Grow it alone!
It’s almost July and that means Strawberries, lots of them with lashings of cream. One of my favourite things to do is the pick your own places that are dotted around, not only do you get a fun day out with the kids hunting for who can find the biggest strawberry and maybe sampling one or two of them while you’re there, but it’s also one of the cheaper ways to get your soft fruit. Many farms now offer more than just strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and other such crops are often included.
Although they don’t object to you sampling the odd one or two that might not make it to the punnet, there are one or two people who can take it a tad too far. Last year I saw a farmer ejecting a family from the fields and was curious as to what they had done to be sent away with such a flea in their ear, only to find out they had set up a picnic blanket complete with bowls of cream in the field and were helping themselves to half the field. Now I love a freebie but that’s taking the mick a little!
I also grow some stuff in my own garden, although strawberries have always failed miserably, I try each year to get to them before the birds and usually fail. I do however have a good potato crop grown in a potato sack, some runner beans and a small herb garden that I bought reduced in pots in the supermarket and planted out (the same herbs sell in garden centred for about £4, I think I paid about 6p).
There are however a growing amount of people who are taking it that one step further and getting themselves an allotment. Gone are the days when it was only old men in flat caps trying to escape the wife for a few hours, these are now hotly sought after spots. As people realise that growing their vegetables themselves means they’re free as well as a great way to teach kids about where food comes from, the demand for them has rocketed.
Out of curiosity I phoned the local council and asked if there were any allotments near me, I was surprised to find there were 3 sites but get this, the waiting list for a plot was over a year! Such is the demand that several farmers across the UK are actually no longer using some of the less profitable fields for crops but are turning them into allotment sites, where in some parts they can charge £60 for a small plot.
And if the image you have of an allotment is a tatty old shed think again, the competition between the allotments is fierce, with more keeping up with the Jones’s than on the poshest streets in Britain. It’s gotten so popular that the BBC even did a programme on it, Allotment Wars saw several couples battle it out throughout the year to grow flowers and veg, competing for the perfect runner bean, and who could make the best chutney.
I personally am happy for the farmers to keep growing my strawberries and will only go as far as to pick my own.