Food A Growing Healthy Hobby

A Growing Healthy Hobby

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National Allotments Week returns this August to put the spotlight back on the benefits of growing your own vegetables.

With a rising interest in becoming more self-sufficient, many Brits have made the most of extra time at home by taking up gardening as a newfound hobby. The National Allotment Society, who are behind the NAW initiative, has also seen a surge in interest in owning an allotment plot, with more than 60 councils reporting big increases in the number of applications to join waiting lists – in some cases up to five-fold.

To celebrate National Allotments Week, gardening experts at the UK’s leading garden centre, Dobbies, have put together some essential top tips and advice to provide beginner growers with some inspiration for their new plot.

Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director at Dobbies Garden Centres, commented:

“The positives of growing your own are endless, from getting outside into the fresh air, aerobic exercise to improve fitness, making new friends, and a sense of community – not to mention all of the delicious homegrown produce to cook and eat. As the NAW theme for 2020 is ‘Growing Food for Health and Wellbeing’, we want to show people just how easy it can be to start their own sustainable plot. For keen beans who are on the local allotment waiting list, our ‘how to grow veg in containers’ step by step will show you how to quickly get started, no matter the size of your garden. National Allotments Week is the ideal time to give it a go and you’ll soon be sharing a homegrown harvest with friends and family.”

National Allotments Society President, Phil Gomersall, said:

“This year, every week has been National Allotments Week, with more people than ever realising that growing your own food is a great way of eating healthily, getting some outdoor exercise in the fresh air and acquiring new skills. Plot-holders have also benefited from the contact with nature and the easy camaraderie on allotment sites, helping to retain their mental health and stay positive during these worrying times.”

As part of the NAW activity, the National Allotment Society is running a ‘My Allotment Story’ competition for plot-holders. A reflection of the many benefits of growing, cooking, and eating your own fruit and vegetables, growers have the opportunity to produce and share short videos or storyboards. With the chance to win a series of prizes, including free NAS membership the themes are: ‘What my allotment means to me’; ‘The history of our site’ or ‘Our site’s projects and plans for the future’; and for children up to 16 years – ‘What I grow at the allotment’. All videos will be uploaded to the NAS YouTube channel.

Dobbies

Be inspired to get growing this National Allotments Week…

How to regrow vegetables from kitchen scraps

It might surprise you to know that another way you can reduce kitchen waste and help the environment is to regrow some of your veg from the scraps you might usually throw away. It’s easy, fun and kids love to get involved too!

Here are some favourites:

  • Spring onions and celery are two kitchen staples that are easy to regrow from their root base with a couple of inches of stem attached. Slice across the stems, then stand them root down in a shallow glass of water. When new roots appear, plant them out in the garden to grow on.
  • Exotic vegetables such as pak-choi can be re-grown in a shallow dish of water, by keeping the young inner leaves intact with the root base.
  • Pot up left-over nobbly sections of ginger root for an exotic pot plant that will be a great talking point.
  • For chillies and sweet peppers, collect their seeds and plant them directly into fresh compost. Then leave them to grow on a warm sunny windowsill, watering regularly.
  • Re-pot used basil or coriander plants from the supermarket to give them a new lease of life. Or grow new plants from stem cuttings in a jar of water, for a supply of your favourite herbs to use in your cooking.

How to Make Compost from Your Kitchen Waste

It’s easy to recycle your kitchen scraps into rich garden compost that will add a valuable boost to your pots and borders.

Keep a kitchen caddy next to the kitchen sink, where it’s easy to throw in your vegetable and fruit waste, peelings, juicing pulp, coffee grounds and tea-bags (double check they are plastic free first), and crushed eggshells. For convenience line your caddy with a compostable bag, lifting the bag and all its contents out when full, otherwise rinse your caddy thoroughly between fills. Avoid meat or anything dairy as these can soon turn smelly and attract unwanted visitors.

Add the contents to your compost heap or bin, located in a shady corner of the garden. Look to have a garden heap of at least 1m x 1m. Or if your space is limited, a compost bin also works really well, generally open ended at the base to allow earth worms to enter and speed up the process. Alternate with layers of garden waste such as clippings, twigs and leaves to keep it aired, or use unwaxed brown cardboard packaging.

How to grow vegetables in containers

No matter how small your garden space, many vegetables will grow very happily in containers, from shallow bowls to larger pots, window boxes and even hanging baskets. So, you can have fresh tasty vegetables whenever you need them.

Step-by-Step Guid

1. Fill a container of your choice with peat free vegetable or multi-purpose compost and water gently. Shallow containers are good for salad crops, while deeper pots work best for root crops like carrots. Hanging baskets and window boxes are ideal for herbs, strawberries or trailing tomatoes.
2. To grow your vegetables from seed, sow them evenly across the surface, cover with a fine layer of compost and add a label. This is the most economical way to grow lots of vegetables.
3. Alternatively, for quicker results, plant ready-to-grow young plants available to buy in pots and strips. This is a great option for warm growing vegetables like tomatoes, courgettes or chillies or for those with limited space to grow from the seed stage.
4. Keep your planted container under cover in a bright sunny spot protected from the cold, moving outside to a sheltered site when all risk of frost has passed.
5. Water regularly to keep the compost moist. After about six weeks feed weekly with liquid fertiliser to ensure strong and healthy growth.
6. Pick your vegetables when they’re ready, emptying and replanting your containers for an additional late season crop.

Top Tips

  • Sow or plant little and often for a continual supply of tasty veg. Check your seed packets for the ideal sowing times and temperatures.
  • Salad Leaves Cut and Come Again: Ideal for shallower containers, this fast maturing seed mix includes a range of colourful and tasty leaves including Mizuna, salad rocket and Pak Choi. Can be sown all year round, protecting from the cold during the winter months.

Shopping List

  • Vegetable seeds or young plants of your choice
  • Growing containers
  • Good quality peat free vegetable or multi-purpose compost
  • Liquid fertiliser such as seaweed extract
  • Wooden plant labels
  • Hand trowel
  • Watering can
  • Gardening gloves

Allotment gardening essentials

Allotment gardening essentials

  • Kent & Stowe Carbon Steel Hand Trowel
  • Burgon & Ball Kneelo Kneeler, Poppy Red
  • Kent & Stowe Carbon Steel Border Fork
  • Fallen Fruits Rose Kneeling Pad
  • Premium Comfort Gloves, Flutter Bugs Blue
  • Fallen Fruits Tool Stool & Crate (2 in 1)
  • Fallen Fruits Garden Tool Belt

Find out more at www.dobbies.com and buy these essentials from their website or Amazon website.

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