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Homegrown veggies made easy
Blame it on fashion, blame it on the economy – whatever the reason, growing your own plants and veg has never been more popular.
A recent survey by Which?
Magazine revealed that just under a quarter of the people surveyed now choose to grow their own, while in 2009, expenditure on gardening products jumped 10% – outperforming all other retail spending.
Celebrity gardener Pippa Greenwood is among those making the most of the boom with a new range of plants and seeds that come with weekly emails from Greenwood to encourage and advise even the most amateur gardener.
“Grow-your-own has seen a massive boom over the past few years and, like all good trends, it hasn’t crashed,” says the Gardener’s Question Time panellist and BBC Gardener’s World columnist.
“More and more people are joining in because if you grow the right things and you grow them adequately well, it makes a lot of sense economically.
It is also fundamentally important and it’s good fun.”
Greenwood’s range, launched in conjunction with garden product company Stewarts, features 12 different vegetables, sent out to customers as garden-ready plants. Gardeners are helped at every stage of the growing process by weekly email bulletins that relate to their plants.
“I talk them through the whole process, from soil preparation through to pinching the plants out, staking them, feeding them, the bugs to watch out for, right through to the point of harvest, so you get the best and tastiest results.
“Because I grow the same set of plants at home, I really know what’s happening with the crop. I want people to succeed because if you succeed, it not only takes you less time in the future but you also want to do it again and you get better results so it’s a better economic situation. If you buy plants and don’t get much from them, then it’s bad value.”
Her emails won’t always contain glad tidings, she warns. There are times when adverse weather conditions affect crops – last year’s disastrous squash was a case in point – and the results might not be as hoped.
“But I think it’s important to be honest with people. I make a point of saying if something isn’t going well because if you’re doing something for first time and it’s not working, you feel bad and think it’s you and often, that isn’t the case.
Gardening’s like everything else in life – you have ups and downs and that’s just how it is.”
More often than not, however, gardening can prove thrilling and delightful, Greenwood says.
“It’s full of excitement and challenges because it’s a living thing. It’s like a relationship with a human – full of twists and turns.
She advises potential or first-time gardeners just to get stuck in. “It doesn’t matter what you start with as long as you start. For those who are new to grow-your-own, I’d say start with easy things like growing a few rows of carrots, spinach or lettuce – the sort of things you’d be mad to buy as plants. If you have a sunny Sussex garden you can also grow an outdoor pepper and maybe even some chillies.
They’re not fundamentally any harder than tomatoes.”
Lack of a garden shouldn’t be a deterrent either, she says.
“People grow an amazing amount of crops in containers now. I did a test for my new range using friends who were either non-gardeners or were gardeners but had never ventured into veg. Everyone was made to grow everything and one friend insisted on growing everything but the sweetcorn in containers and she was very successful, so now my emails also contain advice on container-growing.”
Trained as a botanist, Greenwood went on to work at The Royal Horticultural Society in Surrey, where she ran the Plant Pathology Department.
She began working for the BBC in 1988 and went on to become a regular presenter on BBC Two’s Gardener’s World.
She is a regular panellist on Gardener’s Question Time and writes a blog for the Gardener’s World website. She has written a range of books, the latest of which came out in March.
The Gardener’s Calendar is a pocket-sized book she describes as a collection of “seasonal nudges” reminding gardeners what to do when.
Greenwood is currently touring the UK to promote the benefits of grow-your-own and arrives at the Garden Pride garden centre in Ditchling at 11am on May 13 where she will talk about good varieties to grow, how to raise plants from seed and planting up containers to look and taste good.
* For more information on the event at Ditchling call 01273 846844 or visit www.garden-pride.com.
* The Gardener’s Calendar is out now, published by Summersdale, priced £8.99.