These top gardener's tips will help you get started growing your own fruit and veg
The lockdown has seen an explosion in the numbers of people taking to gardening - but growing at home isn't always easy.
With the nation shopping more infrequently and supermarkets not always carrying what customers need, many have become aware of the benefits of growing food at home.
However, amateur gardeners are liable to make avoidable mistakes when starting out. Luckily, there are lots of tips and tricks you can use to make your ventures into growing a roaring success.
Choose the right veg for your space - big or small
Space is one of the first things you need to think about when planning to grow vegetables, as this will limit what you're able to grow.
Think about what vegetables take a long time to grow - those that take longer will take up space all season.
If you're lacking space, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) suggests choosing bush forms and dwarf selections, or buying "patio" vegetables which are designed for small gardens.
If you don't have much, or any garden space, you can grow veg in window boxes, containers, pots or grow bags.
You can also grow some fruit and veg indoors - but any containers need to be large enough that they won't cramp a plant's roots or dry them out quickly when the sun shines on them. The RHS has a guide on growing in small spaces here.
When and what to plant
Spring is an ideal time to start planting veg, but any seeds you buy should say on the packet when you can sow and harvest plants.
The time it takes for plants to mature can help you determine what you should grow indoors and what you should grow outdoors.
Tender veg that can take a while to mature (such as aubergines and tomatoes) are most suitable for starting indoors. Quick to mature crops like sweetcorn or squash can be grown outside when soil warms up around April.
Salad greens, potatoes and radishes are among the easier plants recommended for beginners by Thompson & Morgan.
If you're unsure about what, how or where to plant fruit or veg, the RHS has an A-Z guide on the growing conditions required for each plant here.
Pay attention to the soil
Soil needs to be fertile to allow veg to grow properly. The best way to ensure this is to add compost - either home-made or shop-bought.
The deeper your soil the better it is for growing, although a depth of around 15cm is enough for salads.
Different types of soil will be suitable for different plants. The RHS has detailed advice on soils here.
Start out indoors
It may be sensible to start off your veg in small pots indoors to protect them against slugs and other adverse conditions to begin with.
Putting plants indoors in a spot with lots of light or in a greenhouse allows you to control conditions when they are most vulnerable.
Begin by sowing seeds into fine compost or "seed compost". Once a plant has four or five leaves you can transplant it outdoors into an optimum position with required spacing between it and any other plants.
Garden designer Jack Wallington has a video guide on how to start a "kitchen garden" if you don't have access to outdoor space.
Taking care of your crop
Newly-seeded vegetable beds will need watering more frequently than established crops - which can survive on around one to two inches of water a week.
You may need to use fertilisers or other feed to help certain plants grow. Again, consult the RHS guide for advice on individual plants.
You'll also need to get rid of any weeds that grow in your vegetable patch.