Grow your own

Photo Credit: Kerry Bennetts

When it comes to growing your own, this can be from as little as producing some Strawberries on your balcony in July to having some fresh produce available all year round. Our calculator will show you how much impact growing produce yourself will have on your Seasonarian Index.

For those who have space to grow your own produce but are not sure how to, we recommend getting a copy of the Grow Your Own Veg & Fruit Year Planner by the Royal Horticultural Society. Otherwise, head to their website for information on growing fruit, vegetables and herbs at home. We do however appreciate that not everybody has the space to grow produce in a garden, particularly those living in towns or cities. So, why not think about taking on an allotment, getting involved with community gardening or making your very own compact urban garden?

A Word on Allotment Gardening by Terry Walton

Terry Walton has been gardening on his allotment nestled on a hillside in the Rhondda Valley for all of his adult life, and has had a regular slot on The Jeremy Vine show (BBC Radio 2) since 2003. He describes below the benefits of life on his allotment which go a long way beyond simply growing your own vegetables!

I have been gardening at this site since from a very early age when my father took me to his plot and gave me a small corner to plant a few seeds. At 13 years of age I took on my own plot and now 45 years later I am still cultivating it.”

“The allotment is a community of people with like-minded interests, and a place full of real characters with stories to tell and good gardening advice to pass on,” continues Terry. “I learnt many good tips as a youngster growing up on my plot amongst gardeners with a lifetime of knowledge to pass on. This still goes on now, as experienced gardeners pass on their tips to the novice members of the community. Gardeners are not secretive about their good tips and are ready to help all newcomers to our wonderful pastime.”

As Terry explains, “the allotment is the true ‘bazaar’ where you can trade your surplus crops with other plot holders. You are never without anything. What you don’t have you neighbour will and they will gladly swap surplus crops. There are also many other strange exchanges which have resulted in me bringing home, amongst other things, fresh baked bread, bottles of homemade wine, trout  and fresh eggs.”

“My slot on Radio 2 has sparked a lot of interest in the locality for allotments and has resulted in an increase in demand for plots,” says Terry. “This is the part which satisfies me the most, seeing an upturn in interest in allotment gardening.”

“People say it is all hard work, but gardening can give you hours of pleasure in the open air and gentle exercise. It only becomes a chore if you let it become so. Take your time and learn as you go. Perhaps stop to have a coffee in the greenhouse with your fellow gardeners and put the world’s troubles to right. The reward is a bag full of delicious vegetables grown from tiny seed or plates of home-grown salad nurtured with your own fair hands. What a reward for hours of pleasure and the satisfaction of working with nature to overcome setbacks and beating the vagaries of the British climate. Finally, don’t be put off by crop failures and the constant attack of pests; this happens to the best of gardeners.”

Head to Terry’s Facebook page to keep up to date on his allotment journey, or tune into the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2.

Social Farms & Gardens

Social Farms & Gardens is a UK wide charity supporting communities to farm, garden and grow together. They have a network of over 1,700 organisations that support people and communities to reach their full potential through nature-based activities. This may be through food growing, orcharding, animal care, community allotments and school gardening. They provide access for people, including those of us without knowledge, experience, land or confidence to “grow your own” through their established network of local organisations. As Seasonarians, we fully support their mission and believe it is a great way to work towards eating more locally, seasonally and sustainably, as well as getting involved with the community.

If you would like to get involved with Social Farms & Gardens activities, you can find a group in your area using this map.

Tom’s top tips for growing in an urban environment:

Tom Allan resides in London and over the past couple of years has created Tom’s Urban Garden (TUG), providing an excellent example of how to grow produce even when space is very limited.

1) Embrace your green fingers. You don’t need to be a horticultural expert or have acres of space to enjoy growing produce in an urban environment. There are plenty of ways to add some green into your life, whether you want to surround yourself with houseplants or start a kitchen herb garden, the trick is to simply get started and have fun!

2) Source some soil. There is only so far you can get without getting your hands dirty! So if you want to start sewing your own seeds and growing at home your best bet is to invest in some compost. You certainly don’t need a truck load, and you can buy small 25L bags of multipurpose compost locally. DIY retailers, builders merchants and supermarkets will stock lots of gardening equipment too. Multipurpose compost will allow you the most planting flexibility, but if you want to grow or keep succulents/cacti or orchids for example, you’ll need more specific compost. Make sure you store it somewhere dry, a box or bin with a lid is perfect.

3) Find something to plant in. If you have got some nice pots to put your soil in then fantastic, you’re one step ahead. However if you have not, don’t panic. Just use your imagination and you can plant in pretty much anything. Wash out some old tin cans, pop some small holes in the bottom for drainage and hey presto, you have a plant pot!

4) Seeds, seeds, seeds! This is where you can have some fun. Choosing what seeds I want to grow is one of my favourite past times and the possibilities are endless! You can pick up seeds from a whole range of places; order online, pop to your local shop, or even take the seeds from the produce you eat. Alternatively you can skip this step and buy seedlings or fully grown plants too.

5) Utilise every and any space. Unless you live underground, your house will have a window or two, which means you should have a windowsill to pop your pots on. If you have large plants, you can pop them on the ground where they get the most light; keep your eyes peeled for those sun spots! If you have a balcony or small garden, then you have a lot of potential for growing. Put containers and pots wherever you can. Don’t forget that height is your biggest friend in small spaces – when you can’t grow out, grow up. Try growing vertically; stack containers, hang baskets or grow plants up poles or walls.

Head to Tom’s Instagram page to follow his urban garden journey and find more tips and tricks for making your own urban garden creations. Remember – you don’t have to be good at gardening for gardening to be good for you!

So, what are the benefits of growing at home?

Whether you are a regular gardener or just a beginner, growing your own produce has many great benefits in addition to helping you to become a Seasonarian. These benefits include:

  • It can improve you and your family’s health.
  • It will reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint.
  • It is cheaper than buying groceries.
  • You will get more outside exercise.
  • You can enjoy the better flavour of home-grown food.
  • You don’t have to worry about the safety of your food or where it comes from.
  • You can create a hobby and be proud of your garden or allotment.
  • You will be reducing food waste and plastic packaging that groceries are bought in.
  • Gardening can be a fun family activity for all ages.
  • You can use your food to make some brilliant seasonal recipes.

Head to our project page to follow the progress of our very own Seasonarian space!