Grow your own: The seeds of change

As shoppers feel the pinch, more Britons are tearing out the decking and turning their lawns into vegetable plots. Rachel Shields reports

A A A

The nation's landscape is changing before our eyes. Record numbers of people are preparing to dig up their manicured lawns and privet hedges. Even the most modish gardens are sporting freshly dug vegetable beds, sapling fruit trees and nascent compost heaps.

Fruit and vegetable seed sellers last week reported record sales, with many saying that they cannot keep up with a sudden rise in demand. Meanwhile, the landscape gardening industry is in crisis, with many firms laying off staff.

The Association of Professional Landscapers has appointed a new chief executive officer, Jason Lock, in its search for strategies to tackle the downturn. "Without exception all our members are feeling the pinch. There has been a drop in enquiries and work booked," said Mr Lock.

The vogue for landscape gardening was spurred on in the late 1990s by garden makeover shows such as Ground Force, headed by Alan Titchmarsh. It has been replaced by a fashion for "edible gardening", with celebrities such as the Blur bassist Alex James espousing self-grown "five-a-day" healthy eating.

"Because the housing market is slowing down, there just isn't the movement through the chain that usually turns up landscaping work," said Mr Lock.

The UK's leading seed sellers, Tuckers, Marshalls and packetseeds.com, are struggling to cope with the number of orders coming in. The Horticultural Trades Association put UK sales of the seeds of edible plants at £40.3m in 2007; new figures expected shortly are likely to show significant growth.

In March the Royal Horticultural Society will unveil the latest stage in its "Grow Your Own" campaign, this time turning its attention to fruit-growing. The campaign, which aims to show people that they don't need acres of space to begin growing, and that gardening can reduce the amount of money spent on food, claims to have inspired half a million people to start cultivating fruits and vegetables.

As the trend grows, so does the demand for space. Allotments, once largely the preserve of the retired, are now hot property among young professionals. There are 330,000 allotments in the UK, and 100,000 people on waiting lists in the hope of securing one. The true number of people seeking allotments is thought to be much higher as some councils have closed their lists.

"There has been a phenomenal rise in the amount of people wanting allotments. There aren't enough because lots of the land was taken away in recent years, but because local authorities have a statutory duty to provide allotments they have to look for new land," said Karen Kelly, of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners.

Local authorities are obliged to provide 15 allotments per 1,000 households. Many authorities came under fire in recent years for selling off land once used for this purpose to property developers.

"Everyone, from every social group and level that you can imagine, has allotments – doctors, the unemployed, the elderly, families. It is growing in popularity because people care about food, their carbon footprint and the economic situation – allotments address all of these issues," said Ms Kelly.

Home-grown happiness

Gill Dickers, 59, from Headingley, Leeds, says: "I started growing my own because I wanted a supply of fresh salad and herbs. It's lovely being outside in the spring and summer doing something pleasurable and productive. I planted leeks, kohlrabi and potatoes, too. I like knowing that what I'm feeding my family is organic. I've taken over the area where my son usually plays football and I'm expanding my production this year. The cost of buying supermarket fruit and vegetables is crazy – that is one reason people are growing their own. It's also about being more productive. The world's resources are limited and people want to do their bit. As you can use lots of your household waste as compost, it encourages recycling, too."

Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical / Engineering Manager - West Yorkshire - £50k+

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: The company ...

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS Dynamics N...

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star