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Thinking of going homegrown but have no garden to speak of? Here are your options...

Without wanting to sound like your gran, the simple shift from shop-bought to homegrown fruit, veg and herbs can make a difference to your health, your pocket, your cooking and Mother Nature. 

From veg patch to plate in minutes, there are no food miles involved, which is great for the environment and means you aren’t paying towards transport costs. It also means you get the full-whack of nutrients, with no pesticides to worry about.

Plus, there’s just something so ‘Earth Mother’ about it. “There is nothing like going out of your back door or onto your balcony to cut fresh herbs for your cooking,” says Kerstin Rodgers, the ‘cooking half’ of grow your own gurus The Secret Garden Club.

“Gone are the days when we keep musty dried parsley in outdated spice racks. Plus, garden-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs lend vibrancy, colour and flavour to your cooking.”

But I live in a flat…

“Don’t assume you have to have a garden. Most veg and lots of fruit too will grow in a pot, on a balcony, or even on a windowsill if necessary,” explains SGC’s green-fingered half, Christina Erskine.

“If you have to grow in pots, be creative: old oil drums, veg crates from your local greengrocer, old chimney pots … lots of containers can be recycled to grow vegetables. The important thing to remember is to punch or drill holes in the bottom so that excess water can drain out and they don’t get waterlogged.” 

Deputy chair and granddaughter to the founder of Squire’s Garden Centre, Sarah Squire, agrees: “Many vegetables can be grown in pots, including potatoes – you will need a deep container for these – tomatoes, courgettes and beans. Salad crops and herbs are ideal in a window box.” 

Just make sure you put the pots in a sunny spot and, if they are outside on the balcony, make sure they are out of the wind. “Better to have a spot that gets the sun only part of the day so long as it’s out of the wind,” Erskine advises. “Put up a windbreak of some kind if necessary.”

Growing in pots does mean you won’t be able to cultivate as much of a variety, but it is easily the most convenient option – the concept of digging up fresh veg for your dinner suddenly loses its appeal if you have a muddy half-mile trudge to your allotment.

Allotments

You can try to get an allotment, but waiting lists can be very long – in most cases more than a year. To register, you’ll need to contact your local council or the council of the borough the allotment you have your eye on is governed by (find your nearest available block by typing in your postcode at london.gov.uk/allotment/map). If you are successful, you can expect to pay around £100 a year and you will need to sign a tenancy agreement for the site.

The great advantage of renting an allotment is you can put some real time into your cultivation. “While most vegetables are grown on an annual basis, you might also like to consider a bed for your permanent planting,” Squire says. “Raspberries, currants, blueberries, gooseberries and so on are a long-term project. Rhubarb and asparagus also need a permanent spot and some patience.”

 

 


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Grow your own garden: From allotments to pot plants, how to grow fruit and veg in London
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