Friday, 2 March 2018

Why Grow Food?

It’s spring! I know this because every gardening book I have ever read declares that in the northern hemisphere, March is in spring. The view from my window doesn’t scream a surge in growth, nodding daffodils, gambolling lambs, and a surfeit of chocolate eggs (not least because you can never have too many chocolate eggs), but I keep reminding myself that last week, in the heady days of February, I was enjoying an al fresco lunch and failing to suppress the overwhelming urge to sow tomatoes.
Needless to say, the tomatoes have germinated and are leaning towards the office window, turning their backs on me and rebuking me for my lack of patience. They have a point. I knew that it would be better to wait a while before I sowed them, but I refuse to feel guilty, because those little seedlings make my heart sing.
This is why I grow food: my life is so much richer for it. The return on the cost of a packet of seeds is not simply the harvest I enjoy eating, it is also how growing that crop makes me feel. Gardening is known to be good for mental health. I am certainly sunnier when I grow food. Yes, the cabbage whites and rabbits might be thorns in my side, but even with their interference, I am a happier person for tending the crops they are hellbent on devouring.
The thrill of seeing seedlings looping their way into the world never diminishes. It is as magical now as it was when I sprinkled cress seeds on blotting paper as a child. I just wish that everyone could grow something to eat - even just a tiny pot of herbs on a windowsill. 
Every year I expand my veg patch, and this year is no exception. There are more strawberries and raspberries; an extension to the damson hedge; and a new compost area. The compost bins will cost nothing as they will be constructed from old crates. The fruit will hopefully earn its keep before very long. I won’t measure the return in kilos though; I will measure it in the pure joy that comes from picking the first berry, and the glorious realisation that there are sufficient damsons to make a crumble.
Apart from growing food in the kitchen garden, I also grow crops in little crates and pots by my office door. There are blueberries, strawberries, salad leaves, herbs and pea shoots. They take up very little room, but they make a difference to my day, providing healthy treats to snack on, or salad leaves for lunch.
The pots and the garden are hidden under a thick duvet of snow right now. The great news is that if we are in spring, then summer is on its way. I only hope that my tomato seedlings feel reassured by this news.