Home-growing is just for green-thumbs. It’s not for the likes of everyday people.
That is the prevailing narrative in the UK, with home-grown fruit and veg only contributing around 3% of the food we consume.
The health and environmental benefits of home-grown foods are well documented. Higher nutrient and antioxidant density, equivalent to eating up to 1–2 extra portions of fruit and veg a day, 100% organic, zero packaging or pesticides, and inevitably far fresher than anything lying on the shelf. That's even before food miles, agricultural deforestation, or the environmental cost of out-of-season food is taken into account.
So, why does 97% of the fruit and veg we consume come from outside our own homes or from community gardens?
It’s not due to budget. A tomato plant takes only 12 weeks from seed to harvest, and a single plant can produce fruit for 6 years: for regular tomato-eaters, that’s a £52 yearly saving (based on one box of tomatoes per week). For lettuce, it’s a similar story. One seed packet will provide 5 month’s worth of harvest, saving around £40 compared to its shelf counterpart. And curly kale? Taking only 6 weeks from seed to harvest, one seed packet will cost as much as your typical plastic bag. The difference is, that with a little sunlight and water, your seed packet will provide a garden’s worth rather than a week’s.
The Maintenance Myth
Apprehensions about home-growing can instead come from the idea that it’s difficult, a lot to manage, or that we simply don’t have time in our schedules.
At lowest-maintenance, you can simply plant an apple tree or a non-invasive blackberry bush for high yield every autumn. Maintenance only then moves up to year-round and rotational or seasonal crops.
- Start small. Delving into a 4 x 6m plot immediately can be overwhelming. But a couple herbs and a tomato plant on the windowsill? Not so much
- Spending time with nature can reduces stress. Instead of viewing watering a few plants as a ‘thing to do’, the best benefits come from picking up the watering can, and giving yourself a place to breathe
- Start to integrate the habit into your routine. Morning, evening, lunchtime, it doesn’t matter. Find your space, and make it your own
There are also plenty of beginner’s guides online to make sense of the ‘green-thumb madness’, from sowing and harvesting times to soil quality. St Andrews itself has a great community atmosphere to help get anyone started.
From Transition’s Edible Campus to The Kernel, St Andrews has a wealth of established community gardens. Open to anyone and welcome to everyone, they offer free harvest produce in exchange for help around the garden. Volunteer sessions are posted on Facebook, and typically run Weds 2–4pm. Here, complete beginners and experienced gardeners can get hands-on, from rotating crops to raking topsoil.
Transition is also open to the home-grower community. They run Seed Swaps to expand and add variety to your windowsill or garden, as well as harvest give-aways at the Botanical Garden. For less edible plants, the Green Corridors Project will also provide seeds for Fife-native plants to households along Lade Braes walk, to restore biodiversity to your garden and help bring our bees and wildlife back.
Community gardens, windowsill projects and fresh, organic lettuce leaves. From seed to sprout to harvest, home-growing is open to anyone.
It is, after all, not just for green-thumbs.