On Saturday 18th April, Horsham Climate Cafe met for its fourth virtual meeting since lockdown began. One of the benefits of moving online during the COVID19 pandemic is the number of people able to join from further afield as we had environmentalists calling in from as far away as Ireland. With self-isolation set to continue and the weather still in our favour, the discussion focused around ‘grow your own’ as a money-and-planet-saving way to stay connected to nature during this time.

Alison Marshall gave an encouraging and thoughtful talk about growing both at home and in the community allotment she works on as part of Transition Horsham. Since being given the plot of land by Chesworth Farm in 2012, the space has been transformed into a steady supply of fruit and vegetables and an outdoor community hub. While this group of gardeners cannot meet at present, there is no reason for families not to benefit from the produce, savings and pleasure of growing at home. Green-fingered and green-minded projects do not need to require vast amounts of outdoor space, specialised compost, or even seeds. There was discussion about growing in pots (or upcycled household waste items as equivalents), growing with regular soil instead of compost, and re-growing vegetable offcuts such as spring onion roots. Alison concluded with the reflection that plants generally want to grow and so will overcome many compromised or adverse situations to do so.

Caroline McCurrach also gave a talk about her amazing work on her allotment as a childminder. She uses growing as a way to engage toddlers and instil in them a love for the outdoors. Beyond watering, harvesting and playing, the children learn through counting, comparing and tasting the produce in Caroline’s allotment. Her presentation can be found here.

Carrie Cort, founder of Sussex Green Living and co-founder of the Horsham Climate Cafe, shared some fun and creative ideas for people keen to repurpose ‘waste’ items for growing in rather than throwing them away. Photo inspiration can be seen in this gallery.

Some of the other advice and knowledge given by attendees included growing in pots on the garage roof and re-growing celery stalks in glass jars of water. Other resources recommended were the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (about her family’s year of surviving on local produce); this website on re-cultivating vegetable scraps  and another a helpful book entitled Don’t throw grow by Deborah Peterson, as well as these recipes for using nasturtiums.

We were also joined by Thomas Constant who founded www.beobia.com last year, empowering people to grow their own source of sustainable insect based protein.

There can be no doubt that growing produce at home has many benefits, some of which are particularly relevant to our current situation, and all of which should continue to be important once lockdown is over. Panic buying last month made us more aware than ever of the problems of our reliance on imports and supply chains while the desire to self-sustain has increased since so many of us are now unable to leave our homes.

Produce can come from the garden, balcony or window sill with no food miles, no pesticides and no packaging – undoubtedly a greener option – and is far better for our physical and mental wellbeing than a trip to the supermarket. Seeds cost very little and, when tended to, will yield abundant goods meaning a vegetable garden is a cheaper option as well. As many face a long period of confinement, we find we are blessed with time to nurture plants in a way our normal lives might not allow and both Alison and Caroline spoke about the intergenerational nature of growing. It is an activity accessible to and enjoyed by both the very old and the very young and a good way for families to connect not only to nature but to each other during lockdown. Growth requires patience and care but many of us have time on our hands and every reason to start digging.

PLUS

For those of you who missed last week’s meeting, Fiona Hamilton’s brilliant blog of frugal living tips can be found here https://www.sussexgreenliving.co.uk/money-saving-ideas/

For those of you who have kids or who are under 16, please take a look at this great competition we are running with the South Downs National Park for 5-16 year olds https://www.sussexgreenliving.co.uk/environmental-education-for-lockdown-victims/

Join us for future Horsham Climate Cafe sessions, learn more here.

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