Today I was back in the studios at Spirit Radio in Bray, Co. Wicklow, to talk to Wendy. We had a great chat, as usual, this time about vegetable gardening in the back garden. Have you ever thought about growing your own veg? Do you know how wonderfully easy it is to grow your own fruit and veg in the back garden?
I was at an event organised by Bloom Fringe Dublin recently, and it really inspired me to get the message about vegetable gardening out there more. It's intricately linked with our nutrition, and there is a real revolution going on - people are going back to growing their own veg, joining groups that have allotments, buying on farmers markets, etc. It's going back to the roots, going away from plastic-wrapped veg back towards where our food comes from. If you have a minute, watch this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la He started growing fruit and veg on a sidewalk in his community in LA, and started a bit of a revolution. In LA, it's very much connected to bringing communities together, teaching people basic skills (all very disadvantaged areas), and pulling people out of addiction. There is a great project run by a local church that he supports, as well.
Questions: 1) We frequently hear of new farmers markets that are offering locally bought produce, our neighbours might be growing veg, maybe you have tried growing your own before. Just how popular is growing your own food?
- It has become very popular in recent years, the recession might have sparked it even more. People are realizing that they can easily, cheaply grow their own food. It's fun, it gives meaning to eating, it helps connect us back to the land, it makes us more aware of the food we eat, it grows communities (community gardens, re-juvenating waste areas in inner cities, or common areas in villages), it can teach children to care for plants and where food comes from (school gardens).
- I recently met w/ an old friend from Vancouver, where there are commercial operations renting people's front-lawn to dig up and grow vegetables for the local markets.
2) How much space do you need to start growing your own food? Are there many set-up costs? Do I absolutely have to have a greenhouse/polytunnel?
- You don't need a lot of space at all. You can start small. You can start w/ potatoes and courgettes in grow-bags which can be thrown out at the end of the season.
- You can build a box, about 1.5mxz3-5m in size, fill it w compost, and grow lettuces, beans, herbs.
- You can plant 3 apple trees, or dig up a flower bed for strawberries and raspberries.
- potatoes grow handily along a small ditch or path.
3) What types of vegetables and fruits can we grow in Ireland? How long is the growing season?
- the growing season can be short compared with other countries, we aim to have our seedlings sown (indoors) by mid March. Potatoes traditional get put into the ground on Paddy's Day. Outdoor sowing can commence from mid-March. Many crops are ready from June/July and harvesting continues until September/October which bumper crops then.
- all varieties of potatoes grow well. Beans, peas, carrots, parsnips, courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, lettuces, spinach, chard, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, onions ALL grow without much hassle outdoors in this climate.
- Apples, pears, raspberries, strawberries, figs, currants grow easily outdoors, for other soft fruit you will need a polytunnel.
4) I only have a balcony, can I grow anything in pots?
- Yes! You can start as small as you like. Tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes all happily grow in (well watered) pots on balconies. In fact, they will love that space. Herbs can be grown almost year-round in containers on a window sill or balcony. Beans will climb up any pole no matter where you plant them and don't need a lot of care. They will give you a continuous crop.
5) What is the inspiration of going back to growing our own food? What's the point when we can just buy everything relatively cheaply in the supermarket.
- People realize they are not using their garden's full potential. They realize it build community (inner city), it connects people back to the land. It is fun, it's a great hobby and can lead to prizes for the best vegetables at local shows. It is a great family activty, it saves money and it easy to do, it produces delicious food.
6) Is there a difference in quality between home-grown and shop-bought fresh food?
- I definetely think there is. My children happily eat freshly harvested broccoli and always moan a little at shop-bought one. B/c it's tastier (actually tastes sweet!), they grew it themselves (pride!) and b/c it genuinely behaves differently in cooking. Potatoes tastes completely different. All foods just have more taste, the cooking water is coloured upon draining.
7) Popular treats we can make from the garden: elderflower cordial/berries, grow raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, apples, peaches (inside), pears. Artichokes are a handy perennial (grow for many years), as are many herbs.