Sunday, December 07, 2008

Grow your own

Food seeds are now outselling flower seeds in the UK. The last time this situation happened was over 60 yrs ago! Many allotment sites are full and have waiting lists – and growing numbers of people in their late teens, twenties and thirties are choosing to grow some of their own food. It’s increasingly popular because it is an activity where the costs are low and benefits high, which is a big plus, particularly in times of recession. In Bristol you can rent an allotment site for between £10.50 and £63 per year depending on the size and type, and some qualify for a discount of 25% or 50%. Costs can also be shared if people club together. The rise in popularity started long before economic downturn though so its certainly not just about money.

Growing some of your own food raises quality of life. It encourages and rewards creativity. It is a calming, stress-busting activity that can be the source of a good deal of pleasure. Physical work out in the fresh air boosts your health, as does the fresh food grown. Allotment and garden exercise is also much cheaper than going to a gym!

The challenge can be formidable, especially at the start. However, if you take your time and go step by step you can experience the satisfaction of seeing the seeds you planted grow, the satisfaction of harvesting and then the pleasure of eating! Choose to grow what you love to eat and save money formerly spent on over-packaged food – a pack of seeds costing the same as one bag of salad leaves can produce leaves for picking a few times every week throughout a whole season! You can cheaply grow what is expensive in the shops.

You will know exactly how the food has been grown and can choose to avoid artificial fertilisers and pesticides. The miles travelled by garden and allotment grown food is very low and so carbon emissions and climate impact is also low. You can help to keep in circulation the seeds of many old, flavoursome and pest-resistant plants – preserve more varieties and you preserve genetic diversity which commercial growers show no interest in.

By helping to keep allotments used to capacity, or even increase the number of plots (The Small Holdings and Allotments Act of 1908 made it the responsibility of local authorities to provide allotments on the demand of four people or more) you are helping to keep land from development. Allotments are not well protected and many have been lost to housing developments since the 1950’s, not least in Bristol (despite its stated green city ambitions). However, the ‘grow your own’ community is increasingly diverse and allotments can grow into very friendly and organised groups willing and able to protect their plots!

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