Growing-your-own

Last updated Monday 21 July 2008

The green-fingered way to cut greenhouse gases

Food prices are rising, while mass production, storage and transport of our favourite grub pumps up our CO2 emissions. Ready to get your hands dirty and save on both fronts?

The era of cheap food is over and prices are set to rise further. Not only can growing-your-own make life cheaper at the checkout, but because getting food to your plate creates 20% of UK CO2, a vegetable patch can also reduce your climate impact

It's getting popular too. For the first time since the Second World War, food seeds are outselling flower seeds and once-vacant allotment sites are now full, with long waiting lists. There are strong signs, too, that tending your lettuces is no longer a hobby for retirement but is flourishing with the country's 30-somethings.

Read more below
Photo: Growing-your-own

Up to 50kg of CO2 a year

651 Bloomers are doing this

CO2 reduction 1 out of 5

Cheapness 4 out of 5

Popularity 4 out of 5

Cost 5

About these ratings

In order to access this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

It's Not Easy Being Green: growing your own food

Dick Strawbridge and Phill Tufnell taste the fruits of Dick's labours

In this article:

How will it make a difference?

Pub Fact

  • In 2005 Britain imported 1,500 tonnes of potatoes and exported exactly the same amount
  • Women are the main drivers of the grow-it-yourself revolution: they form 77% of the total spenders on herbs and 59% on young edible plants
  • Agriculture is responsible for between 17% and 32% of global CO2
  • In 1996 there were around 297,000 allotment plots
  • 80% of total expenditure on growing-our-own vegetables comes from households without children
  • Allotments are commonly near railway tracks because railway companies loaned plots to their workers to grow food
  • 2007 saw a 31% increase in the sales of vegetable seed to householders, and a 32% decline in the sale of flower seeds, according to the Horticultural Trades Association
  • The emissions from 15 bags of spinach flown here from the US is equal to the annual CO2 emissions of an average Afghani
  • From 1914-18, 1.5 million people 'Dug for Victory'- allotment holders produced 1.3 million tonnes of fresh produce
  • London's allotments are believed to produce nearly 16,000 tonnes of vegetables a year

Research suggests feeding each of us contributes around 1700kg of CO2 a year, but scientists are a long way off pinning down exactly how much of that you'll save by growing-your-own:

  • You will save the most CO2 by growing foods which have the highest CO2 impact such as Mediterranean-style veg, (courgettes, peppers and aubergines) salads and tomatoes. We eat them all-year-round, out of season, which means they must be grown in energy-demanding heated greenhouses (here or abroad) or flown over. The UK is fairly self-sufficient all year round in carrots and potatoes, so growing these won't save as much CO2, but will save you money
  • According to one study if you grow 5kg of tomatoes instead of buying them in a UK supermarket (grown in season in the UK), you could save the equivalent of up to 45kg of CO2 and around 20
  • Switching from ready meals to growing it yourself offers significant CO2 savings because of the high energy demands of refrigerating them
  • Growing your own food reduces food transport on the roads - a quarter of all UK heavy lorries on roads are carrying food between farms, processing units, food storage deports and supermarkets
  • Climate change projections suggest arable crops will need heavy irrigation in future if they are to survive in the south of the UK, and food crops may be even less secure in some developing countries. Growing your own food is one way to adapt to these changes

Back to top

How do I do it?

Back to top

What's stopping me?

"I don't have a garden"

There's still a lot you can grow:

  • Start small with some herbs in a hanging basket or salad in pots
  • Use growbags for tomatoes, beans and salad crops. Buckets, or crates work for growing larger veg, like potatoes or carrots. Containers need more watering and feeding than gardens
  • Contact your council and get an allotment with friends or colleagues.
  • Failing that, you could always find a local allotment and offer your services as a gardener or labourer for a few hours a week in exchange for fresh veg and salad

Back to top

or

If you like this action send it to a friend

Share this

Back to top

Comments

Anonymous 2009-06-26

So far so good, been scoffing bucketloads of great salad so far this summer. 4 different lettuce, 2 rocket, radish, new potatos (excellent!), strawbs. Toms are coming on a treat, beetroot, onions and shallots doing well, brocc, caul, cabb all on the way too. The list goes on!

VioletFenn, Shrewsbury 2009-06-05

We've dug up our (very small!) back garden! Kids have stopped using it and it was being churned up by our pet chickens, so we thought we'd put it to good use.

Chooks are now in a large pen and the remaining garden is half patio and half bare ground. The patio has the usual hanging baskets, but some contain tumbling tomatoes as well as flowers. There is a large collection of herbs in pots. We has also potted on a fig tree and a miniature apple, both of which had been struggling at the bottom of the garden.

In the veggie plot I've got tomatoes, strawberries, chives, fennel, dill, four courgette plants, two butternut squash plants, two runner bean wigwams and two rhubarb crowns.

There's some French bean seeds in the kitchen which I'm going to chuck out anyway, despite it being a bit late. Ditto sunflowers and sweetcorn.

I've already got two compost bins on the go, and of course the chickens.

Not bad for a council house garden measuring 15' x 30' :D

VioletFenn, Shrewsbury 2009-06-05

We've dug up our (very small!) back garden! Kids have stopped using it and it was being churned up by our pet chickens, so we thought we'd put it to good use.

Chooks are now in a large pen and the remaining garden is half patio and half bare ground. The patio has the usual hanging baskets, but some contain tumbling tomatoes as well as flowers. There is a large collection of herbs in pots. We has also potted on a fig tree and a miniature apple, both of which had been struggling at the bottom of the garden.

In the veggie plot I've got tomatoes, strawberries, chives, fennel, dill, four courgette plants, two butternut squash plants, two runner bean wigwams and two rhubarb crowns.

There's some French bean seeds in the kitchen which I'm going to chuck out anyway, despite it being a bit late. Ditto sunflowers and sweetcorn.

I've already got two compost bins on the go, and of course the chickens.

Not bad for a council house garden measuring 15' x 30' :D

VioletFenn, Shrewsbury 2009-06-05

We've dug up our (very small!) back garden! Kids have stopped using it and it was being churned up by our pet chickens, so we thought we'd put it to good use.

Chooks are now in a large pen and the remaining garden is half patio and half bare ground. The patio has the usual hanging baskets, but some contain tumbling tomatoes as well as flowers. There is a large collection of herbs in pots. We has also potted on a fig tree and a miniature apple, both of which had been struggling at the bottom of the garden.

In the veggie plot I've got tomatoes, strawberries, chives, fennel, dill, four courgette plants, two butternut squash plants, two runner bean wigwams and two rhubarb crowns.

There's some French bean seeds in the kitchen which I'm going to chuck out anyway, despite it being a bit late. Ditto sunflowers and sweetcorn.

I've already got two compost bins on the go, and of course the chickens.

Not bad for a council house garden measuring 15' x 30' :D

jungleboy and junglewifey, Eltham/London 2009-05-18

Junglewifey and jungleboy have begun planting our own veggies. So far we have put into the ground, well actually we're growing everything in pots and growbags as we can't dig up the lawn in our rented property: tomatoes,caulifowers,oriental salad,spring onions, onions, potatoes 2 types, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, and a variety of herbs. Planning to move on to some types of fruits. Far from self sufficient but hopefully it will keep the bills down and feed the family.

kimbo, stoke 2009-02-28

growing your own veg couldn't be easier i love waiting and watching them grow my little babies (my seedling's of course!!!) are now two weeks old and coming along fine i can't wait to harvest my first crop of carrots and cabbage's along with my other veg's! :)

Baz, Shropshire 2009-02-21

If you don't have much room in your garden, or even if you don't have a garden, try growing root vegetables in a barrel. Potatoes are a favorite and in a 125 litre plastic drum you can get a whole load of spuds. There are many websites dedicated to this process, this year I will try it with first earlies.

Nancy, IOW 2009-02-08

I've found a dwarf variety of tomato called tumbling tim that grows in containers without the need for a cane, so they take up less space than conventional tomatoes and can be grown inside. I looked around and there are now sweet peas you can grow like this too without canes so it's worth looking round.

Lexy, NYC 2008-08-27

I have a pretty sizeable garden, and in the Bronx it's no easy feat. My tomatoes, strawberries and extensive herb garden are semi famous in my neighborhood. The trick is getting in time to water and prune the plants. This Fall/Spring cycle coming up, I'll be turning to flowers to let the soil rest up. I'll still have the herbs and strawberries though. I get most of my stuff from Gardeners.com - my raised beds are a neighborhood favorite. They're based out of Vermont. Seeds of Change.com is also a great place to get heirloom tomato seedlings, for the seed to plant troubled like myself.

Kinders, Wallasey 2008-08-01

I recently bought a 'grow your own mushrooms' pack from a local supermarket! it was well worth the money as we got at least four crops of well sized mushrooms! and we saved a lot of money we would normally have spent on a punnet of them from the shops!

Flower representing the 'Growing-your-own' action

People using this site

10% of Bloomers are doing this action

Less than 1% of men aged over 80 are doing this action.

Top 3 popular actions that males aged over 80 are doing

More about actions by people of this age and gender.

Latest actions on Bloom

Latest related BBC News stories

RSS icon | News feeds | View all stories

Related links

Elsewhere on bbc.co.uk

Elsewhere on the web

Related links open in a new window. The BBC is not responsible for content on external sites.

Browse all actions

Glossary terms used on this page
CO2
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Climate change
Climate change is the variation in the average global or regional climate as measured by yardsticks such as average temperature and rainfall. This variation is caused by both natural processes and human activity. Weather is what happens over days or even hours, whereas climate is the average weather measured over a longer period. Increasingly when people refer to climate change, however, they specifically mean the phenomenon of global warming.
Emissions
Emissions are the CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) produced by energy use, usually calculated and stated as an annual tally: also referred to as your carbon footprint. Your personal emissions can be direct - such as the gas you personally use to heat your home or the petrol you burn to power your car - or indirect - meaning the energy use that has gone into the products or services you buy. The latter, such as the emissions caused by the manufacture of your new TV, or the packaging your food comes in, are also referred to as embodied emissions.

bbc.co.uk navigation

BBC © MMXI

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.