Have you ever grown your own food? Sometimes we become so used to buying our groceries from the supermarket that we forget how they came to be there in the first place. Today we import our food from all over the world, from South American avocados to Canadian maple syrup. But less than a hundred years ago, during the Second World War, it was a different story.
The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was set up in wartime to encourage the British people to grow their own food. Shop-bought food was rationed because it was more difficult to ship in imported goods, so to make up for a smaller supply of food available, everyone was encouraged to grow their own fruit and vegetables in their back gardens, front lawns, and public parks. There was even a vegetable patch outside the Tower of London.
We don’t have to worry about food rationing today, but growing our own food is now an important part of creating a sustainable future for everyone. For one thing, homegrown food has a smaller carbon footprint. Supermarket food can come from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away, which means it needs transporting in planes and trucks that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. By growing our food as close to home as possible, we can help combat climate change.
Creating our own vegetable gardens also allows us to control how we grow our food, which means we don’t have to use chemicals known as herbicides and pesticides. These are designed to kill insects that might nibble on our vegetables, but they also kill or injure other creatures at the same time. Some pesticides have been proven to kill bees and interfere with how they find food and communicate with each other. By avoiding the use of these chemicals and choosing to grow our food organically, we can help our local birds, animals and insects and keep the ecosystem as healthy as possible.
Another advantage to growing our own food is that we don’t need to wrap it in plastic. Most supermarkets are making a real effort to reduce how much plastic they use on their products, but they need to keep fruit and vegetables fresh as they move around means that plastic is sometimes necessary to stop food from going to waste. When we grow our own food, it goes from the garden to the kitchen table in a matter of minutes. Talk about fresh! We don’t need to use plastic for homegrown fruit and vegetables, which means we are sending less rubbish to landfills.
As well as the environmental benefits, growing fruit and vegetables is good for our health and wellbeing. Gardening is a great way to deal with stress and anxiety, as it offers us a chance to get out in the fresh air and sunshine while doing a little bit of exercise. It is also very rewarding to grow something from seed and nurture it as the weeks and months go by, especially when it ends up as a beautiful vegetable that we can eat and enjoy in the future. Gardening with friends and family also allows us to connect and chat with one another, and have fun as we tend to our growing seedlings!
You don’t need a huge garden to grow your own fruit and vegetables. In fact, you can start in a space as small as a well-lit windowsill or balcony. For those with a garden that has concrete instead of grass, you can also grow lots of plants in pots. And if none of these options are available, you could look up your local allotment area and see if there is a plot free for you and your family. Allotments are pieces of land divided into segments, and each segment can be hired for a small fee each year so people can grow fruit, vegetables, and flowers even if they don’t have a garden.
Looking to get started? There are loads of simple ways you can learn how to grow fruit and vegetables without needing much space or money. If you can find a few pots, a few handfuls of soil, and a packet of seeds, you’re ready to go. Some of the best plants to start with are tomatoes, courgettes, strawberries, salad leaves, and beans, while a herb garden is perfect for the kitchen windowsill.