Accessing fresh fruit and vegetables has never been easier; by popping out to your local supermarket, you can buy almost everything the year round. We are no longer required to move with the seasons and to select ingredients according to the time of year.
A consequence of this highly consistent availability is a huge increase in food mileage – the distance your food travels from field to shelf. In a society becoming increasingly aware of its carbon footprint, it makes sense to try and reduce our reliance on imported produce and to utilise the space we have in our own gardens.
The aim is not to start a farm, live off the land and become fully self sufficient. Even if we can reduce the amount of produce being imported, just slightly, it would be start in decreasing the amount of fossil fuels used in the transport of food. This especially applies over the summer months when most of what we buy in the supermarkets can be grown here without specialist equipment. In addition to this, there are plenty of reasons to start home growing, aside from the environmental factors.
There are few pleasures that can be likened to the sense of achievement one feels when you have grown a tangible, edible thing from a seed the size of a grain of sand. The hours spent planting, watering, pruning and weeding can also prove highly therapeutic. The time provides a chance to get out in the fresh air, away from computer screens and beeping gadgets, to de-stress and re-calibrate your mind. This is before you consider the money you can save and quality of the food you can produce as a result of your efforts.
Some varieties can produce high yields with very little input (courgettes being the classic example). If properly positioned, fed and watered you can also expect a great return from tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers and peppers. Perhaps the easiest things to grow in our climate are potatoes. You can plant them in the ground (be careful as they can easily spread) or just about any deep container, build up the soil around the growing stems and leave them be. They will thrive in our climate and can be planted from late winter and harvested right through to mid autumn. Find out more about growing potatoes here.
It is a common misconception that you need a huge garden and a greenhouse to grow your own fruit and veg. It’s true that these things certainly won’t hurt but they are by no means essential. Whether you have a 50-acre estate or a sunny windowsill at your disposal there is nothing stopping you from getting stuck in.
If you are low on space, growing things in containers is a great place to start with many fruits and vegetables growing perfectly well in pots or grow-bags (more info here). You can also buy small portable greenhouses for things like tomatoes and cucumbers that benefit from warmer temperatures than we can typically expect in the UK.
Even with no outside space at all you can grow the likes of salad greens, herbs and chillies on a windowsill. There are a huge number of products available for you to create a kitchen garden actually inside your kitchen, some of which remove the need for sunshine (find out more here).
March is typically considered the start of the growing season and is a perfect time to get cracking. It is still a bit cold to plant some things outside but you can start sowing indoors. Once seeds germinate you can think about transferring seedlings outside when temperatures increase in late April or May. You will find specific instructions on when and where to sow on the back of seed packets.
What are you waiting for?
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If you grow your own, we would love to hear from you. Email or tweet us and let us know what you love about it, if you have any tips and tricks, or if you just want to share some photos of your produce.