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Grow Your Own Five (Or More) A Day

We all know food is just as important as exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. The ’5-A Day’ message is widely known and encourages us to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables into our diet as possible, and what better way to do this than to grow your own? Whether you only have a window box or courtyard or if your garden is a generous size, growing and eating at least some of your own produce is not only possible, but also enjoyable and has enormous health advantages.

Think about the great benefits to be gained from trying to grow your own fruit and or vegetables: -

• It’s very exciting to see tiny seeds germinate and develop into plants that flower and bear leaves, shoots, roots or fruits that you can eat. You can be justly proud of offering your friends and family produce that you have patiently nurtured yourself.

• Anything you grow will be super-fresh and nutritious. Vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables start to deteriorate soon after harvesting, so picking fresh and eating immediately is definitely the best way to go.

Picking peas

• Harvesting produce from your garden saves food miles. What on earth is the environmental cost of buying beans from Kenya, apples from France or strawberries from Holland in December?

• If you wish, your produce can be truly organic. Vegetables and fruit you buy may have been sprayed with all sorts of chemicals to make them visually perfect and uniform to sell in a supermarket. Pesticide and fungicide residues are not really a desirable addition to healthy eating and can be avoided by growing your own.

• Your own fruit and vegetables can be harvested when they reach perfect ripeness. Commercial growers often pick things when they are under ripe and store them in chillers to extend their shelf life; this is usually detrimental to their flavour and nutritional value.

Different types of tomatoes

• You can grow unusual varieties not readily available in the shops. For example, commercial soft fruit varieties are often grown because of their ability to withstand transportation and storage unscathed, rather than for their flavour. By growing your own, you can try heritage varieties with great taste and intriguing names, such as Mara des Bois strawberries, Pink Fir Apple potatoes, Mummy peas or Doyenne de Comice pears. You can also grow delicious tomato varieties, not available in the shops, such as Sweet One Million, Sungold or stripy Tigerella or unusual salads like rocket, mustard greens or mizuna.

Saving and planting seeds

• You can save money. A packet of seeds is relatively cheap and when your crops are coming to an end, you can save your own seeds or swap them with friends for next year. At this time of year garden centres often sell off their seeds at a big discount, and if stored in a cool, dry place, they will be perfectly viable to grow next year.

• If you are lucky enough to own a garden or rent an allotment, digging, weeding, planting, lifting and carrying can all augment your workouts in the gym, with the added benefits of fresh air and sunshine. As well as being great exercise, gardening is a terrific stress-buster and can improve your mental health and wellbeing too.

Feeling Inspired? Go ahead and get growing your own. If you're quick, it's not too late in early August to sow radishes, turnips, salad leaves and fast maturing carrots such as Amsterdam Forcing or Adelaide.