The desire to be able to grow a little of what you eat is increasing in popularity. I grew up in a house with parents who were self-sufficient when it came to fruit and vegetables. What my Mum couldn’t use she either stored over winter, preserved in jams and chutneys. She also made great use of her freezer. The result is that I’ve grown into someone who knows what it’s like to eat the freshest of fruit and vegetables. Add to that my love of gardening and it becomes almost a necessity to grow my own!
Alas I don’t have a garden plot anywhere close to the size of my parents, but that doesn’t stop me! With a raised bed measuring only 330cm x 90cm I’ve amazed myself with just how much I can produce. Now realistically I’m a long way from the self sufficiency of my childhood. However with some clever planting and keeping things compact, I can produce a lovely fresh salad over the Summer months. Whilst still rejoicing in the earthiness of Jerusalem Artichoke in the Winter.
Fresh peas and beans are an absolute must in my garden. However like many I simply don’t have space for elaborate growing structures. So with this in mind I put a basic netting frame up at the rear of my raised bed. This allows me to grow peas and broad beans which I love to eat. I’d like to say that the peas end up in a dish, but the pods mysteriously disappear when the kids are in the garden, just as they did when I was a child! However the broad beans I enjoy making into our delicious Broad Bean & Feta Dip which makes a perfect Summer lunch.
The trick is to start off small. I knew nothing of vegetable growing when I first started out, I’d only ever grown flowers. However I started growing my herbs in pots, for no other reason than to be able to pick something fresh to liven up a dish. I then moved on to carrots and courgettes which are really simple to grow and a great place to begin. I still grow vegetables in pots, so easy to pick up and pop down where there’s space in the garden.
August is a month of great abundance in any vegetable patch. Regardless of how much we succession plant, there remain times when we simply have too much. However it’s all about making the most of a glut and where possible extending the life of your food. I’m lucky enough to have neighbours with a greenhouse, they pass me their surplus cucumbers which I pickle lightly with some dill picked from my own garden. The perfect accompaniment to to some barbecued fish. Another favourite is our Italian Marinated Aubergine which uses up a glut of aubergine or indeed courgette beautifully. Lovely on an antipasti platter, or eaten straight from the tub as I’m prone too.
If space is limited, I believe the key is to grow things that benefit from being simply picked and eaten. Nothing tastes like salad fresh from the garden to the plate in the space of minutes. Grow things you love but cannot buy locally, for example I grow Jerusalem artichoke, Swiss chard and herbs like lemon verbena. The trick remains however to grow that which you like to eat.
So what’s next on the grow my own agenda. First up I’m busy putting in posts against a wall so that I can grow apple trees. I’ll grow them espalier, which means growing them against a wall or fence and pruning to keep them small and compact. Ideally I’ll grow 2 trees, enough to allow us to eat straight from the tree as well as cook with them. I also acquired an old wooden pallet which needs fixing up. However I’m sure with a bit of nailing together and some creativity I can fashion something that I can add plant pots to. Making it the perfect vertical space saving planter for leaning against a sunny wall, ideal for growing salad leaves, radish, beetroot and herbs.
I guess the point of this story is that if you want to give growing your own a go then do it. Whether it’s a small pot of herbs or some strawberries, it doesn’t take much to start and tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the supermarket.