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  • Growing your own fruit and veg

    Growing your own fruit and vegetables is easier than it sounds, and has many environmental benefits, as well as potentially saving you money!

    You can grow food with a minimal amount of pesticides and fertilisers, and cut down dramatically on the emissions associated with transporting food (sometimes around the world) as well. Plus, food you grow yourself can be eaten really fresh and the taste difference is unbelievable.

    What to grow?

    Lots of crops are easy to grow for beginners. It makes sense to choose the ones that you eat a lot of; that are particularly bad for the environment when bought in the shops; and that are more expensive to buy.

    Strawberries are often a good bet financially and can be grown in the soil, in pots or even in hanging baskets. You’ll need to protect them from the birds though.

    Tomatoes likewise – a pot of indoor tomatoes will grow happily on a windowsill. Keep moist but don’t water too much, that way you won’t get quite such large tomatoes, but they’ll taste better. Varieties are quite important for taste, too. Don’t buy moneyspinner whatever you do – that’s the one that makes the tasteless red blobs you buy in the shops. I’ve not had huge amounts of success with outdoor tomatoes but it does depend on soil, position (they like lots of sunshine), TLC and remembering to feed them now and then!

    You can buy packets of mixed salad leaf seeds, or all sorts of single leaves such as rocket. I’ve had success with mixed italian leaves and rocket, grown in soil and in pots. You can grow these as “cut and come again” crops – i.e. cut some leaves and, provided you don’t cut the plant off shorter than about 5cm, it will grow back and provide you with more leaves in a few weeks. Fresh leaves taste better and you’ll save money – also bought salads are often washed using dilute chlorine or similar which you may prefer to avoid.

    Similarly spinach is quite easy to grow for salads or to eat as a vegetable. I’d recommend this to avoid having bags of reasonably expensive leaves going mushy in the fridge.

    I had a great crop of sweetcorn grown in soil. It’s a greedy feeder so manure the soil well, and cover with black plastic to warm it for a few days before planting. The soil does need to be warm for the seeds to grow well. Once planted, keep moist, stand well back and wait for delicious cobs of corn to appear. Make sure you eat them as soon as possible after picking. Delicious!

    Runner beans are worth growing simply because they taste so much better fresh. Again, manure the soil well before sowing. If you grow them in pots, keep them well fed and watered and don’t put too many in the pot.

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