We can all enjoy the positives of a Good Life

Nutritionists tell us that we should be following a Mediterranean diet in order to stay healthy and prolong our time on the planet, and each time the message is delivered this fellow nods approvingly.

Saturday, 10th September 2016, 12:00 pm
A salad, courtesy of the summer garden. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

I’d take it a step further and suggest that we all try to grow a little of our own produce.

Start with a few salad crops, add tomatoes of different shapes, size and colour, and graduate to peppers, aubergine, et al. Gain early success with these and the seed catalogues are your oyster.

Although we cannot all rise to the lofty heights of being totally self-sufficient within a modest garden or allotment, it certainly makes you feel good to have at least some home-grown vegetable, fruit or otherwise, available to supplement the daily food supply.

A recent article quoted a gardening programme presenter’s perceived criticism of the 1970’s TV show The Good Life as being based on an impossible dream, the reality being failed crops and disappointment. There’s a grain of reality in this perhaps, but it’s overwhelmed by positives.

As we all know, Tom and Barbara Good’s plot in suburbia was earmarked for a life of self-sufficiency. Although far from perfect, it did bring them a sense of achievement and happiness. The programme inspired me to make more of the garden space we had at the time, and it must have encouraged others.

So let’s accentuate those positives and at least try to grow a few of our own vegetables and fruit.

Various developments in horticulture over time have made it possible to grow mini crops in small spaces.

It’s well over a decade since a range of dwarf vegetables – carrots, beetroot, turnip and the like – were introduced. When fully mature they taste the same, but are only a fraction in size of the normal counterpart.

Breeding programmes have led to positive developments in plant vigour, performance and disease resistance. These have raised the potential for success enormously. The range of so-called ‘patio fruits’ has expanded, making it possible to have a mini-orchard of soft or top fruits growing in containers where space is limited. Apples, pears, plums, peaches, cherries and more, grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks, are all a possibility.

You still have to visit the supermarket for the weekly or monthly grocery supply, but the occasional contribution from your own garden is icing on the cake.

I’ve grown grapes for most of my adult life and love the Mediterranean flare they bring to a greenhouse.

The first bunches to ripen in late August are on the white variety Madeleine Angevine. These are followed by the red cultivar Flame, and to get Black Hamburg as sweet as possible, we leave it until late October. Some bunches remain dangling until December, by which time they’ve shrunk into raisins that go well in salads.