If you have children and can introduce them to gardening, and in particular the growing vegetables side, you may well be lucky enough to engender a lifetime interest. The vegetable-averse youngster is likely to suddenly become interested in eating his/her own produce. A benefit all round – no more nagging at mealtimes and their health will improve.
The author’s lifetime interest comes from a small patch of garden, allocated at school to first year pupils, leading to her taking over her parent’s garden with amazing results; eventually on to running a small-holding. Who was it that said - great oaks from little acorns grow?
Children will need to be introduced to quick growing, spectacular plants, and the marrow family is one of the best for this purpose. Children will need to give their marrow/courgette plants plenty of water. When you cook the marrow, stuff it with something tasty such as sausage meat.
Another favourite with children is runner beans. These are again spectacular – Jack-in-the-Beanstalk effect and taste delicious when small and eaten direct from the plant. Tomatoes are also a favourite. Pumpkins are another spectacular plant that is also bound to appeal.
Gardening is not the No.1 British past-time, but certainly way up towards the top of the list and comes with many side benefits.
Doubtless we inherited the need to work with the soil from our very early ancestors when it was necessary to produce food to sustain the family and supplement the game, etc., that they were able to catch or trap.
Along the centuries this occupation has evolved. The Victorians were past masters at gardening. They invented many of the items that are still in use today, cloches, rhubarb forcers, magnificent glass-houses, cold frames etc. and they probably initiated hot dung clamps where items such as marrows, pumpkins and melons etc., were grown.
Today, more than ever and mainly from necessity people are returning to growing food. People have re-discovered the pleasure of eating freshly grown vegetables and fruit that has not been raised with the use of a mass of chemicals and has not travelled many hundreds of miles before reaching their plates. Therefore, fresher and tastier.
This keenness is bolstered by the fact that gardening can only be done ‘out-of-doors’ and away from the television and game consoles, all very definite advantages. The exception being the armchair gardener in bad winter weather studying seed catalogues for the coming spring planting season.
A lot of this new found interest has been kindled by the TV chefs who now almost nightly appear in our living rooms. Vegetable gardening has three over-riding advantages - the food is fresh, is very cheap and is tasty.
In towns, many people are so very keen to grow their own veg that they will even put their window boxes to good use for growing herbs and a few salad vegetables. Large pots on their balconies in order to increase their growing area. Those who are able rent out local council allotments and in many borough there is a waiting list for these. Unfortunately, some councils have succumbed to the lure of big money and sold old allotment sites to developers for additional housing.
If you are lucky enough to rent an allotment, there will doubtless be some old-timers already established on their plots, who have been growing vegetables since the year dot, who will normally be very pleased to give advice and the know how of their expertise and experience. Then there is the additional advantage of swapping surplus crops. Many group allotments become their own community centres, with everyone helping each other in all manner of ways. Some are even so well organised that they purchase tools, fertilizers, seeds etc., and pass them on to their members at minimal costs. What better than to be out in the fresh-air with your family and a good group of friends?
The demand for allotments is now increasing and if you cannot find an allotment to rent, don’t despair. Do you have any neighbours who are perhaps not as agile as they used to be, but own a large garden? Why not offer to cultivate part of their garden to grow vegetables offering them 50% of your crop free in return for use of their space? This way you will make new friends who will be very grateful to you for your work and kindness and you will have your freshly grown vegetables. A good way of bartering which will have other spin-offs.
This is another way of giving an unintended lesson in life to your children. Let them see that as well as growing vegetables for your own family you can also help others at the same time.
Another aspect of gardening to be considered is the money-saving side and so very important these days. So save money- eat well, keep fit. Three for the price of one.