With the lockdown currently in full swing – it’s given me time to focus on something that I’ve been wanting to do properly for a long time and that is growing my own vegetables.
I’ve been part of a shared allotment for a while now but I wanted to have my own as I’ve really found a love for it. I’ve recently applied for an allotment with my local council but with the council offices being closed, it’s unlikely that they will assign one to me until after the lockdown has ended which is a shame but it is what it is.
Therefore after a little bit of begging and pleading, I’ve managed to convince all the relevant parties to let me create a vegetable plot in the back garden.
It started off with tubs dotted around the garden in which I would grow my potatoes and now it has turned into a fully fledged project with me digging out an entire patch of the garden. It’s still a work in progress as I hit a concrete layer so I needed some stronger arms to help me out but here is where we are at now!
Keep up with the progress of the vegetable patch here: https://www.instagram.com/s/aGlnaGxpZ2h0OjE4MTA5MDQxMjQ0MTIyMDQ0?igshid=1sefzncymz6h
WHY GROW YOUR OWN?
I’m vegetarian (working towards Vegan) so vegetables are a staple in my diet. For me nothing tastes better than fresh fruit and veg. That is why I encourage people to Buy Local if they can’t grow their own.
I recommend growing your own for a number of reasons:
- Price: Growing your own fruit and vegetables in the long run is going to be cheaper At the supermarket recently, I saw that a pack of fresh chives were priced at £2.35 (remember while they are supposedly fresh, they have been processed and packed) and it’s highly likely that you’ll use that pack for one, maybe two meals if that. Buying potted herbs, on the other hand, costs £2.50 to £4 and they can last for about eight months. Some herbs, like rosemary and thyme, can even last for years. Growing your own herbs can be made cheaper by starting out with seeds, which cost £1 to £2. I prefer growing from seed as I enjoy the process of growing them and seeing the fruits on my labour. Mint is one of my favourite things to grow – when I was younger, I didn’t have a garden and so I convinced my grandad to grow mint in his back garden. He now makes this beautiful fresh mint tea with that mint.
- Control what goes in your food: Growing your own allows you to either really strict and keep your produce as organic as possible or it enables you to use fertiliser that you approve of. I actually use coffee as a fertiliser because it adds organic material to the soil, which improves drainage, water retention and aeration in the soil.
- Freshness: One of the things that I hate more than anything is wasting food and I’ve found often that I’ve bought fresh fruit and vegetable from the market or green grocers and we’ve just not been able to get through it so it has gone bad and had to be composted or thrown away. At least if you’re picking from your garden or allotment then you’re only going to be using what you need?
- Food Miles: I spoke about this previously in my buying local post – but with growing your own, you are reducing the food miles on your food and protecting the environment.
- Mental and Physical Health: Being out in nature is really good for your mental health and so spending time with your hands in the dirt, in the sunshine and listening to the birds while you plant and dig is a great way to maintain your sanity and support good mental health. Digging and planting are also a great form of functional exercise too! You’ll be sweating in no time! Gardening is also a great way to absorb vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is crucial in order to maintain healthy bones and teeth, and it can also protect against certain diseases.
WHAT TO GROW?
I love this Grow Your Own Calendar from RHS which helps to schedule your activities and know what to do and when. They’ve also got a handy phone app to help make growing your own so much more easier.
Which? have also provided a comprehensive discussion on the easiest vegetables to grow with beans, tomatoes and potatoes being some of the forerunners.
I like the illustration below as well. COOP Welcome To The Table state:
If you grew the garden illustrated here, it would yield 350 pounds of vegetables. If you went and purchased those 350 pounds of vegetables in a grocery store, you’d have to pay more than $600 (£482). This garden costs only about $70 (£56) to plant—so you’re saving money and getting great food to eat.
Southern Living suggest that ‘for beginners, we recommend starting with herbs–“the gateway plant to gardening.” Look at your lifestyle and decided which herbs you use the most before you start buying them all. Rosemary, thyme, parsley, and basil are common choices.
Homegrown tomatoes are another great choice because of their exceptional flavour. They can sometimes be a bit temperamental, so beginners should start with cherry tomatoes. Courgettes, squash, bell peppers, and lettuce are also good additions to your vegetable garden. But remember to only plant the vegetables that you use frequently. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.’
Think about the first and last frost dates before you start planting, don’t be fooled by good weather and if you can’t wait until the last frost date then start by growing seeds indoors and placing near a window that gets a lot of quality sunlight.
Starting with seeds is probably the cheapest option when you’re starting out on your grow your own journey. However when I first tried growing from seed – I used all the seeds in the packet and that didn’t work so well. You only need a few.
In terms of keeping your veggies nice and healthy, ensure that they get consistent water and some casual management. It doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. Just have a look and see if the soil is moist and if any weeds need pulling.
I know that some people won’t have the space to have fully fledged vegetable patch in their garden or have access to an allotment space. There are lots of options in cases like this – as I said earlier you could grow your herbs OR you could do something like I did originally – growing my potatoes in large plant pots.
There’s a little part of me that loves the idea of being a mini farmer!
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