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Urban farmers cropping up

As food prices rocket and household budgets are cut, people are lookingto grow their own, not just in the countryside, but in town too.

As food prices rocket and household budgets are cut, people are looking to grow their own, not just in the countryside, but in town too.

Urban farmers are sprouting as readily as weeds in our cities, making use of every patch of green space.

According to the British Royal Horticultural Society, sales of fruit and vegetables seeds in the U.K. have jumped by 28 per cent in the last year, and Guy Barter, Head of the RHS Horticultural Advisory Service says that the majority of inquiries have been from those with less than 10 m squared to cultivate.

“People hope to save money, but they also hope to get fresher, tastier produce, show their children where food comes from, and be more involved with the food they eat,” explains Barter.

At the U.S. seed company, Burpee, sales of vegetable seeds have increased by 30 per cent in the last year, with gardeners favouring green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, carrots, cucumbers and squash.

Growing your own is economical: Burpee estimates that a $3 bag of tomato seeds will produce an average of up to $1,000-worth of store-bought tomatoes.

Cultivating your own fruit and vegetables is also good for the environment as it’s organic (unless you choose to use pesticides), it reduces food transport miles and the more varieties of plants in town, the better it is for essential local wildlife — including bees.

Eating tasty food that is freshly picked and eaten seasonally is also good for your health. The trend for growing vegetables dovetails nicely with the ethos of the global Slow Food movement, which encourages us to think about where our food comes from, and appreciate local, seasonal rather than industrially farmed produce.

Top 5 plants for small spaces
• Tomatoes: Very pleasant to grow. Plants are affordable and easier than growing from seed, and if the weather’s right they will produce a satisfying crop.

• Herbs: Very little goes a long way to changing the flavour of your food. Rosemary and thyme are easy to grow and look good too.

• Salad: Chinese leaves, lettuce and so on require little skill, they’re a good way of getting started.

• French beans: Grown them up a wigwam or in a container. They’re easy to grow and quick to crop, and they’re attractive.

• Beetroot: Easy to grow and copes well in a container. Pick the leaves and use in salads, then use the roots, they’re a revelation if you’ve only tasted the shop bought version.

 
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