Fresh produce from your doorstep!
Even the smallest outdoor spaces can help you enjoy nature and provide you with your own taste of the ‘good life’. Urban and courtyard gardens, balconies, terraces or just simple window boxes all offer the potential to create a beautiful and productive garden. ‘Grow your own’ is something everybody’s heard of, but for many, it’s still something of a mystery understanding what motivates people to grow what they could as easily buy in the shops.
A core driver is probably the desire to know the origin of some of the ingredients that go into our food – if you’ve grown the herbs and vegetables yourself, you know exactly what you are eating! We’re thinking here about the bay tree, rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives and mint – useful in so many domestic situations. But herbs aren’t just about food…
Great to eat and medicinal too!
So many recipes include herbs, but don’t forget their roles in remedies too. Think of James Wong’s ‘Grow your own Drugs’ concept (on TV, online and in books) where extracts from herbs and plants are used as active ingredients for treating ailments, for tasks around the home where synthetic chemicals would normally be used and for cosmetic applications. Examples include thyme tea, which aids digestion and is an effective hangover cure or rosemary, which improves blood circulation.
Roman emperors believed so strongly in the protective powers of the leaves of the bay tree (Laurus nobilis), that they used to cover themselves in them during thunderstorms to protect against lightning. As recently as the seventeenth century, the bay was still thought to protect against witchcraft, thunder and lightning. It is believed oil from bay leaves was a key ingredient in the first solid soap to be produced in the Levant over 2000 years ago. Still known as ‘Aleppo soap’ this is still formulated from a combination of the oil of bay leaves and olive oil. At the time of the Crusades, Aleppo soap was taken to Marseilles, from whence began the soap brand ‘Savon de Marseille’.
You can grow herbs too!
The chances are you have already been seen gardening programmes or magazine articles where people have created small herb gardens in raised beds, containers or simply a handy corner near the back door. Beautiful in their own right, the added value of ingredients when you need them, fresh and free from any chemicals, makes herbs a ‘must have’. They’ll also save you money!
Growing herbs in containers or raised beds really simplifies the process. Each plant is easily accessible and can be given its exact requirements in terms of water and fertilizer. This substantially improves efficiency and prevents waste of seed, water and fertilizer. Weeding is hardly necessary at all, indeed general maintenance needs are very low, which is a real benefit given the demanding lives most of us have. Gardening like this is also accessible to people of all ages and abilities because it’s physically undemanding and can be done in the smallest spaces. Some urban gardeners are having success now with the exciting concept of edible walls – worth thinking about if your level ground is in short supply.
Edible plants can be just as beautiful as purely ornamental ones. Use your imagination, look around for ideas and don’t be afraid to tear up the ‘rule book’. If you do this you will find that you are able to create a garden that is not only great to look at but also delicious to eat! Plant up your own mini-green paradise and enjoy it to the fullest. It will be good for the wallet, good for the environment and good for your body!