We at Bananoos like to grow as much as our own food as possible. Originally, after first working on the space at the back of the house euphemistically known as a garden, it was very difficult to get that much to grow successfully in the first year. We are now starting year 4 and in each year so far the percentage of home grown, fresh and completely organic food harvested from our rear garden has gone up and up. This year we are hoping that at least half of the food we consume will be sourced from our own efforts in our kitchen garden.
As ever, when we do these lists we can usually think of many other reasons for our recommendations as well, but for today let us concentrate on the 7 that we consider to be the most important:
1. It Allows You To Enjoy The Benefits Of The Fresh Is Best Lifestyle
In our experience, there is nothing quite like the flavour of freshly picked fruit and vegetables. As soon as any plant is harvested it begins to lose moisture and nutrients. As a general rule, the longer the supply change, the less fresh the food you eat is going to be. Given this, what could be better than getting the food straight out of your back garden and onto the plate within a matter of just a few minutes?
The difference in experience between eating something that has been transported halfway around the globe to arrive at your local supermarket wrapped in plastic and being able to pick produce fresh out of your own garden is not to be dismissed lightly. Eating fresh, wholesome, self-produced fruit and vegetable is a whole new eating experience and on a different level from shop bought food.
2. The Joy Of Nurturing Nature
One of the great satisfactions of growing your own food is the feeling of working with nature, rather than trying to subdue it. Kitchen gardening is a skill, a long-term learning experience which widens and deepens with each passing season as nature let’s you into more and more of her secrets. The trick is to work with nature, to listen to what she is trying to teach you. Kitchen gardening is a body of knowledge that grows along with the vegetables. Each garden is different, the soil, the location, the individual conditions so the would be kitchen gardener has to be sensitive to all these things and more. He or she has to work with nature to really bring the potential out of his or her kitchen garden.
3. Save An Absolute Fortune On Your Grocery Bills
At a time when the price of food has been going up and up in the UK our spend has been going in the opposite direction. As each year passes, the amount of produce that we consume from our kitchen garden just keeps on increasing. When we first started about four years back now we only got about 10 or 15 per cent of food directly from the garden. As each year has passed however, the amount of food we produce has increased drastically. Last year it was in the region of 40% and this year we are hoping to get more than half of our total intake either direct from the garden or from foraging (more of that in a later blog!).
We tend to spend very little on the garden, much prefering a make do and mend approach whereby we look to see what resources can be obtained locally (almost invariably for free) or how we can improvise to adapt what we already have. In this way the amount of money that goes into the garden is negligible, yet the amount of produce it returns just keeps on increasing year on year. Again, in this area, it is also best to work with nature. For example, we produce the vast majority of our own compost from locally sourced leaves, cuttings and cardboard. All our leftover food scraps also make their way to the compost bin. We even allow some of our plants to go to seed each year so we can collect them for sowing the next.
Using these techniques and others we have managed to produce a welter of food for next to nothing. This is, as you can well imagine, very satisfying.
4. It Allows You To Be More Self Sufficient And Independent
In these troubled times of sudden economic adversity and unforseeable political and social upheavals, it makes a lot of sense to cultivate a large degree of self-sufficiency and independence. As a general rule in life, we at Bananoos believe in a philosophy of taken responsibility for yourself and your life, so an attitude of self-sufficiency and independence very much suits our outlook.
Organic food is often thought of as a luxury, at least it is clearly sold at a premium price. Having the ability to grow your own high quality, completely organic food is a skill worth possessing. Past generations had to possess these skills but in our modern world of ‘convenience’ shopping most have lost touch altogether with how food is actually produced. Reconnecting with such abilities can ensure a level of independence to the vagaries of politics and economics and hence is to be encouraged.
5. Growing Your Own Food Will Very Likely Improve Your Family’s Health
Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits in growing your own fruit and veg is the beneficial effects that such healthy fayre can have on your family’s health. Producing your own completely organic food is perhaps one of the most important things that you can do for your family. Many aspects of the growing process are under your direct control, for example, you can decide exactly what goes into your soil and hence into your food. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides can be completely avoided, if you so desire (I do!).
The consumption of so much fresh fruit and veg more or less guarantees sufficient amounts of all the vital vitamins and minerals that your family need in order to stay healthy and happy. You can also, is you so choose, involve your children in the process. Gardening can be lots of fun and the kids are often only too pleased to participate. They can get their hands dirty with impunity and learn a skill that may serve them for the rest of their lives.
6. The Joys Of Creativity
Creating and maintaining a kitchen garden can be one of the most satisfying of pleasures, particularly if you allow your own creativity room for expression rather than just purchasing ready-made solutions from garden centres. In the last few years we have created hugel mounds, raised beds, a wildflower garden, garden arches, pea frames, various styles of compost bins, etc. etc. etc.
There is a certain almost paradoxical satisfaction to be gained from cobbling together something that is fit for purpose from whatever materials you can access locally. This renders the whole process far more fun, even if you do have to suffer the odd sideways glance from more conventional gardeners!
7. Nurturing Nature – Creating With The Environment
Watching a plant grow to fruition from a seed to fully grown under your care can be a very gratifying experience. To grow your own and your family’s food is one of the most fundamental and purposeful things that any person can do. So much of the lives we lead these days divorce us from the directness of the underlying reality. We go to work to earn money to pay for food that is to be stored at your local supermarket until you go along and exchange some of your hard earned for it. Growing your own food circumvents that whole process and gives you a far more direct relationship between your actions and the results that spring therefrom. You plant the seeds, grow the plant, pick the plant, cook it and consume it. It doesn’t get much more direct than this!
There is also a lovely sense of working with nature in all of this. No longer is nature something ‘out there’, mysterious and vaguely threatening. This is a direct, almost visceral experience of the reality of nature and of how you directly interact with it, be part of it, nurturing nature so that she can give of her best and, by doing so, nourish you and your family!