As I’m writing this it is Friday 14th April, National Gardening Day. I’ve just spent my morning the same way I spend every Friday morning: volunteering at an allotment in Bolton for people living with dementia. After this I’ll go and tend to my own small garden as at this time of the year, there’s lots to do.
I absolutely love spending time in the garden and I thought I would share some of the reasons in the hope that it inspires others to give it a go.
I’ve been gardening for around a decade now, mostly focussed on food growing, but in the past few years I’ve introduced more flowers: to attract pollinators, to use as herbal teas and as sacrificial plants to distract slugs and snails from my precious edibles. I’m still learning but that is one of the reasons I love it. It’s always interesting and the successes are really rewarding. Whilst not everything works out the way you expect, there’s always another chance to try again and get it right. It’s a good life lesson too, to not be too upset by failures, because some things are just out of your control; just roll with it. It’s also taught me the useful technique of changing the narrative to ensure a positive outlook. Instead, for example, seeing the loss of all of your broccoli to caterpillars, you can see it as providing the perfect habitat for wildlife!
Improve your health
As you can see, I am a big advocate for gardening in promoting good mental health. In addition to these life lessons, there are also the good feelings that come with fresh air, sunshine and nature. Also, the feeling of accomplishment is a real confidence boost and being active and busy always perks me up.
With regards to physical health, growing your own fruits and vegetables allows you to eat your food super fresh which means they retain more of their nutrients. You can also maintain control of the fertilisers and pesticides used in their growth and so you can eat more organic produce.
I’ve also found that I have eaten a wider range of fruits and vegetables as I like to experiment with growing new things. This is how I discovered my love of Jerusalem Artichokes: they make a lovely addition to the greenery too!
Growing your own can also save you money. There are initial set up costs but if you are thrifty you can reduce these costs somewhat, for example, making your own compost, sharing seeds, using recycled containers and pots. When deciding what to grow, because I have a small space I have to choose carefully.
It's a good idea to grow things that would otherwise cost a lot of money to buy or are difficult to get hold of, but if you enjoy growing something then you should grow it. I like growing carrots, for example. They're cheap enough and easy to find but I like pulling them up and seeing what's been lurking beneath the surface of the soil all of that time!
Save the environment
With regards to environmental issues, growing your own food means you can remove the carbon cost of transporting food. I love just nipping out to the garden to clip off a sprig of thyme or rosemary. Also, you lessen the use of plastic packaging that is sometimes unavoidable, depending on where you shop. You can decide when to harvest your food too, so that there is less waste. You can often harvest, cook and eat in the same hour! Occasionally you will find you have a glut of produce, when everything ripens together, but you can always cook, freeze or preserve things or share with friends and family.
I realise that not everyone has a garden or much outdoor space at all. My home garden is a small yard but my husband built me two raised beds when we moved in, simply by using the existing flags, and I was off! I use a lot of containers too and have salvaged a pallet and used canes to do a bit of vertical gardening. It's fun to get creative and inventive to solve issues in the garden. I have grown tomatoes indoors before too: there a plenty of things you can grow inside.
Make friends and socialise
There is also the option of an allotment. If you struggle to find one or don’t want the responsibility there are plenty of community allotments that are always welcoming to newbies. The benefits of this are that you can learn more from your fellow gardeners, make friends, share seeds, seedlings and produce and just have a really lovely time!
So as you can see, there are plenty of reasons to start growing your own food. If you're tempted but don't know where to start I would definitely recommend joining in at a community allotment. For those who are local to Prestwich, Incredible Edible are very active and are a lovely bunch (Incredible Edible – Prestwich & District (iepad.co.uk)). Spring is a great time to start as there's lots of sowing to do (I love these seeds from Village Greens by The Seed Co-operative) and the weather is starting to improve.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog, here are a few photos showing some of my successes over the past years. Have a great spring everyone!