Monday, 19 August 2013

PLAN A HEALTHY GARDEN



PLAN A HEALTHY GARDEN

Television, newspapers and other forms of media bombard us with the need to look after our health.
In our youth we never gave a thought about health as we just assumed we were healthy. We had youth on our side, were always very active as few people had cars or televisions and computers had not been invented. We walked to the hills for recreation, climbed trees, (and often fell out of the trees, but we just bounced back on our feet) cycled everywhere, went swimming, skating, running, played football and enjoyed the less active sports of snooker and pool. Then as we matured we went dancing, smoked and started drinking and enjoyed our staple diet of fish suppers, sausages, pies and mince which we considered very tasty as long as no-one ruined it by adding a few green vegetables. Nothing seemed to affect us, though there was always a strain on the wallet.
Moving on to today and being able to look back in hindsight, the long term effects are there to be seen. So many friends from the past paid the price of too much smoking, drinking and a very poor diet.  The youth of today have an even bigger problem, as no-one walks any more as cars take us everywhere, television is on all the time and is very entertaining and kids spend a lot of time in a chair in front of a computer or other forms of social media. Instant meals and takeaways are very popular and cooking skills are being lost, apart from those who enjoy it as a hobby. I am amazed at so many newcomers to allotment life who grow their vegetables, harvest them but have not a clue on how to cook them. They also do not appreciate how cheap it is to live a healthy life with fresh fruit and vegetables, though preparing and cooking food can be quite time consuming and hard work.

However the media is now educating us on the evils of our way of life, warnings of obesity, lack of exercise, heart problems and diabetes. Then when you factor in the age effect for us beyond retirement it compounds the problem. Recently when standing on a chair to reach some ripe brambles high up on my bush, the chair collapsed and I crashed down onto a nearby Ben Conan blackcurrant bush, which did it no favours whatsoever. This time I never bounced back on my feet, so maybe I am losing my youth. No great damage was done as Ben Conan is very hardy.
Having a garden and allotment provides a perfect solution to most of today’s problems. Exercise is required in varying amounts all year round to cultivate, weed, plant and harvest the produce.
One small plot can provide a massive range of fresh produce for year round use.

Summer is the berry and salad season and combined with perfect growing weather crops have been prolific. Cabbage and cauliflowers, courgettes, peas, French beans, beetroot, turnip and early potatoes are all available at the same time. Strawberries started very early, then rasps, black currants, gooseberries, cherries and saskatoons were coming in one after another.
If anyone is worried about reaching their minimum of five fresh fruit and vegetables a day they should get a garden or allotment. I reach my five a day with my breakfast mixing in fruit, bananas and grapes into my muesli, then lunch will add another five, then by supper time a few more.
However summer is the season of plenty, and as we go into autumn there is almost just as much other crops available to give us more variety. Onions, leeks, kale, autumn maturing cabbage and cauliflower, Swiss chard, Swedes will all have there day and autumn fruit trees will start to mature.

Autumn crops are sown in summer on land vacated as early crops are harvested. There is still plenty time to sow more lettuce, radish, spring onions, rocket and late peas. Autumn is also the time to harvest the apples, plums, pears if you have any, grapes, figs, brambles and autumn raspberries. I am also hoping my Flamenco perpetual strawberry will give me a crop of autumn fruit, though this is its first year and growth has not been great.
However towards mid autumn it is too late to catch another quick maturing crop, but soil can suffer from leaching if it is left unplanted till next spring so now is the time to sow a green manure crop of clover, vetches, ryegrass or mustard if you do not have a clubroot problem. Some green manures can be left to overwinter but others will need to be trampled down and dug in if they start to flower. These crops wont give you anything healthy to eat, but the exercise of all that digging in is very good for your heart.
 
Plant of the week

Rudbeckia is an herbaceous perennial native to North America though some forms are biennial and annuals. They flower in September to November and vary in height from one to six feet. Colours are mainly yellow and orange with a darker centre hence the common name, Black Eyed Susan.
They like heavy, moist but well drained soil and planted in full sun or partial shade. Only the very tallest will need support.

END

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