The benefits of growing your own vegetables – health and savings

Taking care of an allotment is excellent exercise.
Taking care of an allotment is excellent exercise.

It’s National Allotments Week with the aim of encouraging more people to grow their own food.

Backed by the National Allotment Society (NAS), the focus is to share the joy of gardening wherever you have space – on balconies, in pots and back yards – and eventually take on an allotment.

Growing your own food is good for your health.

Growing your own food is good for your health.

Renting an allotment means you can grow crops like potatoes, onions, sweetcorn in quantity but you can grow food in small spaces, or as part of an ornamental garden.
Runner and French beans have white, red, purple and yellow flowers and as they grow vertically, don’t take up much ground space.

Most salad ingredients are easy to grow in pots, especially cut-and-come-again lettuce, which needs a semi-shady spot in summer.

Culinary herbs can be grown in pots by the door and rosemary or lavender can make a low hedge.

Strawberries look attractive and produce fruit in a hanging basket or trough if kept well-watered.

Save money by growing your own.

Save money by growing your own.

Small fruit trees on dwarfing rootstock are a productive and pretty addition to any garden and, if kept in pots, can be transferred to an allotment.

The NAS’s horticultural expert Mike Thurlow says that this summer’s heatwave has reduced aphid numbers, sending slugs underground and giving earlier crops.

The NAS aims to protect, promote and preserve allotments and this is what you can do to help:

Allotment associations: protect your site, register as a community asset.

Allotment federations: keep allotments in the public eye, make sure they are mentioned in the Local Plan and lobby your councillors and MPs.

Councils: preserve and value your allotment service – it has the potential to deliver some of your public health targets.

Plot holders: join the NAS and support your regional network to promote the movement.

Aspiring plot-holders: do not be put off by the thought of a long wait – sign up for a plot now; without waiting lists, allotment authorities cannot assess demand.

For more information on the week, which ends on Sunday, visit https://www.nsalg.org.uk/news-events-campaigns/national-allotments-week/

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JOBS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Don’t cut off the flower heads of ornamental grasses. These will give winter interest.

Sow hardy annuals directly into borders. They will overwinter and flower next summer.

Propagate perennials by dividing once they have finished flowering, but only in areas with some rain and duller weather, to avoid drying out problems.

Don’t be worried by bright green, heavily armoured looking insects on your plants – these are harmless shield bugs which do not need control.

Get in qualified tree surgeons to remove large shrubs and trees that were casualties of winter waterlogging and summer drought. Remove stumps wherever possible, as rots could spread to other plants.

Ventilate conservatories to their maximum to prevent soaring temperatures. Use shading if necessary. Damp down greenhouses on hot days to maintain humidity levels.

Clearing out fallen leaves and debris regularly from ponds will help to keep down algal growth, as there will be fewer nutrients available from rotting organic matter. Barley straw pads or extract may also be beneficial.

Remove and destroy any Nicotiana showing signs of downy mildew. This shows up as yellowish blotches on the upper surface of the leaves.