In the developed world many of us have become accustomed to popping to the shops to satisfy our every whim or desire. On arriving at the supermarket or corner shop we are used to seeing selves brimming with fresh produce and all manner of packaged edible delights. The global Covid-19 pandemic that we currently find ourselves in has somewhat shaken our ability to have what we want, whenever we want it. In some cases it has made certain items completely unavailable. Panic buying has well and truly become a competitive sport, and as a result, supermarket shelves are becoming bare, and rationing systems have been put in place.

Perhaps we are witnessing the threat of food security for the first time in generations, but it is not all doom and gloom. For many, Covid-19 has provided some time out from normal routines and a bit of much needed headspace to re-evaluate the way we live.

The concept of becoming self-sufficient is having a very welcome revival. This is illustrated by a rise in the sale of fruit and vegetable seeds, so much so, that seed company websites are crashing due to the amount of orders! Could Covid-19 have given us the push we needed to take some ownership of where our food comes from and will we see long lost skills being re-learned? I really hope that this is the case.

A year and a half ago, a group of friends and myself were offered an allotment space by a local couple who for several reasons could not manage the plot themselves. With a passion for food and absolutely no horticultural experience at all we grabbed this opportunity without hesitation!

Since then we have learnt so much. We have trawled YouTube videos and blogs and we have got stuck in and tried things with varying amounts of success. We are lucky to have a fairly big plot, with four raised beds, a greenhouse and a fruit cage so we have plenty of space to try things out.

The produce we grew last year didn’t enable us to be completely self-sufficient in terms of fruit and vegetables, but it did provide us with lots of vitamin rich goodies. Our greatest successes were kale and spinach, to the point that we had more then we could have ever consumed ourselves! We were able to share these harvests with friends and family who live locally, and the ability to do this was so rewarding. With our ever-expanding knowledge we hope to make our plot even more productive this year by planting some winter crops and learning more about preserving and pickling our produce to make it go further.

I realise how lucky I am to live in the countryside and to have access to an allotment, I know that this is not everyone’s reality. However, the good thing is that everyone can have a go at growing something of their own, even if it’s just some herbs on a windowsill.

Seeds from Vital Seeds, Devon, UK

 

Here are my top five pieces of advice to get you started in the world of growing your own produce:

1

Start where you are

Assess the space that you have, be it a windowsill, balcony, patio or garden and research which types of fruit and veg are best suited to your situation. Herbs, sprouted seeds and even chillies can be grown on a windowsill or window box. On balcony or patio, you can grow beans, tomatoes, salad leaves and lots more. In an allotment or garden, you really can go for almost anything!
2

Use what you have

Growing your own veg does not mean that you need to go and buy lots of fancy equipment. Perhaps arm yourself with a spade or shovel of some sort, but after that you can get creative and use things you already have. Alternatively reach out to your neighbours or local community, often someone nearby will have a shed full of tools that you could borrow.
3

Get creative

Most plants will grow in any container so long as it has drainage. Instead of buying plant pots, look around your house for what you might already have. If you are limited for space try to reuse fruit punnets, milk bottles, tins or even a pair of old welly boots. If you have more space try using tyres, old sinks or drawers from broken furniture perhaps.
4

Go organic

Buying organic produce can often come at a higher price, however when you buy organic seeds as opposed to non-organic, the price difference is really not very noticeable. However, in terms of the health of yourself our soil and our environment, choosing organic seeds is the way to go. We have chosen to only purchase organic seeds this year and we have also chosen to support independent seed suppliers. We mainly buy from two suppliers- Vital Seeds and Tamar Organics both of which are based in Devon. Please do be patient with seed sellers, big or small because the surge in sales has put a lot of pressure on companies to fulfil orders, they are run by humans who are also experiencing the strangeness of the world at the moment.
5

Do some research

Thanks to the internet we have a world of knowledge at our fingertips, so doing some research is a perfect way to make use of the down time that Covid- 19 has given us. On our allotment we have been hugely inspired by Charles Dowding and his No Dig method. If you want to take a less screen-based approach, then ask around in your friendship groups or local communities if anyone has any gardening books that you could borrow. The beautiful vintage books pictured were gifted to us by my partners grandparents as they had soaked up all the knowledge from the books many years ago!

So, what are you waiting for? Stay home and get growing!

I would love to hear from you if you are starting out on your self-sufficiency journey or if you are an expert with tips and advice for me. Send me photos of your progress and most of all enjoy the many reward that growing your own produce brings!

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