One of the happiest moments of my life was when I harvested my first homegrown pumpkin. It was an absolute beauty, golden in colour and about 10kg in weight. Since then I have had the same happiness from bounteous harvests of tomatoes, chilli peppers, potatoes, courgette, lettuce and other amazing vegetables.
I became interested in growing my own food largely from an ecological perspective. I’d lived in the country and been dismayed to see tractors spraying acres and acres of land with toxic chemicals. I didn’t really want those chemicals in my body and I didn’t want them on the earth.
Growing your own food is a great way to increase sustainability. It cuts down on the transport pollution needed when bringing food in from all over the world. It reduces plastic packaging and eliminates preservatives needed to keep shop-bought produce from deteriorating.
As I started gardening and reading more about it the mental and physical benefits became clear. It felt so good to be in nature, with my hands in the soil and tending a vegetable garden. It boosted my mood to see all the crops growing nicely and to anticipate the delicious harvests to come.
For physical benefits, gardening is very good exercise. Digging and moving compost around is a great workout. Also, there is nothing like being outside breathing in the fresh air to promote good health.
Growing your own food makes it easier to eat more vegetables. Homegrown vegetables undoubtedly taste much better than shop-bought. The current recommendation is to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. When you’re harvesting baskets of fresh salad, beans, tomatoes and more it is a pleasure to eat so much fresh produce.
If you’re pulling your hair out because your kids won’t go near a vegetable then growing your own could be the answer. It’s a great way to get them involved and they may be more interested in sampling something they’ve planted and nurtured themselves!
The other great benefit of home growing is that you can choose your own varieties to grow which adds a whole lot of interest. One of my loves, for example, is to grow chilli peppers. When you grow your own you can grow amazing varieties that you would never find in the shops.
Finally, and without wanting to get too serious I think we all got a bit of a shock going into the supermarkets recently and seeing the shelves empty. This highlighted that in times of crisis food security becomes foremost in our minds. To improve access to food during times of crisis, for individuals and nationally, it makes sense for many more of us to grow our own food.
I hope I’ve convinced you that growing your own is a good idea for your physical and mental health as well as for the health of the environment.
If so let’s look at ways that you can get started. The first way I would recommend is our very own Growing Greenwich programme. We have several sites around the Borough of Greenwich where you can learn about growing and get some practical experience under the guidance of Kevin, our friendly and professional grower.
Another option is to get an allotment. Allotments have been a very popular way to grow food since the second world war and food rationing. Nowadays they provide a place for city dwellers to find some peace in natural beauty and grow some fresh produce at the same time. To find out more and apply for an allotment visit here.
Of course, the best place to grow vegetables is in your back garden if you have one. Even a small space of a few metres squared can produce a lot of food. There are many ways to grow but here are a few places to start.
Charles Dowding promotes an organic no-dig method which is very good for maintaining and improving the health of the soil.
Square foot gardening is a fun and efficient way to grow vegetables in a small area.
Finally, even if you don’t have any earth to plant into container growing is an effective and enjoyable way to get going.
For seeds, I usually advise not to buy from supermarkets or garden centres. They can be very expensive and are often of low quality. There’s nothing worse than going to all the trouble to prepare beds only for your seeds to fail.
I would recommend buying seed from suppliers who provide for professional growers. You can then be sure you are using the highest quality seeds. I would recommend Moles seeds who have a great selection of organic and non-organic produce. The Organic Gardening Catalogue has a great selection of organic seeds including interesting heirloom varieties.
I hope there is something useful here to help you grow your own food. At GCDA we love encouraging a healthier and more sustainable way of life. Please share pics of your bounty with us on Twitter and Instagram! #growingingreenwich
If we can be of further assistance, please let us know – you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck with your growing!