The Depression Hobby Gardening Has a Renaissance

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Dig
for Victory is in the air again, only it’s an economic war that
Britons are now fighting. The news that growbag sales have increased
fivefold this spring compared with last year is a good sign.

The pleasures
of burying one’s hands in the soil are no longer the preserve of
horny-handed men with sheds, or fragrant ladies proffering trugs
and scones, but cut across class and demographic boundaries. Everyone
is at it, even if it’s only windowboxes, balconies, or a cluster
of growbags outside a front door in a block of council flats. Heavens,
gardening is now even becoming fashionable among late twenty- and
thirty-somethings in cities, with waiting lists for allotments within
striking distance of fashionable areas.

In my own case,
my wife and I – who are not thirtysomethings any more, alas
– discussed the merits of an allotment, but opted to create
a ”home allotment”. It was the potential journey to and from an
allotment that put us off, not least because of the car use. So
we turned over the little-used lawn in the small garden behind our
terrace house in north London and laid simple brick paths around
and through it. It’s not exactly The Good Life, but it’s possible
for us to get home at eight or nine o’clock at night and do a spot
of gardening for half an hour if we fancy it. Perfect.

We grow all
kinds of salad leaves, beans, carrots and other veg, with varying
degrees of success, it has to be said, while I have just managed
to miss the seasonal deadline (again!) for putting in fruit bushes
all around the edge of our new plot. It is rather impressive to
discover that specialist fruit nurseries will not even consider
taking money for bushes when buyers ask after the deadline. At least
the world of fruit-growing has not gone financially haywire.

In fact, everything
in the garden this year seems to be, as they say, lovely, with recent
rain a promising prelude to a floriferous summer, and the best bluebell
season in living memory underway. Meanwhile, Chelsea Flower Show
is almost upon us, with ticket sales as strong as ever (despite
a reduction in main show gardens from 21 to 13 this year), and the
Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is busy celebrating its 250th anniversary.

Growing your
own dovetails with a new eagerness among consumers to buy British.
Indeed, food is one area where that much derided attribute, patriotism,
appears to be respectable again: by buying British we are not only
helping the national economy, but also helping the environment by
reducing food miles: just 10 per cent of fruit consumed in Britain
is grown here.

The demand
for good-quality British produce at a reasonable price contrasts
with what is being offered by the fruit and veg industry. Even that
most British of apples, the classic Cox, is being displaced by the
Gala, the bigger, shinier interloper from New Zealand.

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the rest of the article

May
9, 2009

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