Gourmet tastes are feeding the growth of the gastro garden

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Gourmets unhappy with fruit and vegetables from supermarkets, and environmentalists worried about air miles, pesticides and other modern evils are increasingly growing their own food.

Although the number of amateur gardeners is not known, horticultural organisations are reporting a rise in the number of people asking how they can grow edible plants in domestic gardens and allotments.

Advocates of what has become known as the Grow Your Own (GYO) movement, say home-grown fare is tastier, healthier and cheaper. It is also more environmentally acceptable than commercial crops sprayed with chemicals and taken by lorry to shops.

If the movement gains momentum, GYO could potentially become as important a development for food as DIY became for home improvement. GYO seems to spring from the rising interest among the British public in food, which has resulted in falling sales for unhealthy, processed products and booming sales of organic fruit and vegetables and more nutritious food.

Greater publicity has also exposed the number of miles which fresh produce is flown to sate the desire of supermarkets for all-year-round choice.

Claire Willis, of the National Association of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, said: "There is a general trend towards growing your own. We go to a lot of shows and more and more we are finding there are other people taking on allotments or growing their own. Gardening is not just about flowers and shrubs any more. Even if you have only a small area you can certainly turn over part of it to growing produce."

Georgina Wroe, of Grow Your Own magazine, launched last year to cater for new amateur growers, said: "It's certainly a trend. The four major seed companies have all reported bigger sales in vegetables than in flowers, which is the first time that has happened since the end of the Second World War."

The Royal Horticultural Society reported that interest was coming not just from new allotment owners but people with small city gardens. "There seems to be an increase in allotment vegetable growing but we have found that most calls come from people growing a few pots of vegetables in their back yard," said Guy Barter, head of the RHS advice service.

He added: "This is probably due to people being much more interested in where their food comes from and how it is grown. Children especially are curious as to where their food comes from and can be surprised to find potatoes come from the ground and not from a packet."

Interest in allotments has been rising for a decade, but the new growers are younger and wealthier than the older working-class men who traditionally sowed and reaped the urban plots.

Five easy foods

* TOMATOES

Plant in the soil at this time of year or - easier - buy a grow bag. Put the plants in the bags, water well and wait for a crop. Good gardeners get "gluts", an abundance of tomatoes that can be given to friends when ripe in late summer.

* POTATOES

Simply plant a few sprouting pieces of potato in the ground. The RHS suggests "Picasso" - a heavy cropper with creamy skin and waxy flesh.

* MINT

Mint can be grown anywhere from a windowsill to a flower bed and is so vigorous it is often contained in pots to stifle its territorial ambitions. It requires little watering and thrives in the summer.

* BLUEBERRIES

High in nutritional value. Gardeners say they are one of the easiest fruit bushes to grow and produce a bumper crop. Buy two bushes of different varieties for cross-pollination and plant in sun or light shade.

* COURGETTES/MARROWS

Two varieties for the price of one - if the plant is small it's a courgette, if it's large, a marrow. Sow your seeds over the coming month.

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