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4 Or More? Welcome to my Home-On-The-Web for larger families in the U.K.

 

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Cut The Cost...

  • Grow Your Own!

We all face the dilemma of trying to balance the budget whilst wanting the best possible food for our families. Our solution is simple - GROW YOUR OWN! How else can you avoid the supermarket's over-priced monopolies, and lessen the anxiety caused by the incessant food scares? How else can you be sure how fresh things are, and what's gone into or onto them? When there are 7 people, 11 animals and a mortgage all trying to live on one-and-a-little-bit fairly ordinary wages, drastic measures are called for! We are lucky enough to have an allotment close to our house, but you can grow a surprising amount on just a windowsill - and it's fun!

  • Hard work???

But haven't we got quite enough to do already, without spending hours digging and weeding? Well, it's a question of priorities. Not much is more important than our children's health, and good wholesome food is the basis of this. Using deep bed, no-dig methods of growing cut down the ongoing work involved considerably, and if you try out ideas like companion planting you will have a plot to delight your eyes as well as your stomachs!

  • Windowsills...

can be used to grow sprouting beans, or to start off seedlings of almost anything. Peppers and chillies love windowsill conditions & make very attractive houseplants, as does basil. Other herbs like mint can be over-wintered on windowsills. Pips from citrus fruits, avocados and dates are good fun to try here too. Windowboxes and hanging baskets can be used to grow herbs, tomatoes & strawberries but remember they can't go without water & feeding for long and are thus quite labour-intensive. Don't write off north-facing sills; as long as there's plenty of light the plants will do well.

Plants on windowsill

Plants happily over-wintering on a north-facing wondowsill...

  • Gardens...

generally end up as playspaces for at least the early years. Any attempts we made to grow anything interesting or edible were doomed to failure, as the children either trod on them in the excitement of a game, or loved things to death by watering them 6 times a day. Only the very toughest plants survived - I can recommend raspberries and currant bushes here! However now the kids are a bit older and some of them are interested in growing things, we are slowly converting what's left of our garden to a "Permaculture" system. This is a simple but effective system of gardening that involves working with nature and the conditions prevailing in your individual situation, instead of fighting nature and clobbering yourself with a lot of hard work trying to grow plants that just don't want to grow where you are! Concentrate on growing things you like to eat or look at, and look for "beneficial associations", where certain plants actually help each other grow better or features of your garden like an unused south facing wall which can provide productive growing space. Compost your kitchen waste along with rabbit/guinea/chinchilla bedding, and even shredded paper - it all helps build healthy soil for healthy, trouble free plants.

An unexpected visitor enjoys our pre-compost bucket...

Hedgehog

  • Allotments...

are a peculiarly British tradition, rooted in the concept of Common land and the "Dig for Victory" wartime campaign. Usually administered by your local council, you can rent a plot of land to grow crops on. Some have all sorts of amenities like loos & trading huts - ours have none, not even running water, but are extremely cheap! We've only had ours for a year, but it has been extremely rewarding in many different ways. Firstly, whilst we only really had half of it under cultivation, it kept us eating like princes last summer when we were very broke after our family holiday. Just when we needed them most, there were potatoes, corn-on-the-cob and leaf beet, as well as the ever-reliable currants and berries, apples & pears planted by our redecessors. Earlier, there had been a glut of strawberries which the children couldn't wait to get to straight after school, and they also loved eating peas straight from the pod. The slugs got my beans, though, and all my attempts to grow salad were doomed whilst my "slug pubs" remained empty - I won't use such cheap beer next year!Some of the benefits were more intangible - I lost a fair bit of weight and firmed up a lot without going to a single exercise class. I found it very relaxing, too - a good way to unwind after the fray of family life. The children really got to see the ebb & flow of the seasons, and saw a fair bit of wildlife - slow worms, goldfinches, all sorts! And I felt a real glow of pride when I was able to put the last of my own (frozen) corn-on-the-cob on the Christmas table.

Back to "Feeding Them".

Resources:

HDRA - Excellent organic (& economical!) growing advice.

The Gardening Guild - inspired, entertaining & erudite advice from John Yeoman, of "The Lazy Kitchen Gardener" fame.

Copyright: Angela Corbet, 2001.