The beautiful sunshine this Good Friday must have signalled to most of us that spring is on its way and I can imagine that most garden owners have started, in earnest, thinking about their gardening year. Whilst a garden in full bloom is a thing of poetic beauty, growing your own fruit and vegetables, in my opinion, is the most rewarding aspect of gardening. There is often a misconception that growing your own food is complicated and requires a large plot and lots of time, but it’s actually much simpler than it sounds. I can vouch that nothing bought ever tastes the same as food picked in your garden a few minutes before it’s consumed.
Apart from the superior taste, there are many reasons for growing your own. When produce is picked days before it finally reaches your table, many of its vitamins have begun to deteriorate; the vitamin content will be at its highest levels as you bite into your fruit and vegetables straight from the garden.
The process of growing your food also helps the planet in many ways. If you are an organic gardener, without pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers, you’ll reduce the burden of unnecessary air and water pollution; you will also know exactly what it is you are eating, rather than wondering how many chemicals your family is ingesting all the time. Furthermore, you’d decrease the use of fossil fuels and the resulting pollution that comes from the transport of fresh produce from all over the world.
It is a well-known fact, of which most of us fall foul at some time or another, that tons of food are wasted every day across the western world. Most of us do weekly shopping in our busy lives and there have been many occasions when I have discovered a sad and limp looking vegetable or piece of fruit at the bottom of the fridge which has ended up in the compost bin. Growing your own ensures that you will only harvest what you need that day, or even just that particular meal. Any surplus at the end of the season can be picked when you know you have time to do something useful with it such as preserve it or give away to friends and family.
Growing your own, especially if you focus on produce which is expensive to buy, can greatly reduce your cost of feeding the family. I personally prefer to grow fruit, as not only is it easy to look after, but it always tastes so much better when it’s freshly picked at its ripest point and fruit is horrendously expensive to buy. I get pounds of raspberries and blueberries which, due to their difficulty of transportation, not only cost the earth but also use a lot of packaging which is extremely harmful for the environment.
Finally, the sense of achievement and pleasure when you bite into a beautifully ripe and full flavoured piece of fruit or vegetable which is totally chemical free is very hard to describe and has also been said to reduce stress and depression. Apart from all of the above, gardening is also a much more fun way of keeping fit and getting lots of healthy fresh air.
Even if you don’t have a big garden, you can still grow some of your own food. Consider container gardening on your patio, or even a few sunny windowsills, on which you could grow herbs, chillies, or a few beautiful looking tomatoes. You’ll be amazed at how many tomatoes or peppers can grow out of one pot. In my garden, there is an area of approximately 7m x 5m in which I grow an amazing amount of fruit, vegetables and herbs and which also contains a greenhouse. In there, I have 4 plum trees, 2 apples, 1 pear, 2 cherries, a peach, an apricot, a fig, numerous spring and autumn raspberries, 4 blueberries, 3 Chilean guavas, 1 chokeberry, 1 honeyberry and lots of strawberries. I also grow a collection of my favourite vegetables such as marrows, kohl rabi, tomatoes, French beans, lettuces etc. In order to squeeze that many trees in such a small plot, some of them are grown in containers, which limit their root size, but still give more than enough fruit for one family.
By Kathy Fairweather