Sunday, 7 August 2011

To grow your own food - or not to grow your own?

In the light of what could be another Depression, millions of people, as in Cuba over the last decade, are now desperate to grow their own food without much knowledge to build on, any idea how much money it might save them, or how much land they would need.  What are the barriers?

I was a gardening novice last year, when I started my seed growing experiments in our small gardens under trees (which have a limited amount of sun). I was delighted to be closer to Nature. I was amazed when seeds sprouted and tomatoes formed from yellow flowers. Broccoli heads, which had not been harvested, blossomed into flowers which insects adore. But I soon understood the complexity: the challenge of insects and slugs liking my plants as much as me, and the time it takes to irrigate them. Then I also found that you can only really save significant money with at least a 250sq metre plot, which could save you £1360 pa.  How many hours or work would that require in all weathers?  Could one make almost that amount using "" and comparing good buys, online?

My advice for those with smallish gardens is: "Focus only on what is easy to grow and costly to buy". I am going to forget potatoes, broccoli, sweetcorn, carrots, kale and buy those (ordinary crops) in local farm shops and farmers's markets, in season. Instead, I am developing a good-sized strawberry bed, which will fruit well next year because I spend a lot on strawberries. I will grow other soft fruit (the best crops for small gardens) too. Tomatoes seem viable, I will grow constant salads, basil and tenderstem broccoli (costly in shops).  Then we will "forage" as we did today, for wild blackberries which freeze well.  I am preparing a dish tonight of an amaretti biscuit base topped with ice cream, mixed with wild blackberries.   Gorgeous....

As an example of good prices at a Farmer's Market yesterday, I bought a weighty punnet of about 100 very ripe, small Kent plums for just £1.50. These made 4 large desserts (when stewed) and tasted divine with cream and meringues.  How could I grow so much myself, except in a large, sunny garden, from a mature tree?

So my own decision is this: smallscale, luxury or gourmet, easy gardening is the only way for me - and foraging for plenteous blackberries.

1 comment:

  1. You could also forage for damsons - we did so in Essex.

    A conservative estimate - 2 hours a day 5 days a week on our allotments - but the hardest is the set-up phase. You then get into a seasonal rhythm as I posted on my blog. Re soft fruit: If they will grow in your shady patch blackcurrants are really good and you can propagate them from a cutting. And a young apple tree will start to produce really well after about 3/4 years. Get one which is dual purpose eater/cooker and see if you can find an old Kent variety - as many are county-specific.

    Good luck and good gardening as they say on Gardeners' Question Time.