Why you should grow your own

Alan Titchmarsh explains why he thinks everyone should have a go at growing their own fruit and veg. Interview by Adam Stones.

10 things every Gardener should know with Alan Titchmarsh (14th November 2008)
Why are fruit and veg seeds outselling seeds for flowers? People are now more aware of what they eat. Jamie, Hugh and the others have been banging on about the subject – where our food comes from, what goes in to it, how healthy it is – and now people are becoming more confident to actually do something.
The benefits of growing your own are numerous – for one thing it’s good for you. The moment a crop is picked, it’s no longer growing. It’s started to decay so you start to lose the goodness. If you grow it, pick it and eat it yourself, your food will taste different simply because it will be fresh. But it could also help save you money, get you active in the outdoors and lead you to become reconnected with what’s on your plate.
The celebrity chefs have woken people up to the need to rediscover this connection, and now us gardeners can come along and say: “OK, this is how you actually do it”. Not only is there an enormous childlike pleasure in planting something, nurturing it, seeing it grow and then eating your own produce, it will help you understand and cherish the land.
The soil is our most important commodity and if we want to avoid losing touch with the land then we need to plant and grow. If you take an interest in what’s around you, it will lead on to so much more and ensure a rosier future for us all to boot.
Growing your own needn’t be daunting and its something everyone should do if they can. Start small if you want. There’s no point jumping straight into artichokes if you’ve never gardened before – think “what do I like eating every day?” and plant that.
Growing your own, or supporting your local producers if you can’t do that, will also take you back to seasonality. We’re so used to having things like strawberries any time of the year, but if we only ate them when they were in season, we’d look forward to them, enjoying them more. Plus, of course, they’d taste better because they’d be fresh and not shipped over in cold storage.
This used to be the way we lived and I think “can we just start again please?” It’s not just nostalgic and sentimental – everyone should know how life works and be involved with it. Whereas naturalists tend to observe, people who garden participate. Gardeners take up the responsibility for our land and work with nature.
If people feel disconnected then our natural world won’t be saved. It shouldn’t be down to a chosen few to help; anyone can get involved and should do, and your own patch of land in the garden is the perfect place to get started.
But if you don’t have your own land, that’s fine – get out and volunteer with one of your local nature groups or join an allotment. It’s all about the energy you put in and anyone can do it.
The media constantly puts out negative stories, making it harder for folk like us who are trying to tell everyone that they can make a positive impact on the world. There’s a big difference between people feeling they ought to do something and actually doing it – it’s my job to help them cross that gap. When I have shuffled off this mortal coil, I hope that I will be able to account for my time here and say that I have left the place a little greener than when I found it. I will feel I have paid my rent in doing so and that is something everyone should aim for.