The environment is taking a huge hit at the moment, but the trend for living a greener and more environmentally conscious life is, fortunately, taking off. More and more people are thinking carefully about where they shop, what they buy and how their lifestyle can be improved by a new way of thinking.
Veganism, amongst other things, is really growing considerably right now and now there is even a campaign to urge public institutions to put at least one vegan meal on their menu. But getting enough plant-based variation in a vegan diet, or any diet, is still quite a challenge to pull off in an environmentally friendly way. Air miles might not be as bad for the planet as beef farming but it still has an impact. Shopping for local seasonal produce is definitely a great option and can easily be done by ordering a fruit and vegetable box.
But what else can you do? Well, there is one lovely solution that springs to mind: grow your own!
Photo by Gabriel Gurrola
Planning your garden
You might not want to use your whole garden as a vegetable patch, but you should at least plan a couple of plots you can use for growing. Raised beds are ideal as they are easier to tend and form a nice feature too. Squares or rectangles are easy to work with and measure out and you can use sleepers to build the sides. Alternatively consider buying some vegetable trugs. There are some fairly expensive ones out there, but I got a cheaper version on sale at B&Q for only £50 which was an absolute bargain considering they are usually over £100 each. I currently grow some vegetables in these table height vegetable trugs which makes tending to them so easy as there’s no need to bend down. They are also suitable for gardens that don’t have any grass. They are freestanding and so can be added to paths or patios. No need for grass!
You should also think about how you are going to get enough water to your garden. Using a hose is a natural choice for getting the water into deeper patches but where the water comes from is important. Water tanks are perfect for collecting rainwater and can even be used to collect greywater which can still fine for the garden. It’s much better for the environment to recycle the rainwater instead of constantly turning the tap on and using fresh water. We have two water butts and use a large watering can to water our veggies in the hot months. The rest of the year there is usually enough rain.
Choosing your veggies
Deciding what you want to plant is the next step. There’s no point in growing loads of the same thing if it won’t all get used or anything you aren’t interested in eating, so gather your family together to work out what will most benefit everyone. For us we grow (or attempt to grow) carrots, leeks, tomatoes, green beans and courgettes each year. We can eat all of these daily and use them in so many recipes, so it makes sense for us to grow lots of them. I’ve even just planted a whole trug’s worth of carrots for the past two years as we love the homegrown taste so much and use so many! Work out what is the best veg to grow for you and yours.
Lots of fruits and vegetables are quite happy to be grown together, making the most of the soil. This is called companion planting and isn’t just good for your small plot but is also great for farmers or smallholders working on a bigger patch of land. Putting the right plants together is also a good way to preserve the nutritional value of the soil so it is definitely worth a little time researching! There are also clever ways of compnaion planting that can help to deter pests without using pesticides. I never use pesticides as I believe organic vegetables are better for us and the environment, though there are natural pesticides available or those you can make yourself too.
As well as vegetables, we have a variety of fruit trees. We have cherries, apples, mulberries, plums, pears and also raspberry bushes. In my experience, fruit trees are very easy to look after and we honestly don’t do anything other than let them grow and they are very fruitful each year! I think if you are going to have trees in the garden, then choose fruit trees. Not only do they look beautiful and provide greenery in your garden, but you’ll have free food to eat every year too.
Cooking with the seasons
With so much of our food imported these days, we are used to eating everything all year round. However, there is a lot to be gained from cooking with the seasons. For one thing, you become more rooted to the natural progression of the world around you. Good Food has a wide range of recipes sorted by time of year to entice you in.
Encourage kids to eat healthier
Growing your own food is hugely satisfying and children who have the opportunity to get a little closer to the process tend to be more open to trying new things as well. Teaching children a sustainable lifestyle and how to feed themselves couldn’t be more important and this is definitely the most fun way to get started. I still have a lot to learn about growing, but can learn as my children learn! I have found Bella, my eldest, more open to trying new vegetables when we have grown them ourselves and expect my youngest Reuben will be the same. They even love just going to the garden to pick some tomatoes to snack on! What other fruit and veg could be fresher and more organic than that?