Back in our grandparents’ day, it was just as common to pop out to your back garden to get something you needed as it was to nip out to the shops. Whether it was growing your own vegetables or mixing together your own home remedies, everyone was a lot more handy back then.
And while modern society has moved away from the notion of growing and making things ourselves, there is a strong movement of people attempting to relearn these skills – and it’s an idea that’s gaining momentum fast. There are many reasons that people today want a way out of our disposable, consumerist society – it could be money concerns in an uncertain economy, or a desire to do what’s best for the fragile environment. Whatever your reasons, there are lots of things you can do to ‘grow your own’ and avoid forking out a fortune for products in the shops. Here’s our quick guide to help you get started:
Fruit and vegetables
Having a vegetable patch in the garden or an allotment in your community has become almost as ubiquitous a fashion accessory as the latest Chanel bag. That’s right – the ‘Good Life’ is officially cool. But while it’s easy for celebrities to flock to their bijou Cotswolds farmhouse and get some parsnips on the go, how can the rest of us get into veggie growing without a fortune to spend? Luckily, even the smallest of outdoor spaces can be transformed into a burgeoning vegetable patch. If you’ve got a garden, set aside a corner and build a simple raised bed for your crops. Check out stores like Marshalls for seeds that do well in the British climate – things like onions, potatoes, beans and salad leaves are easy to get started with. Not got a garden? Salad leaves like rocket do well in window boxes too – so there’s no excuse not to get growing. Got a sweet tooth? Why not set aside a section of your garden for summer treats like strawberries and raspberries? Given the right conditions they can produce a bumper crop and flower year after year.
If growing all the vegetables for your dinner table sounds like too much of a challenge, why not give a herb garden a go instead? Herbs are a great way to add a little flavour and excitement to even the dullest of dishes, and if you have your own herb garden on hand then there can be no limit to your culinary creativity. As a bonus, they’re super easy to grow and take up hardly any space at all. You can start with a commercially-produced ‘starter kit’ if you want, but it’s easy to make or buy a simple wooden box and source the seeds yourself. Try to choose a varied selection of flavours and scents for your herb box, such as some thyme, basil, oregano and mint. You can tailor your selection to your tastes too: if you eat a lot of seafood, dill is a great herb to have to hand, while coriander is ideal for those that like spicy food.
It’s not just what we eat that we can grow ourselves – many of the common over-the-counter treatments we purchase in pharmacies to treat minor ailments have their own natural counterparts that can be made at home. If you suffer from allergies, keeping bees and eating a tablespoon of their honey every day is an age-old remedy to keep sneezing and itching at bay. Got a sore throat? Growing herbs known for their soothing properties such as rosemary and sage means you’ll always have access to fresh ingredients to treat your symptoms whenever you’re feeling poorly. You can also grow the ingredients for teas that you can use to treat a variety of minor ailments: try hibiscus flower tea for lowering blood pressure, or peppermint for relieving an upset stomach. Of course, it is important to seek medical advice for any serious health complaints, and to be sure that any natural course of treatment does not interact with your prescribed medications.
Fed up with spending a small fortune on mass produced beauty products packed with chemicals and compounds you’ve never even heard of? By growing a few simple ingredients yourself you can make your own products that are just as effective and far more natural. Start off by visiting a store like Boots or your local health food shop to stock up on basics like shea butter and carrier oils like almond or organic olive oil – these provide a great base to start your own concoctions. Try growing some rosemary and adding it to a carrier oil for a stimulating treatment that’s good for dry and sensitive skin, or some marjoram to make a softening oil for hair. Even troublesome plants you weed out of your garden can have a number of beauty uses – calendula or marigolds are great for soothing problem skin, while chickweed oil added to shea butter makes a fantastic treatment for conditions like eczema and psoriasis.