Food Projects 

Producing food at home is one of the simplest ways to live a little more sustainably.

This can be done in even the smallest of spaces; a patio, plant pots, window box or even a window ledge.  If you have any room for a vegetable patch (lawns are so overrated!!) then that would be great.

Not only will the food taste great, as it is fantastically fresh, but it saves all that time and energy transporting it from producer to table.  Over the years we've grown a lot of different fruit and vegetables, here we'll have a look at some of the successes and failures.

In a small area we can't grow huge amounts of any crop as we simply don't have the space, but this is fine as generally one of the mistakes gardeners make is to grow large quantities of just a few crops and by the time you are half way through eatingthem the sight of another lettuce or beetroot dish makes you want to cry!  

We are keen on growing crops wherever we can, often using vertical planting, whereby we'll aim to get small crops growing at the feet of bigger ones.  It doesn't always work, but half the fun is experimenting and finding out what does work.

one day challenge

As a bit of fun for 2019, we are looking to feed ourselves from the garden for one day - purely eating what we produce.  

Clearly this is a bit of a gimmick, as it is hardly going to save the planet - but as a fun challenge and to just do a little bit of "The Good Life", it will provide some interest and be good for us to learn what we can achieve.

One challenge will be to get this done with a teenager in the house, we are charting our progress as part of our blog.

As of June the latest was that the plants have all grown fast.  The potatoes have grown massively (they've spread beyond the 1m square we aimed at - but are looking like they'll provide more than enough potatoes for a week, let alone a day!). 

The beetroot are growing well, but some are overshadowed by the potato plants, the runner beans are starting to flower and climbing well up the tree - the only disappointment is that the tree was attacked by aphids and as such only has two apples on it now (although we seem to have cleared the aphids completely).

Dec 2019 - The results are in!!

Potatoes - 4.759kg

Apples - 0.050kg

Beetroots - 0.317kg

Runner Beans - 0.171kg

Overall, this was a learning experience, as much of what we do here is.  The potatoes were are runaway success.  The beetroots went well, but suffered for size a little, probably due to the very warm summer (need to keep well watered).

The runner beans were a good number and size, but very tough to eat.  Either a lack of water (again) or the wrong variety.

There was only one apple in the end (but is was tasty).  Maybe the runners beans growing up the tree caused it problems?

Remember all this was done in 1 square metre, so just a tiny space.  Anyone up for a similar challenge in 2020?

We're really enjoyed cooking the food in our solar oven

If you would like to take up the challenge - we'd love to hear from you about how things progress for you.

Apples

We've included apples and potatoes as our first two crops as they are relatively easy to grow and harvest and can provide a very good yield for a relatively small area.

There are many varieties of apple which can be chosen - if you have limited space and only have one tree (as we do), try something like a Braeburn, which self-pollinates as the amount of fruit will be greatly improved.

The the right is our apple tree, with two pots of potatoes that have freshly been planted.

Also, we are growing runner beans in the apple tree pot (aiming to use the tree as a replacement for the traditional wigwam of canes) and there are beetroots on top of the potatoes, with the potatoes buried underneath them.

 

Potatoes

Like apples the yield from potatoes can be very high and there is also a great range of varieties available.  Not only that, but the ways in which we can cook them are numerous and their shelf life once harvested is long, so you are unlikely to get bored of the taste.

We've had some good success growing in pots and this year plan to use re-usable bags, which we purchased over the winter.

Previously we've grown them in old tyres, pots and - surprisingly!!! - in the ground.  Actually the last of these was the least successful as the soil in our garden is very poor and shallow (as it was once a courtyard, which soil was put on top of, so is only about 6 inches deep).

Protein

Growing crops with carbohydrates is relatively easy - it is harder to produce proteins at home.

Beans of various varieties will allow us to do this - so this year we'll be looking more at ways in which we can do this.

For those with a bit more space (and not too many neighbours to annoy), you might wish to look at keeping chickens, as egg protein is amongst the most complete protein sets available in a single food.

Clearly this is quite a commitment, and one we can't do as we have lots of neighbours in close proximity who would (justifiably) be banging on our door to complain - particularly if we got a noisycockerel too!

Over the course of the spring of 2019 we have also planted tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and leeks to compliment our fruit trees and bushes (we have one of each of apple, plum, apricot, pear, raspberry and blueberry).  If all goes to plan we'll be having a few less visits to the supermarket in the late summer and autumn than normal!

As of June, some of these things are looking very successful - others not so much.

We should have a great crop of potatoes and tomatoes.  The raspberries, beetroots, blueberries and even a melon plant we've grown are looking good.  Unfortunately, our fruit tree haven't done so well.  Most are very young - but we are going to get less apples than last year, but will get A plum (yes one), which is more than last year.  The others aren't going to fruit.

If you have any tips on what we might be doing wrong, do let us know!

Images kindly provided by William Warby and Chris Lim under wikimedia commons. Files licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-share alike 2.0 Generic Licence