Growing your own produce is a really healthy choice. Not only can you grow your own fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, but gardening also provides exercise and benefits your mental health. Getting outside, being active and feeling closer to nature can all boost your mood. Gardening can be a social booster too. Encouraging children to join in turns gardening or a trip to the allotment into a family activity. If you don’t have your own garden space and are unsure about taking on an allotment alone, communal allotmenting might be for you. Sharing an allotment with even one or two others makes it a more manageable commitment, giving greater flexibility in dealing with peak times of work or gluts of produce, as well as removing the issue of who’ll look after the watering if you go away. Some allotment societies have clubs and community plots, an ideal way to get into gardening and meeting people. In case you are just starting out, here’s the beginners guide to greenhouse growing.
Although the traditional favourites of cabbages and marrows might have dominated vegetable growing, the range of different varieties on offer has greatly increased, with unusual and exotic options readily available. Growing varieties not usually offered in the shops can be a fun challenge and a good way to engage kids with vegetable growing. For instance, carrots might be a stalwart of the veg patch, but you can now grow colourful heirloom varieties in purple, red and yellow; or spherical breeds, producing golf ball sized carrots. A greenhouse or polytunnel will further extend your options. Protection from frost will enable you to branch out into more unusual options, as well as enabling you to bring on other plants more quickly before planting out. A covered environment like this can enable you to grow some of the more tender varieties of tomato, as well as peppers, aubergines, courgettes and cucumbers. There are even some exotic fruits which can be grown unheated under cover, such as the ‘Outdoor wonder’ variety of melon. There are numerous polytunnel options available which will help get kids into gardening.
Even if you don’t have space for a greenhouse or full height polytunnel, smaller cover options are also available. Cold frames or mini-polytunnels can offer protection from frost and extreme weather on a smaller scale, enabling you to extend cropping seasons and bring on young plants before potting on or planting out. And polythene isn’t the only polytunnel option. Netted tunnels offer a good alternative to fruit cages, protecting soft fruit from pests or garden birds tempted by ripe berries. A few raspberry canes and a couple of currant bushes can provide with a good crop of this otherwise pricy produce, and children love helping to harvest the berries.