by Jan Holben
Over the 2020 Covid months many of us have gotten more intimately involved with our own garden. Instead of holidaying abroad, we have been; potting on, trimming hedges, growing vegetables and perhaps even landscaping the whole garden. For some this will have been a re-discovered pleasure, for others, like my neighbours who grow vegetables in the front garden, it will be ‘business as usual’. 2020 perhaps brought the realisation that shopping local for fresh produce is best for keeping local businesses afloat, and growing it yourself is even better for health and mental well-being too.
To support the ‘grow your own’ movement and to promote a number of excellent local voluntary groups which are already doing this – I spend some of my lock-down hours creating a new website – and GrowShepway was born (at www.growshepway.uk).
The GrowShepway.uk website brings together information about ‘grow your own’ or community gardening projects, updates from local beekeepers and Incredible Edibles (similar to guerilla gardening, in that they grow vegetables just about anywhere). The website also includes details about Allotments, Farmers Markets and Farm Shops along with dates for Gleaning, Foraging, Gardening Shows, Slow Gin competitions and so on. And for those who want to learn more about these topics there will be details of Foraging and Wildlife training sessions when they are available.
There is lots of research about the benefits of the growing, eating and buying local produce movement, including;
How allotments and ‘growing your own’ helped Brits survive two World Wars – The grow your own veg campaign was set up to try to get the public to transform their garden spaces into vegetable plots. Its aim was to replace imported food with locally grown produce in a bid to free up shipping space for more valuable war materials, and also replace goods that were sunk in transit. The public parks in cities were transformed into allotments, while even the lawns outside the Tower of London became vegetable patches. The campaign proved to be a roaring success, with it estimated that home gardens were producing over one million tonnes of produce by 1943
It has often been said that British people were better fed during wartime food rationing than before the war years. Infant mortality rates reduced, and the average age at which people died from natural causes increased. Everyone played their part. Women joined ‘The Land Girls’, Men ‘The Home Guard’ and everyone else was urged to dig up the flower beds and plant vegetables. Some formed their own little communities, sharing and bartering their vegetables, ensuring a reasonably healthy diet.
Goodness only knows what 2021 will bring, we all hope that the new vaccinations will do the job and life will gradually return to ‘normal’. Hopefully the new ‘normal’ means that where possible we are all outdoors more. And even if you do not have a garden, you can perhaps plant a window box or big flowerpot and let a little nature into your life.
Also printed in The Looker (thelooker.co.uk)