An Introduction to Growing Your Own Food and Working Full-Time

You’ve finished work for the day, you’re on your way home and you suddenly realise that you have no food in your cupboards. Heading to the local shop, you pick up the easiest stuff that you can find. Tins of beans, instant noodles and ready meals fill your basket week in and week out. If you’re feeling a little more gourmet, in goes the pasta sauce. But you want to live healthily and you see those garden programmes and all of the people on them look so happy.

In your dreams, right?

What we would’ve considered to be the normal way of life even within the last century has become something of a “hobby”, or the Good Life. That essential life skill of finding and growing our own food isn’t needed anymore what with supermarkets and fastfood chains. Yet, what we find in supermarket foods – sugar, salt, fat and more fat – hardly does us any good. We’re not meant to eat such processed meals, and the environmental impact of mass production is another problem altogether. With more and more mouths to feed, our food is becoming less nutritious and more expensive. Yet, it’s all well and good me preaching this to you. The reality is that you have a 40 hour a week job and not much time in between. Why would you want to grow your own food?

It’s not as complicated as you might think. Like anything, you can go as deep as you like with gardening and those who do sometimes alienate the rest of us. What’s important to remember is that most of it is unnecessary for the average grower. Even I don’t have the time to do half the stuff that others do. And you probably struggle finding the time to tie your own shoelaces, let alone reading up on all that there is to read on starting an allotment. But by following some simple steps and bringing little veggie additions to your patio, balcony, windowsill or room, you can improve your food and your wellbeing immensely.

Every week, I’ll be bringing you a new little guide to help you become a boss at growing delicious food, whilst still managing your 9 to 5. If you’ve tried it and failed before, I’m here to motivate you. If you’ve never done it, but something’s switching you on – I’m going to help you achieve it. All you need is a pot, some compost, a plant and about fifteen minutes of your life a week.

Now, I won’t take up any more of your time. Next week, we’ll be looking at setting up your quick and easy garden. Stay tuned for the first of my guides!

 

Small Space Garden Episode 2 | Sowing Tomatoes and Peppers

Last week I created a small bed, this week I’m sowing tomatoes and peppers.

The Small Space Garden series continues. This time, I’m looking at sowing some late tomatoes and peppers ready for containers in the garden.

Tomatoes and peppers are fantastic little plants for limited spaces and you’ll get rewarding crops at the end of it all too. It might be easy picking up that pack of peppers or those vine tomatoes, but you’ll never get the same flavour as you do by growing your own. Follow me and join in on this fun growing adventure.

If you haven’t seen Episode One, you can watch it here.

Happy planting

Small Space Garden | Episode 1 – Building A Small Raised Bed

I’m 27 and I have a great passion for growing food. For five years I’ve been on a journey to learn about how I can get more colour, flavour and excitement into my meals. From allotments to balconies and windowsills, I’ve grown in a variety of spaces. Now, I want to share what I’ve learnt with you.

In towns and cities, space is becoming increasingly hard to come by. If you’re interested in growing your own food, but you rent a home, you don’t have a garden or you just don’t have the hours to commit, the idea of growing your own food might seem impossible.

I have great news for you though: you only need a windowsill, a balcony or a small raised bed to grow some delicious crops. In my new series, I’m going to show you exactly how you can get the most out of growing your own food in a small space.

In the first episode of the Small Space Garden, I’m building the small raised bed that I’ll be using for the project. All you need is some thick material to keep the bed together, compost, food scraps, woodchip or dead leaves and you can turn your small or paved garden into a fresh food feast.

Check out Episode One, below:

Setting Up A Greenhouse Without the Cost

A few weeks ago I took a risk. Indtead of following sense and investing in an expensive but reliable glass, I decided to buy myself a cheap £30 model from Wilko. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps I have gone mad if I think that I can keep a plastic sheet and frame up against the wind on my exposed allotment site. Yet, £30 is a bargain against the £250+ that I would be expecting to pay for a sturdy greenhouse or polytunnel. Even a self-build polytunnel is a lot of time, energy and money – especially if you want the plastic sheet to keep the space warm.

Even as I pressed the order button, I was doubting my own competence. Surely a cheap plastic greenhouse like the one I’d ordered wouldn’t last more than a day on a windy allotment site?

Well, three weeks on from setting up the greenhouse, I can confidently say that it’s managed to stay up. Of course, it’s still too early in the year to tell whether the model will keep up throughout the rest of the growing season. However, £30 is still a massive saving on the expensive rates needed to buy a new frame, or the time and energy and transport needed to move a “free” model from a Gumtree advertiser’s home.

What kind of magic have I used to keep something so cheap up against the torrents of wind? Read on to find out more:

Dig Your Greenhouse In

Now, by digging in I don’t mean bury it like a plant. What I mean is measure out the space needed to fit in the base and dig down to around a spade’s depth. Once you’ve set up the greenhouse, slot this into the space. The ground on all four sides will both stop the wind from getting under the frame and lifting the greenhouse up. The ground will also be pushing the sides in.

Cover the Base, Push in the Sides

Once you’ve firmly placed the greenhouse inside the space, it’s also a good idea to get some woodchip or gravel and run a layer of it over the top of the base to secure it even further.

In addition to this, you could do what I’ve done and dig two wooden crates or supports into the ground either side of the greenhouse. This will add to the structure of the frame and stop the wind from getting anywhere vulnerable.

Reinforce Those Joins

More often than not, the problem with plastic greenhouses has been the poles coming out of their joins, causing the entire frame to fall in on itself. To stop this, I’ve reinforced all of the greenhouse’s joins with strong camping tape to keep everything in place. Alternatively, you could use any kind of strong tape to keep everything together. This is an important step, because the tape will also ensure that the frame has structure.

Follow all of these steps and you should hopefully have a greenhouse that also stays up. Just to give you an idea of how windy my allotment site is, even the strongest plastic polytunnels can suffer at the hands of the harsh gales. These thrifty ideas will give you that warm and sheltered growing space to start off some healthy vegetables this year at a fraction of the cost, time and energy needed to build a greenhouse or polytunnel.

Bloggers Event with The Chocolate Bear Kitchen and Strawberry Thief, Bristol

Bristol has so much to offer you, the adventurous eater. Yet, whilst many will offer exciting and interesting menus – nothing quite compares to the innovation, the passion and the flavour of the Chocolate Bear in his current residence at the Strawberry Thief in Bristol.

James’s menu is bursting with inspiration. All of the food featured is friendly for vegans, vegetarians, gluten free and dairy free diets. Each dish has been paired beautifully with the Strawnberry Thief’s range of carefully chosen Belgian beers. Whether you’re a regular adventurer or you want to try something different, together, the passionate food and the palette of smooth, fruity, hoppy and dark beers will leave your taste buds reinvigorated.

See my video below for a taster of what you can expect:

How to Grow Chillies Without a Lot of Space

Whenever I get into a conversation about growing food with one of my friends the most common reason for them not attempting to have a go is because of a lack of space. Now, as many of you are aware, my mission in life is to prove to everyone, no matter what you do or how much time you can spare, that growing your own food is actually very achievable.

So I started the Grow Your Own Food Challenge. The aim of the challenge is to show you all from seed through to meal that, garden, balcony or windowsill, there are still plenty of options available to you.

I’ll be posting videos and hashtagging #seedsaturday and #seedsunday every time I sow a new plants or share an update on the plants I’ll be growing this year.

Last weekend, I started my first batch of chilli seedlings. You can see the video below. Remember, if you’re new to this or you know someone who wants to grow their own food, make sure you follow my Facebook page for more information.

The Grow Your Own Food Challenge Begins

The Grow Your Own Food Challenge begins

Yes, it’s finally here. Spring is only just around the corner and the chance to save money, introduce fantastic flavour and live a healthier lifestyle are all within your grasp. I’ve created a little introduction which can find below:

I’m challenging all of you who are reading this now to have a go at growing at least one edible plant this year. Here on my blog and on Facebook and Twitter, I’ll be posting daily sowing updates and videos, hints and tips, recipes and more to encourage you all to have a go yourselves. You don’t need a garden, you don’t even need an outside space – a windowsill is often enough to grow some delicious salads.

I don’t just want to witter on to you for 6 months though – this is a conversation that all of us can join in and come away from feeling inspired. So share your pictures, ask questions and get growing!

Let’s start this growing revolution!

youngground reviews: The Royal Navy Volunteer

You don’t need a lot of money to have a great foody time. By putting down the lunchtime meal deal and making your own food throughout the week, the weekend can be the time that you truly indulge yourself on some fine food.

Being a vegetarian, it’s a given that I only review the alternative options on menus. However, I should say that I do sit down to eat with many meat-lovers and pay close attention to their satisfaction of the meal too. Even so, I often find that a restaurant can be measured well on the innovation and the inspiration behind its alternative dishes.

Continuing my exciting (but affordable) culinary journey through Bristol and beyond, this week I’m reviewing the brilliant Sunday lunch menu at the Royal Navy Volunteer, located along the timeless King Street in Bristol.

If you’re an experienced Bristolian, or you visit regularly, you’ll know that the city is full of innovative, inspiring and beautiful food. Every corner holds a new foody treasure and King Street is no exception.

As soon as you arrive into the Royal Navy Volunteer you get a sense of true pub authenticity. The Volley’s interior is deceptively large: each little corner is full of life – and this is particularly true on a Sunday. Across Bristol, people arrive at the quaint pub to sample its roasts. They know as I, too, found out that the pub’s roast has garnered quite a reputation.

As a vegetarian, I often judge the quality of a menu on its options. Although I’m quite satisfied with a spread of vegetables, I do enjoy something a little more filling to compliment them. The Volley menu did not disappoint on this occasion, and I chose the intriguing option of a lentil roast served with the classic trimmings.  My Sunday lunch buddy, who is 100% carnivore, chose the lamb roast.

I felt a very strange sensation when the food arrived, one that I haven’t felt for quite some time. More often than not, when I go for a roast I find that the plate can often lack the colours and the flavours of its meat counterpart. Yet, here I was presented with food that filled, and almost spilled, off of the plate. More importantly, the entire thing was soaked in a rich gravy; something that many other vegetarian roasts miss.

Then, with knife and fork in hand, another strange-but-brilliant sensation overcame me: I was lost in this bounty of delicious food and had no clue where to start. However, once I’d worked out that the crispy potatoes would be my first destination, I devoured them quickly. Roast potatoes are easy to make but difficult to make well. As I crunched my way through the crisp, beautifully textured skins and into the glorious fluffy middles, I felt complete.

Looking over at my Sunday lunch buddy’s choice, the lamb roast itself was so large that it could’ve been put on its own plate. Again, the bed of vegetables was cooked to perfection and the whole thing looked straight out of an advert.

Onto the vegetarian lentil roast, and the passion that had gone into creating this soft, meaty, wonderfully flavoured meal won me over immediately. In fact, every element from the spongy Yorkshire pudding to the freshly steamed kale and the depth of flavours noted in the gravy created a meal that truly celebrated the end of the week.

The Royal Navy Volunteer isn’t just an innovative restaurant, of course. As a rustic and authentic pub, the Volunteer celebrates the Bristol craft ale scene, offering a wide selection of different beers which round off any roast or other meal perfectly. I enjoyed a dark porter with my food. With this palette of hops combined with the smoky flavours of the lentils and the rich gravy, I had a few moments in food heaven.

If you really want to round off your week with a Sunday roast, I urge you to pay The Royal Navy Volunteer a visit. Sit yourself down in the warm, immerse yourself in the food and forget about the working week ahead.

4 Benefits of Growing Your Own Edible Plants

As most of you already know, I’m on a mission. It’s quite a small mission; to get all of you growing your own. This isn’t a blog about how to get the biggest pumpkin or how to neaten your flower beds. No. This blog is about growing nice and easy food, cooking that food into delicious recipes and then making you realise that by doing so, you’re suddenly part of your own revolution.

This year, I’m running a Grow Your Own Food Challenge for all of you to get involved in.  All you need is one happy plant and you can benefit in so many fantastic ways.

See my blog on getting started in the Grow Your Own Food Challenge, here.

In anticipation for the new growing season and my challenge, here are 4 Benefits of Growing Your Own Edible Plant.

1 – The Environment

You don’t really think about it when you go into your local supermarket, but because pretty much all of our food is imported from Europe and further away it’s all making an impact on global warming. Whilst we all love a banana, by growing a chilli plant, tomato plant or a fruit tree – you’ll be cutting that mileage and lowering your carbon footprint in the process. By growing your own, you’ll also be helping these guys out, too:

2 – Health

If you grow your own you’ll be living a healthier lifestyle. From experience, fruits and vegetables are better picked fresh and not sold to you after several days of travel. As well as tasting richer, home-grown tomatoes and other vegetables are jam-packed with more nutrients. In addition to this, by introducing fresh tomatoes, peppers and salads into your diet you will find that you’re shopping less (meaning less temptation to buy sweets and other naughty things) and you’re cooking your own delicious meals more often too.

3 – Variety

Variety is a huge benefit to growing your own. Why should we let supermarkets dictate what we can and can’t have on our plates? From black tomatoes to knobbly pumpkins – there are a huge range of exciting, quirky and flavour-bursting vegetables out there. There’s nothing better than the smug feeling you get when you cook and create with vegetables unknown to most people.

4 – Money

Of course, by growing chillies, tomatoes or peppers you can save money too. One tomato plant could give you £5 back, and you may find even more savings by growing your own chillies and garlic through the year. The savings do vary; yet, with rising food prices, doing the growing yourself makes so much sense.

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The Grow Your Own Food Challenge starts in February, so stay tuned. What are you looking forward to growing this year? Is this your first go? I’d love to hear from you – why not connect with me on Facebook or Twitter

How to Grow Salads Without a Lot of Space

Want to grow your own food but you haven’t got a garden? You don’t need one.

Behold the windowsill garden plan:

Continue reading How to Grow Salads Without a Lot of Space