Top of the crops – becoming self-sufficient

An ideal for many people is to become self-sufficient. Living ‘the good life’, with an environmentally-friendly ‘grow-your-own’ food mentality, is now perhaps more relevant today than ever before. The idea that people can use their outdoor space to sustain their own produce is appealing, as many of us have gardens or other external areas that can be put to good use in interesting, cost-efficient and productive ways.

Self-sufficient – growing your own fruit and veg

Perhaps the most enjoyable and rewarding garden activity – aside from reclining on a sun lounger – is growing your own food. As we approach autumn, traditionally associated with gathering the crops and harvesting, it’s a good time to think about how next year you could be growing something yourself in your own garden. We’re not a Mediterranean country and our climate may be a bit too northern for many of the more exotic fruit and veg we’ve become used to seeing all year around on supermarket shelves, but there’s still an extensive range of options when it comes to UK growers who want to be a little self-sufficient.

Big ideas for small spaces

The extent to which you can embark on being self-sufficient by growing in your garden is obviously dependent on available space. Some new-build properties maximise the use of land on interiors and keep the outdoor areas to the minimum for low maintenance purposes. However, even in a relatively confined enclosure, just about anything can be grown on some scale – for example, in pots, tubs or in borders – as long as it gets some sunshine. Some plants obviously need more room to grow than others. Potatoes, with their bushy leaves and clusters of underground spuds, require space for each plant, while runner beans may not require much in land area, but can grow up canes vertically over six feet high.

Good candidates for borders or fences are bushy fruits, such as blackberries or gooseberries, while there are many smaller veg plants – peas, carrots or sprouts – that can be used to fill-out border areas, or sunny corners. Salad vegetables such as lettuce, onions, shallots, radish and tomatoes are ideal accompaniments to mealtimes and relatively easy to grow in your garden. And a greenhouse can offer improved growing conditions and a better climate, if you’ve got enough room to put one up.    

Another option is orchard crops. Apple, pear and plum trees are all easily cultivated in the UK and depending on their size (and the weather next year) can bear quite a crop of fruit. Gone are the days of a herb garden or cress being the limit to which urban gardeners can aspire, with a range of imaginative planters available at garden centres or DIY shops.

Plant your garden imaginatively, to make it a space that you can still enjoy, while watching parts of it flourish into your next salad.  Country or urban, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have space of some kind and the patience that it takes to grow your own and enjoy your own ‘good life’.