Gardening in Great Britain

Last year, I got my hands in some dirt and planted some organic tomatoes, peas and squash. We didn’t need to grow our own food. We had access to amazing farmer’s markets in Northern California that offered a bounty of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. But, I wanted my toddler to see first hand where our food came from – the soil. I wanted our family to reconnect with the earth and, in the way of The Little Red Hen, turn our wheat into bread. Or, in our case, tomatoes into salsa and strawberries into jam!

After experiencing some success I was excited for another go at gardening. But alas, we moved to London last fall. Don’t get me wrong, they love to garden here, too.  But, I have to  learn the climate, and now we will be growing for more reasons; namely, to get access to the foods we love without costing the planet – or our pocketbook. (And our little guy can get dirty and still learn where food comes from.) He’ll love it because our garden is FULL of worms!

Here’s a list of where each organic fruit or vegetable comes from at our local grocery store:

  • Blueberries: Chile or New Zealand
  • Strawberries: Spain
  • Raspberries: Spain
  • Kiwi Fruit: Italy
  • Broccoli: Italy
  • Pink Lady Apples: USA
  • Grapes: Israel

…and so it goes. Butternut Squash, green beans, baby corn, asparagus, artichoke, tomatoes and many others come from outside the UK, too – namely, Holland, Israel, Spain and South America. If we just ate potatoes, leeks, carrots, parsnips, beets and some leafy greens we could eat seasonally and locally. It’s just not going to happen with a 2.5 year old in the house. (Or a grown-up husband for that matter.) We do order a fruit and vegetable box from an organic delivery company who sources their produce from local farms with no plastic packaging. In fact, the root vegetables still have dirt caked on them.

Our wonderful gardener building my raised beds

So, today our gardener (yes we have a gardener and you would too with the limited storage space in London for a lawnmower and other gardening accoutrements – plus it’s required by our lease agreement) came by to build some raised beds for me, in addition to tending to our back garden. (That’s what they call a yard here). They turned out great, albeit small. We couldn’t alter the garden too much since we are renting. But, I am very happy with the results.  We will also grow tomatoes and strawberries in pots in our conservatory.  It’s like a greenhouse and should really help warm things up a bit here. I really miss the taste of a real, naturally ripened tomato. My son does too. He ate them right off the plant last summer but won’t touch a store bought tomato now.

Finished raised beds

So, now I must get online to order my organic seeds and seedlings and get this garden started before the ground warms up too much!  (Wishful California thinking).  Outdoors we’ll try peas again, sunflowers, carrots, beets, garlic and maybe watermelon. I can’t wait to browse the store.

This is a post for The Green Moms Carnival about gardening hosted at Green Talk this month.  Check out the other posts to find out more about gardening!

How about you? Any plans for a garden? A window sill herb garden or a Dervaes style homestead? (My dream). What are your reasons for growing?

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17 thoughts on “Gardening in Great Britain”

  1. Deb, this is so cool! I’m planning to start my first garden this spring too. We have a small space next to our patio in the apartment complex backyard. I’d like to grow green leafy veggies, tomatoes, raspberries, maybe even a pumpkin. We’ll see. Can you recommend any web sites, blogs or books that can get me started on the right track?

    Good luck with your garden. I’m anxious to see photos of the fruits and veggies of your labor later this summer. Love, Z :-)

  2. Try The Backyard Homestead – it’s in my Amazon book widget on my homepage. And look into a local nursery in your area that supplies a lot of organic stuff. They can really help. I went to Sloat in Marin and they were so helpful.

  3. how exciting! Spring is in the air. My DD has already planted her garden and it is growing quite nicely. She is thrilled to watch the plants sprout and invites everyone who comes by to take a look. Enjoy the fruits of your labor:)

  4. are there any plans for a garden for me? well as soon as I saw your planter box, I turned to dh and said there’s your new project…and he agreed! (We are in an apartment so it will be on the balcony)

    I’ve been wanting to start one for a while, but I want to ensure I do the research before diving in headfirst. I recently found an Organic Gardener who sells the seedlings, so there’s a start!

    Although we’ve moved into the most beautiful place in the mountains, I’ve been surprised by the lack of local organic produce. I think it’s so important that we pay attention to where are foods are coming from, and when possible support local and or grow your own. Also, as you pointed out kids are able to make that connection with their food, so (when I have some!) it will be a natural part of their lives

    Looking forward to watching your garden grow :)

  5. Justine, I am so happy you got your DH to build a planter for you! Keep me posted. We just sowed our seeds today. Got dirt under our nails and got a little bit wet when my son turned the hose on me!

  6. Great post! Good point about the veggie box…while it’s great to support the cause you can’t quite live on everything in one box!! What a lovely back garden you have going. Love the bright pink flowers… roses? Your list sounds sooo delish… love me some pink lady apples. Good luck! :)

  7. Deborah,

    Thanks for contributing to the carnival this month! It looks like you are really settling in to life in London – good for you! And wow, I didn’t know gardeners were required by lease agreement in parts of London! :) That’s a nice break, actually, isn’t it? Can’t wait to see how your adventure turns out!


  8. Good luck with your garden! We just put in a raised bed ourselves. I never imagined that I would be this excited about a patch of dirt.

    I live in Canada, and at this time of year the local pickings are slim here, too. Most of our produce seems to be coming from South America or the Southern US right now (including California). But in the summer that changes. Maybe it will for you, too, in the UK.

  9. Hopefully my sprouts will survive the transplant. We’ve had very warm, almost summery days here, but then the temp. drops again. I’m crossing my fingers! Good luck everyone. Would love to see pictures of everyones bounty this season – and maybe some recipes!

  10. Those are some great looking raised beds! We just put in ours last month using the square foot gardening method, and so far I’ve managed to kill off lots of lettuce. :) I’m looking forward to seeing what you grow in those beds.

  11. Okay, so you said to keep you posted and it’s finally begun. Maybe not as pretty as yours but good all the same. We gotta start somewhere right? ;) I linked to you as one of my inspirations…thanks for the nudge!

  12. Great Justine! I got more seedlings than I can possibly plant! I’ve caught the gardening bug. :-) I bet you will too!

  13. Hi Debbie

    Great to see somebody in London growing produce. My partner and I just buying now and found a great place with a south facing aspect. Hoping it all goes to plan.

    Can you give us an update on how you are doing?


  14. You just really inspired me. Thank you for the pictures as well. I wish to have more space in my little patio…

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