I read an article yesterday in The Telegraph that said, the farming minister, David Heath, is urging families to grow more of their own fruit and vegetables in order to cope with a potential crisis caused by adverse weather conditions, disease and slug invasions damaging the crops and causing a food shortage. Mr Heath said “With an increasing population, increasing demand not just in this country but across the world, we are going to have to increase food production.” He also added, “Once we used to ‘dig for victory’. There may come a time soon when we need to ‘dig for survival’.” This is quite an alarming statement but something that is not totally unexpected. He then went on to say “We made a huge mistake a few years ago when the idea got around that we didn’t need to produce in the agricultural sector any more, that we would be able to buy our way through whatever was necessary to feed the country". Quite clearly, there is a food crisis potentially looming on the horizon. Food prices in general, not just fruit and veg, have been on the increase for quite a while and increasingly, more and more people are growing their own veg and keeping a couple of chickens for eggs in their back garden.
Now, I will confess up front, I'm not very good at growing veg. My intentions are good but in practice, my veg growing expertise is still very basic. My mum is an absolute whizz at it. She uses a few raised beds and some big pots and planters for her spuds and cabbages and things and it's amazing ........ everything she plants seems to sprout and grow like mad and she absolutely loves eating what she grows (particularly her delicious pickled beetroot!). I am, quite frankly, terrible. I hardly ever actually eat the veg that I grow. Either I forget to pick it and the slugs get it or I pick it and never get around to using it. Appalling, I know ....... but this year, I am utterly determined to grow and eat as much of my own produce as I possibly can. The price of fruit and vegetables has increased so much in recent months that quite frankly, it's the only way I am going to be able to afford to eat as much veg as I want without it costing an arm and a leg.
Last year, some of my most successful veg was grown in wooden crates from my local veg shop, which they give away for free to anyone who wants them. Lined with black plastic sacks, they were ideal for growing lettuces and cut and come again salad leaves because I could keep them off the ground on my potting bench and it made it harder for the slugs to get at them.
This year, I'm also going to be trying this. It's a shoe rack, the kind that hangs on the back of the door. I plan to fill each pocket with soil and sprinkle one portion of cut and come again salad leaves in each pocket so when they are ready, I can work my way down the pockets cutting one portion at a time and by the time I get to the bottom, the ones at the top will be ready to cut again :-) Again, it has the added bonus of keeping the slugs well away from the plants.
I can't wait to get started. I have gathered together a fabulous collection of seeds, some from Trago Mills, my local cheap-as-chips store for 49p per packet and some from a fabulous gardening hamper which was a birthday present from my daughter and all I need now is a couple of rain-free, preferably sunny, days so I can get outside onto the garden and this year's veg crop will finally be under way.
Add to this the fact that I now have my chicken house and hopefully, very soon, 3 lovely chickens to go in it and I will be well on my way to being a bit more Tom and Barbara and a little less Margot and Jerry.