidant-rich addition to your wake-up shake-up routine.
Beet seeds should be sown from between the end of March to late June. They develop best in well-drained soil that is free of large rocks, so a raised bed, where you can control the soil composition is best for this summertime grower.
Depending on when you planted your seeds, beetroot will be ready to harvest between the end of May, all the way through to October.
A real summer fruit, Strawberries are a fantastic fruit to kickstart your homegrown experience. Rather than planting seeds, you’re best off visiting your local garden centre and buying a tray of strawberry plants.
They can be planted directly into your sleeper beds in May. Opt for a sunny spot and water frequently whilst they are establishing. They may also benefit from a high potassium plant feeder, such as a tomato feed, every couple of weeks.
They’ll be ready to harvest and add to fruit salads, the Pimm’s jug and your breakfast bowl from June, through to October.
Courgettes are another great veggie to grow for first-timers. They can be grown from seed between May to June. You need rich, compost soil to grow courgettes.
Once you’ve sown the seed, cover the area with plastic or put a jar over each seed for around two weeks during the germination period. Due to their high-water content, courgettes need watering regularly.
They’ll be ready to pick from early July through to the end of September. By picking courgettes when they are roughly 10-13cms, you’ll encourage the growth of more courgettes.
Although the swede, short for Swedish turnip, is a classic winter root veggie, if you want to start growing these bad boys, you’ve got to get the prep work in early. From sowing, swede can take up to 6 months to grow, so start the sowing as early as late April, through to July.
You’re going to need free-draining soil to grow swedes. The raised sleeper bed is the optimum growing environment for this, simply because you have more control over the drainage and moisture content of the soil.
Keep the solid most without drenching it and you’ll reap a good harvest between September and December.
Another fantastic summer veggie, cucumber can be sown directly into a raised bed at the end of May, through to June. As you’ve probably figured out, cucumbers like the warmer climate.
When you first sow your seeds, it’s recommended that you cover them with a cloche, to keep the heat in as they germinate.
The soil needs to be pretty fertile and kept moist.
You can also train your cucumbers to grow upright against a trellis panel, which keeps the cucumber off of the soil bed and easier to spot and pick.
The cucumbers will be ready to harvest from August to September.
You’ve heard of pick-your-own pumpkins, but why not grow your own pumpkins? It’s really easy to do, and a fun activity for kids to get involved in.
Pumpkin seeds can be sown in raised sleeper beds outside from late May to early June. You need to keep the soil warm during germination, so cover the bed with a cloche or each seed with a jar for around 3 weeks.
As you can imagine by the size, pumpkin plants need lots of water. It’s important to get the water right to the roots.
One really useful tip for doing this is by digging a small hole next to the pumpkin plant and filling it with an empty plastic plant pot. When you water, fill the pot with water, rather than watering the soil, and the water will have a direct route to the root.
Your pumpkins will be ready to harvest by September through to October, just in time for Halloween!
Many of the vegetables mentioned above can still be sown right up until the end of June, giving you a stock right through to the end of the year!
Don’t forget to replenish the soil, remove weeds and any debris. Stay on top of your harvesting to allow new crops to develop.
July really is the latest you want to be sowing peas, beans, cabbages and root veggies such as carrots and beets for an autumn harvest.
Kale, Swiss chard and mustard greens are examples of hardy leafy greens that can continue to be sown throughout July.
Strawberries love the warmer climate. Keep your strawberries going, or if you haven’t already planted strawberries by this point, nurseries and garden centres will be selling young plants, giving you a ready-to-go option.
August is the latest you want to be planting beetroot. It will be ready for late autumn.
September is typically harvest time, however, there are a few things you can plant to get ahead, ready for spring.
Sow the last of your spinach seeds outdoors. On cooler nights, you’ll need to cover the patch with a cloche.
This is the best time of year to plant container-grown peaches and nectarines outside. They can be planted right up until December, but be sure to remember that they need a warm, sunny sheltered spot to grow. They will be ready by July through to September next summer.
Cranberry bushes can also be planted throughout September and November. They need acid soil, so be sure to replenish your sleeper bed with the right soil composition.
If you still want to grow produce throughout the winter season but could do with a bit of a break, garlic is a superb low-maintenance option. This is a hardy vegetable that can work with cooler temperatures.
The best time to plant garlic is October, through to February, ready for a summer harvest. All you need to do is plant the cloves.
Now, before you rush into grabbing a bulb from your fridge, it’s recommended that you buy name varieties from a garden centre or reputable supplier. The reason being is that supermarket varieties may not be suitable for our climate, plus there’s a risk of spreading disease through your garden.
Stop watering after the bulb is fully formed. You’ll know when the bulb is ready for picking when the leaves have turned yellow.
Things are really starting to quiet down in November. However, if you love raspberries, this is the time to sow the seeds. They can be planted any time during the dormant season, provided that the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
Sow seeds between November and March, but in early autumn if you want a summer harvest.
Don’t forget that your raspberry plant will need some support to grow. Use trellis or wire to do this. They grow well in raised beds, where the soil can be controlled better. Opt for light soil, and sow seeds no more than 5cm below the soil level.
There may not be a lot going on in the garden during December, however, boxing day is the traditional day to sow onion seeds. Of course, it’s too cold to sow them outdoors. However, you can sow the seeds in pots and keep them indoors or undercover until they are ready to go outside in March.