gather your spades

As the days lengthen and temperatures rise, the gardeners amongst you will be getting the urge to sow, dig and plant. This spring our co-op of growers and associated farmers will plant over 2 million plants, 100 million seeds and 100 tons of seed potatoes in a bid to keep your boxes filled over the coming year. Whether growing in a window box or a huge field the principles are the same, so once more we are offering some of those seeds and plants, plus a little advice, in the form of the Riverford ‘boxes to grow’.

Some of our staff suggest that equipping customers to grow their own veg is tantamount to commercial suicide. I am of a mind that if you had the inclination and the space you were probably going to have a go anyway. I am also a firm believer that having tasted the real thing there will be no going back to the seasonless, fantasy veg wrapped in cling film and found at a supermarket near you.

According to national statistics, we grow about 3% of the vegetables we eat ourselves. In recent years the effort and cash expended on growing veg has increased massively, but seemingly the quantity produced has not. I am guessing this is down to a lack of skills and experience so my advice to anyone new to the game is to keep it small and simple in your first year. It’s easy to get carried away ordering seeds and plants in the spring only to be overwhelmed later on. If space is limited, the ‘herb box to grow’ is a great place to start. Meanwhile if you love to have cut flowers in the house, the ‘flower box to grow’ will provide an abundance from July to October.

So if it is difficult for you and arguably risky for us, why would I encourage it? Practically speaking, you will never have fresher veg and I promise you will never get more pleasure from cooking and eating than when you have grown it yourself; even a Riverford vegbox cannot quite compete. More philosophically, it will almost certainly frustrate you and might even make you angry when things go wrong. But if you stay with it I think the challenge will ultimately make you more humble, sane and generally a nicer person.

Guy Watson