Veg survey points green finger at lack of know-how and space

An Eden resident shows others how to grow veg in pipesRabbits, hens, the Cumbrian climate and time are some of the challenges preventing Eden residents from growing more of their own fruit and veg. Would-be growers were sharing their views in a survey by the Penrith and Eden District Freegle group, as parrt of its Grow Your Own campaign to help people in Eden grow food.


We harvested some interesting results from this year’s survey. We found that nearly a quarter of those who filled it in have grown veg for the first time in the past year or grew more than last year, which is great news.


Most growers are using their garden or allotment, but growing in containers in the back yard or on the windowsill is represented, too.


More than a quarter said there were obstacles stopping them from growing more, or growing at all.


The main reason emerging was lack of knowledge, with people saying they’d like to know more about the types of plants that grow well in our climate and how to prepare soil. This was also a big theme in last year’s survey, and it’s why Freegle has ramped up its efforts this season to help people learn some growing skills.


Freegle’s Visiting Edible Gardens (VEG) programme kicks off in May, with free events across Eden until October, giving novice growers a way to learn from others with more experience. Freegle has also funded and organised free one-day training courses, covering all the basics of veg growing.


Would-be growers also cited shortage of space as a problem, for both growing and storing equipment. From a first-floor flat where it’s too dangerous to have windowsill containers through to residents living in rented accommodation where they aren’t allowed to cultivate the garden, space is clearly an issue. There are some ways round it, though. There are now community polytunnels in both Penrith and Appleby, where people can have some space to grow their own veg, or they could help out at Penrith’s community gardens.


A lack of equipment was a common theme, with one grower reporting that their greenhouse blew away in Eden’s winds. That's where the Freegle website can make a difference, helping people get the stuff they need for free. Around 70 per cent of respondents said they often have gardening kit to give away and would be happy to offer it on Freegle. A lot of gardening equipment is given away on Freegle already. Greenhouses, manure, timber for raised beds and tools are just some of the things that have changed hands in the gardening category.


Other challenges for growers included keeping the local wildlife at bay and time pressures. It can be hard to fit growing into our busy lives and Freegle's advice is to start small and only take on what you can manage. That could simply be one container with some of your favourite veg. Then when time allows, you can build up.


What the survey has shown is that there’s certainly a desire to grow food in Eden, and Freegle is hoping that, with a little help, more people will be inspired to give it a try.