Dig for victory: the benefits of growing your own
Many people spend much of their time cultivating crops, working on their plot or simply enjoying being outside.
To get an idea of just how rewarding growing your own can be, we caught up with Eunice Walls. A dedicated allotment owner for over 50 years, Eunice makes the most of her 700 square metre plot at the end of her road.
Eunice’s plot is fairly typical of those within a micro village of allotments in the west end of Newcastle upon Tyne. She and her husband Ken, who passed away five years ago, first started paying a few pence a year to the Allotment Association in the 1970s. While that figure has grown to around £18 in 2019, she says she gets it back many times over from not having to buy as many vegetables.
If you can’t get a space, or if the waiting list is long, Eunice’s advice is not to be deterred. Back gardens can quickly be converted with a few soil beds.
Otherwise, you could ask someone with land if they would welcome a few extra pounds in rent each year. Eunice mentions that the cash she spends on things like gardening tools and seeds is nominal compared to what she gets out of her hobby.
Growing and caring
Eunice works at a small bed the whole time we talk. She carefully waters each plant and trims the weeds. When her husband was alive, they entered marrows, leeks and courgettes into local shows. Otherwise, they would take them to the pub to show them off to other allotment owners. Now, it’s the flowers that Eunice focuses on.
There are still vegetables dotted around in spare beds. There is also a sizeable polytunnel, a neat plastic-covered half tube used to create the right conditions for tomatoes, chillies, peas and some delicate flowers.
Eunice estimates that there are two dozen types of flowers throughout her allotment. There’s also a mix of root vegetables, pulses and speciality items, like cherry tomatoes at the back of the plot. They’re planted at different times so Eunice has a rolling stock of food, with a new batch ready to be picked almost every week.
Feeding the family
Eunice has a large extended family and, like any good grandmother, a roast dinner is usually on the cards every Sunday. Most of the year, she can rustle up a feast that could feature parsnips, potatoes, carrots, turnips, leeks and courgettes from just the back half of the allotment. If she leveraged every square inch of the plot, she could probably feed the street.
More than just food
Eunice turns her attention back to the flowerbeds. At the end of the day, she’ll be collecting a variety of stems to create a bouquet for her daughter-in-law’s birthday. She points out that the flowers would be in the most expensive bouquets, if bought. She doesn’t get the volume to sell to florists. But she’s sure her spring roses would have been very popular if she’d grown more of them.
When the conversation turns to what she likes best, she stops and looks up from her gardening. While the constant supply of vegetables are big pluses, not even that compares with the sheer pleasure of being able to spend time with her children and grandchildren in her allotment.
The younger kids enjoy running around the beds and spotting the songbirds, mice and local cat that visits on warmer days. The older ones chip in with the workload, turning soil or grabbing the hose. She says it’s far better than sitting watching TV while the grandkids stare at their phones. Her children were always roped in on weekends, so she enjoys seeing their children doing the same.
Try it yourself
Growing your own crops can be as immersive as you need it to be. With a patch of soil, some compost, a packet of seeds and a good sprinkling of British weather, anyone can grow their own food.
At Redrow, we understand the benefits of allotment-keeping. You can save money by buying fewer vegetables while avoiding the environmental damage that comes with buying from the supermarket. There is also something deeply pleasurable about seeing your hard work come to fruition.
We work hard to create green spaces that allow homeowners to enjoy growing and giving something back to the land around them.
Find your nearest Redrow development on our website.
You can also find out more about our campaign 'A better way to live' on our website redrow.co.uk/a-better-way-to-live