It’s been a weekend of seed sowing, potting-on, and mulching in my fruit and vegetable garden. Getting all this sorted, and listening to the Gardeners Question Time team at the Edible Garden Show, got me thinking about how many gardeners produce their own food at home or on their allotments.
The Soil Association estimates about 80% of UK households have a garden, but only about 20% of them produce food. That’s quite a contrast with the situation during WW2 when about 50% of the nation’s food needs came from gardens and allotments.
I wonder how many families are using garden food production to help them with their household budgets and keeping food on the table? A quick websearch found some amazing schemes for people without gardens to get access to land (look at the Landshare project for example).
Growing your own veg is hot news. Flat-dwellers can grow vegetables in containers and up walls, or on their balconies. Anyone can grow micro-greens on a kitchen windowsill. Mark Ridsdill Smith set himself the challenge of growing £500 of food in a year without a garden. He beat his target by a long way - he managed to grow £899 worth of food!
In the Genus garden, we always produce much more than we can eat. And it's sometimes difficult to harvest at exactly the right time so we end up with veg that is past its best. But nothing gets wasted and in our garage is an enormous chest freezer full up with at least twenty different types of soup, containers of stewed fruit and carefully packed portions of vegetables.
The next project is egg-laying chickens. I can't wait.
How many times have you moaned about not having enough time to do all the jobs in the garden? You have a few hours, but you still can’t manage to finish everything. And the garden waits for no-one.
As the biblical poem goes, to everything there is a season, and if you miss the time for planting or reaping, you have to wait another year.
I recently discovered the Helpx website. HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience.
The first HelpXers I had came in October last year. Yong and Leelee, a married couple from Borneo, stayed with me for two weeks. Yong had never used a splitting maul before, but still managed to split almost 10 tonnes of Norway spruce that had succumbed to green aphid disease. Leelee stacked the logs into an enormous mountain and she also worked in the vegetable garden.
This March, another couple, this time from Hong Kong, spent a week at Field Cottage. Danny and Jess had never worked outside before, but put all their energy into preparing the garden for new planting. At the same time, Gail a 70 year old HelpXer from Florida worked on a large shed that had just been erected. In less than two weeks, he managed to weatherproof it inside and out, as well as tackling some of the heavier jobs around the garden.
Apart from the fantastic help these visitors provide, it is also great fun to host them.
Now that the gardening season is starting to hot up, I am organizing my next round of HelpXers. If you need extra hands in the garden this summer, why don’t you try HelpX?
One of our customers from the United States told us that she regularly uses a hori hori knife. I don't know anyone here in the UK who uses one, but I thought I'd like to try it. So after a little research I found a British company that imports them from Japan.
The hori hori is a Japanese weeding knife used for digging and cutting. The blade is sharp on both edges with one edge serrated for cutting through roots. One side of the knife is slightly concave, like a sort of flattish narrow trowel and other side is marked with centimetre measures.
It's quite a long knife, about 30cm, with a heavy wooden handle. It comes in a smart leather scabbard with Japanese lettering on it.
It's great to use and quite a different experience from any of our usual tools. It is so brilliantly multi-functional - this one tool can dig, cut, weed, transplant, split perennials, plant bulbs and even substitute for a small axe.
You only need your secateurs and a hori hori and you're ready for anything in the garden.
Yes, we know most of you wear old clothes for gardening. That’s because, until now, there hasn’t been a range of clothing specially designed for gardeners.
We get so attached to our old clothes that sometimes it’s difficult to prise them off. But let us help.
Email us a photograph of one old garment that you’ve been using for gardening, along with a sentence or two about it. You might, for example, want to sing its praises, curse its shortcomings or grieve its passing on.
In return we’ll add you to our mailing list so you'll have the chance of winning two tickets for Chelsea Flower Show.