Here’s why growing your own fruit and vegetables benefits the planet, your diet and your mental health all at once…
Hands have been turned to a lot of hobbies over the past year, from embroidery to candle making. But what about flexing your green fingers to grow your own fruit and vegetables?
Growing has a whole host of benefits, including improving the environment, protecting the bees and even easing stress.
If you’re part of the majority that lacks a garden laden with flowerbeds (see also: any green space at all) don’t worry – getting your grow on doesn’t mean you need acres of land.
In fact, all you really need is a patch of space big enough for a pot, a little bit of sunshine and some patience.
Here are four reasons why you should make potting your next hobby…
1. Pesticides will perish
Growing your own ingredients means that you’re in total control of what goes on them, which means avoiding ingesting the undesirable chemicals that may have been used on store-bought produce.
Pesticides are used while crops are growing, but also beforehand as seed treatments and afterwards while foods are being transported.
Your tomatoes or peppers might even get a final dose of chemicals to make them look more appealing on the shelves – less appealing in your digestive system.
But it’s not just yourself you’ll be looking after by growing your own.
While recent changes in European law have tried to safeguard bee populations by banning dangerous chemicals, scientists are still concerned about the effect food production is having on the insects.
A move towards home-grown will eliminate these pesticides altogether, keeping bees safer for another season.
TIP: You can feed your plants with natural food like potassium-rich banana skins steeped in water, keeping your fruit and veg and the environment cleaner.
2. No space is too small
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a kitchen that’s crying out for window boxes or a patch of space on a bookshelf, no space is too small to start growing your own fruit and vegetables.
Herbs are great to grow on tabletops, and can be picked up easily at the supermarket before repotting at home.
TIP: To celebrate their 30 year anniversary, Linda McCartney’s has launched a Grow Your Own Guide in collaboration with expert grower and gardener, Diarmuid Gavin
In it, Gavin explains that salad leaves like lettuce, rocket and spinach, alongside spring onions, radishes and cress, can thrive in windowsills and shallow growing spaces like seed trays.
Meanwhile, potatoes, carrots, beetroot and onions need deeper containers like an old bucket or even a dustbin.
If you’re lucky enough to have a balcony, climbing plants like peas, beans and tomatoes could be a good option, whereas if you only have indoor space and want to create some height, there’s an option for that too.
“A ladder against a wall is a great way to make use of height when floor space is tight, perfect for stacking pots and hanging baskets,” explains Gavin.
Keep an eye on the website for more information around the Grow Your Own Guide
3. Growing feeds the brain, too
From the banana breads and jigsaws of Lockdown 1.0 to sourdough and crafty side hustles, for many of us a slowed-down pace of life has given us a chance to get back in touch with our hands.
Getting crafty hasn’t only improved our Instagram feeds, but our mental health, too.
As well as the physical health benefits of having your own crop of fruit and veg to munch on, studies have proven that gardening can reduce stress, improve your mood and even contribute to a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
So, if you’re feeling a bit trapped in your four walls but don’t have anywhere else to go, getting to grips with growing could help to boost your mood, as well as the night’s menu.
TIP: Gavin advises making a routine of your watering, carving out the time to tend to your plant babies.
“Dedicate a few minutes to watering most days – maybe as you’re boiling the kettle, or during a phone call,” he says.
Speaking of watering, make sure you invest in a good quality compost (like a loam-based one) as this holds on to water for longer. Avoid composts containing non-environmentally friendly peat.
4. You’ll cut your carbon footprint
If David Attenborough has taught us anything, it’s that our planet needs help like, yesterday.
So while you’re already heading to supermarkets with reusable bags in tow and cycling to curb pollution, why not go one step further and grow your own fruit and veg to slash your carbon footprint?
By eating what you can grow, not only will you be reducing emissions from multiple supermarket trips, you’ll also be opting to eat more seasonally and cutting down on imported foods, as well as reducing the amount of plastic packaging you use.
Take chillies, for example.
TIP: Instead of heading to the supermarket for some imported, plastic-swaddled produce for your next curry, Linda McCartney’s Grow Your Own guide advises that it’s super-easy (and satisfying) to grow them yourself.
“Chillies love the heat of a house and the extended indoor season means you might get some red fruits. Notoriously slow to grow from seed, it’s best to buy an established plant,” says Gavin.
Get to grips with growing your own fruit and veg, no matter your space, with the help of Linda McCartney’s. Keep an eye on the website for more information on how to grow your own produce.