Matt Allison is an urban farmer, bio activist and blogger, and joined the workshop line-up at Spier Secret Festival this afternoon to talk us through how we can all grow our own vegetables, herbs and edible garden, even in the smallest of spaces.

Companion planting is very beneficial and you should be pairing certain groups of plants together to get the most benefit out of them. For example, growing tomatoes with basil adds sweetness and flavour to the tomatoes. Another example is growing marigolds with salad greens to prevent nemotodes from attacking the roots of the salad greens, as nemotodes don’t like the taste of marigolds so they’ll stay away.

Some other interesting takeaways and tips included:

* You should pick your beetroot for use before 90 days, as they get fibrous and unpleasant if you leave them in the soil any longer

* Don’t pick the leaves off your salad green plants until at least two weeks after planting, to give the plants a chance to establish themselves properly

* Keep snipping off the leaves of your spring onions and use them for cooking, and the plant will continue to grow and provide an ongoing supply of fresh leaves

* To check if your plants need watering, put your index finger up to the knuckle into the soil and if your fingertip feels wet, the plant has enough water

* Don’t plant your plants too close together – they need space to grow and flourish

* To keep aphids and caterpillars away from your plants naturally, add a mixture of two crushed chillies, a crushed clove of garlic, and one tablespoon of sunflower oil to a litre of water and spray your plants liberally – the oil will make the chilli and garlic mixture stick to the plants and keep insects away for ages

A handy tip: shop at Hart’s Organic Market in Ottery for your seedlings and plants. They’re not only organic but sell in smaller quantities and at half the price of normal nurseries.