Fruit & veg - 10 a day?
I've just been reading about new research suggesting that instead of the 5-a-day guideline for fruit and veg, we should all up it to ten! Ten a day seems a lot. For a start, my fridge isn't big enough to take it all. I haven't got room for another fruit bowl. There is only one thing for it – grow more of my own.
Grow your own
There a few ways to get any garden more productive for the kitchen table. Mixing veg and flowers is the main one. Lots of different types of veg looks terrific when mooching about in beds and borders. Take the feathery fronds of your average carrot. I'd quite happily grow a block of them just for the look of the leaves. The tasty roots are actually a bonus. And now I’ll have to grow more as I need to cram in ten a day. Carrots are easy to grow. You can put a few seeds directly into the soil and away they go. Or you can buy ready growing seedlings and do the same. You don't even have to put them in soldier straight lines. Scatter the seeds thinly in a block or a drift, rake over and stand back. You might not win any silverware at the village show but you soon will be pulling crunchy roots to nibble on.
Containers and hanging baskets
Containers are another wonderful way to get more edibility into a garden, and that means anything that can hold compost. Recycle old cans, hassle your local restaurants for catering sized metal containers (any place serving up olives will have decorative containers piled up outside ready to throw away – ask and get your hands on some of the trendiest plant pots you will ever get for free). Hanging baskets are also a great opportunity to grow a few of your ten-a-day. Cherry tomatoes are a popular choice. Beautifully compact plants, stems all bunched up and trusses of the sweetest toms you will ever eat. And all hanging just outside your door. Grab a handful for your lunch on the way out or pick a few as a snack as you walk around your garden. Chin-dribbling deliciousness. When growing in containers, whatever you manage to use, always ensure you drill drainage holes in the base and always use a quality compost. Plants may only be in there for a few months but it's a good idea to give them the best start possible. And most veg needs a sunny position to really thrive. Other than that, that's the start of a few more of your ten-a-day.
See our best plants for containers here
Fruit and vegetable garden
Of course, you can turn a patch or the whole of your garden over to fruit and veg. And why not? All those years ago (can it really be 45 years?) Barbara and Tom in the Good Life gave it a go. But honestly, you don’t have to take the spade to everything. Keep it small and simple at first and grow just a few fruit and veg. Prove to yourself it's a good idea and that you can do it. I get that. Redcurrants are easy if you have a wall and a bit of time to fix pieces of trellis or wires, and any upright supporting roses or sweet peas can also be used for climbing French beans (the variety called 'Cobra' is superb).
Clever, tasty and productive
Then of course you may decide that 'No - hanging baskets are not for veg' and 'No - the front lawn is staying put.' And even 'No - veg does not belong in the gladioli bed. Veg is veg and that means a veg patch.' OK, you can still grow more. Have a go at this – sweet corn as an upright support for French beans and down below, sprawling all over the place, keeping the roots cool and the moisture in the soil is a heavy cropping courgette. Three crops out of one small space. Clever, tasty and productive.
But even if you just try to grow one more veg, it will make a difference. And honestly, once you have succeeded - and you will - you'll never turn back. Ten-a-day? Pah - make mine twenty.