For the first time since 2014, food prices in UK supermarkets are on the rise. On top of that, the UK only produces 68% of the food it consumes – the remaining 32% is made up of imports from the EU and around the world. When the UK leaves the EU, the cost of importing this fruit and veg will almost definitely rise, driving the cost of your five-a-day up even further. But there is a solution to the increasing cost of eating well: grow your own fruit and vegetables.
We know. It sounds like a lot of work. It sounds like something that your nan and grandad did in their greenhouse at weekends. (Did we mention that it sounds like a lot of work?)
But it’s becoming incredibly popular. So popular, in fact, that a YouGov survey discovered that 45% of Brits have somebody pop in to check on their fruit and veg when they’re away on holiday. Yep, you read that right. A babysitter for their veg.
If you’re thinking about picking up a new hobby or maybe just want to reduce your weekly supermarket bill, check out our five top tips to turn those brown thumbs into green fingers.
Why grow your own?
Where to start really? Aside from being cheaper than buying produce from the shops, there are a whole host of other benefits to growing your own food.
It tastes better. Until you’ve tried it, there’s really no explaining the difference between a tomato you’ve grown, picked and eaten to the tomato and a cucumber that’s been grown, picked, treated, transported and sat on a supermarket shelf for who-knows-how-long. It’s fresher. It’s more flavoursome. It just tastes better, really.
It’s not that hard to do. If you’re just starting out, there are lots of vegetables that are incredibly easy to grow. Potatoes, salad leave, spring onions, garlic and peas are all incredibly easy to grow and don’t require lots of attention and nurturing. They make perfect jumping off points for getting into gardening.
There’s a sense of achievement. Every time you eat a bit of something you’ve grown, it feels pretty good. It’s like sitting on a chair you’ve built or getting your car running again after it has broken down, except a hundred times easier and whole lot tastier. Just plant, water, pick, eat and enjoy the satisfaction (and, if you see fit, gloat).
Bamboo’s Top Five Grow Your Own Tips:
Clear some space
It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be outdoors either – you just need a decent little bit of space to start growing. A small section of your garden, a bit of your balcony or even a windowsill in direct sunlight are all perfect for starting to grow your own fruit and veg.
Choose easier produce to begin with
If you’ve never dipped your fingers into the soil before, it’s probably best to start with something easy. Not only will you learn new skills as you go along, but you’re less likely to give up if you start in the shallow end.
Lettuces are a great starter plant. As organic farmer Alice Holden told The Guardian:
‘Lettuce is a brilliant vegetable to begin with if you have never grown anything before. It can be grown in a window box if space is limited and you can harvest outer leaves as you need them without pulling up the whole plant. Having a living salad larder on your window sill or raised bed can be very handy during the summer months.’
Grow something you’ll use
Growing industrial amounts of tomatoes for a fraction of the amount you’d spend in the shops sounds fantastic, unless you hate tomatoes. Make sure you choose something you’ll like and that you want to use – tomatoes (unless you hate them, of course) are a good choice. Not only can you use them in salads, but they’re incredibly versatile. You can use them in soups, sauces and throw them on pizzas.
If you do a lot of cooking, grow your own herbs
Not only does growing your own herbs save you money, but it also prevents wastage. A bag of basil leaves or mint from the supermarket may be fantastic for the meal you’re cooking that night, but go to use it in a few days and it’s almost always turned to mush. When you grow your own herbs, you only need to cut off what you need and the rest of the plant stays alive for the next time you need it. (Plus, growing your own herbs makes the place smell incredible in the summer – especially if you grow mint.)
Stick with it (but have fun)
This is probably the most important one of all – stick with it until you’ve eaten something that you’ve grown yourself. Digging your hands into the mud and caring for plants may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but once you’ve eaten something you’ve grown it’ll all be worth it. We guarantee you’ll be buying more seeds and thinking about new things to grow straight away.