There’s nothing quite as gratifying as growing your own food. Working with the seasons and tending to your garden everyday is a hugely rewarding way of living closer to nature. Putting water to root and fingers to soil connects you in the most fundamental way. Then there’s that proud sense of achievement when harvesting your food. From seed to your plate, the best food you’ve ever eaten will be the food that you have grown yourself.
More of us are growing our own way
It’s no wonder there’s been a huge surge of interest in home-grown-food lately. Supermarket food prices keep going up while the majority of us are already feeling the pinch. Saving money on food has become an urgent necessity for many of us (between April 1st 2013 and March 31st this year, 913,138 people across the UK had to turn to food banks). Then there’s the sheer lack of trust in supermarkets to provide us with healthy fruit and vegetables that haven’t been smothered in pesticides – especially with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership looming (watch the eye-opening video below if you want to learn more about the TTIP).
You don’t need to be a ‘proper gardener’ to grow food!
Trust me, if I can get my ‘cut and come again’ salad leaves to stay alive through the summer, anyone can do it! In fact my family and I, as complete novices, have managed to successfully grow loads of things this year and do you know what our biggest help has been? Our neighbours! It pays to have a natter over the fence or to offer a hand at your local allotments – you’ll soon be inundated with seeds, plants and valuable guidance. Two very nifty books for beginners are The New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks-Brown and Made at Home: Vegetables by Dick & James Strawbridge,
You don’t need a big garden to grow food (or any garden for that matter!)
There are a vast number of solutions out there for gardening in a small space; The Urban Kitchen Gardener by Tom Moggach takes us through some really inventive ones such as his blue-tray system. He takes the lightweight plastic trays you see at greengrocers and supermarkets and lines them with a bin bag which he punches with holes for drainage, and then fills with compost – they’re great for baby salads, herbs and microgreens. He also suggests using spare vertical spaces to grow vine fruits like edible mouse melon. I love that The Urban Kitchen Gardener goes into the options available to people with no gardens at all – not just window boxes but allotments and community food gardens. To find out about your nearest allotments, contact your local authority and to check whether there’s a community garden near by, or to find out how to start one with your neighbours, get in touch with the extremely helpful charity the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time and money on growing food
I personally might never have got going in the garden if it wasn’t for the realisation that you don’t have to throw all your time and money into getting everything done right away – which is exactly what another helpful book ‘The Thrifty Gardener’ by Alys Fowler teaches us. ‘Slow gardening – like slow food – is taking time to savour. It’s the process, not this sudden transformation that matters. When you build a little, dig a bit, plant a little, harvest often and more importantly don’t try and do it all at once, nature will work for you.’
You can make your garden work at your level
Raised beds, for example, give better accessibility for those with mobility problems and, raised to the right height, can make gardening from a wheelchair possible. Raised beds have tons of other advantages such as better drainage, less weeds, less pests and they’re a far better use of space. As we are told in the book, Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre – the typical 100-foot row takes up at least 300 sq ft of space (because of paths to accommodate tractors) and will yield 100 pounds of carrots. In contrast, a raised bed of 32 sq ft will also yield 100 pounds of carrots. Using row gardening the farmer has to fertilize, mulch, add compost to, weed, and water 300 sq ft to get that 100 pounds. Anyone with chronic illness or problems with their sight, who feels gardening isn’t an option, I’d implore to visit a local community garden where you can find encouragement, support and understanding. With friends at your side you are able to work at your own level of capability while enjoying all the joys and rewards that gardening, and community, offers. If you’re not already enjoying the practical and therapeutic blessings of a food garden, I hope I’ve maybe tempted you to give it a go. We might be approaching the end of summer but books like Salad Leaves for All Seasons and Letting in the Wild Edges show that there is always something to be done and enjoyed in the garden, it’s not too late to make a start!