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A Return to Self-Sufficiency


It has been documented that a well-kept garden can add around 20% onto the value of a property. Hardly surprising when bearing in mind that in the summer months it can be like having an extra room. According to Jeremy Leaf, estate agent: "A well presented garden supports a valuation. It shows that the owner has cared for the whole of the property." However, in the face of ever-rising prices in the supermarket the humble home garden is seeing the resurgence of another use, other than just to add value to the property; that of the home allotment.


A vegetable patch is the home makeover for the global credit crunch. Yes, its cool to grow your own food as extolled on our TV screens by Jamie Oliver. Not only will your home produce taste much better, it will also save you a few pounds in the process. According to mySupermarket.co.uk the cost of potatoes has gone up by 19% and the cost of lettuce has risen by 17%. Most of us mere mortals only associate growing vegetables with having an allotment but according to Richard Hill, a garden designer in South East London, anyone can grow their own fruit and vegetables: "Even someone with a window box or small balcony can cultivate a wide variety of herbs, vegetable or even fruit. Home allotments are easy to get going and now is the perfect time of year to start."


A growing area can be anything from a number of large pots or grow bags to a raised flower bed using railway sleepers. Mini-greenhouses work well and are freely available from DIY stores. These are basically just a set of shelves covered in a zip-up plastic cover. Items that can easily be grown include potatoes, rocket, French beans, courgettes and herbs such as basil and mint. For fruit, try planting an apple tree, redcurrant, strawberries or a gooseberry bush. If you have a water meter, rather than fill the watering can from the tap, divert your guttering into a water butt to save money. Just remember that the smaller the container, the more it will need watering.


To get started you'll need some or all of the following items (depending on the size of your vegetable patch); a fork, spade, seed rake, hoe and trowel. For best results read the instructions carefully on the seed packets and it may be worth forking out on a book or two; the Dr. Hessayon "Expert" series for example. Start of with something basic and if successful, add something a little more adventurous the following year.


If you're feeling really adventurous and want to go the whole hog with an allotment of your own then contact your local council. They have a statutory obligation to provide a sufficient number of plots and may even have an allotments officer who will give you the information on sites in your area. There may be a waiting list, which you could bypass if you're prepared to allotment share or renovate a disused plot. An allotment is a massive commitment on your time as well a financial obligation so only go for it if you can give it the time and dedication that it requires.