The Croftless Crofter: Nic Goddard

A poster from the Second World War encouraging people to grow their own vegetables. NO F16 WWII veg chart
A poster from the Second World War encouraging people to grow their own vegetables. NO F16 WWII veg chart

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Most of us will have grown up with stories from the Second World War being told within our families.

So it is no great surprise that in these uncertain times the activities people ‘locked down’ in their homes are turning to are those which our grandparents may have told us about.

Baking, crafting, singing and growing-your-own have been a
way of life for many of us but others are joining in with online choir practise or learning how to knit.

NO F16 WW2 veg 01
NO F16 WW2 veg 01

The loo roll shortage in supermarkets was followed by flour selling out and seed suppliers reporting record sales.

Whether you are thinking about having a go at growing your own as a new hobby, a science experiment with your currently home-schooled children or preparing for a future food crisis, the joy of getting your hands dirty and tending newly-emerging seedlings which will grow into something you eat is well worth considering.

My first go at growing was on my Sussex allotment more than 10 years ago. A warmer climate, much less rain and a different type of soil there meant  when I moved to the west Highlands in 2012 I had to learn how to deal with  peaty soil, a later growing season and lack of access to garden centres filled with tools and accessories.

NO F16 WW2 veg 02
NO F16 WW2 veg 02

I soon learned to re-purpose all manner of things as seed trays – plastic trays from fruit and vegetables are perfect for starting off tomatoes, chillies and peppers.

Empty toilet roll tubes can be turned into pots for peas and beans, the beauty being you can plant the cardboard tube along with the seedlings as it rots away into the ground.

I’ve grown potatoes in buckets, flower pots and sturdy plastic sacks previously filled with animal feed or compost. My current watering can is a two litre milk carton with tiny holes pierced in the lid with a drawing pin.

I bought a mini greenhouse to fix to an outside wall, but my spare room, which was supposed to be occupied by guests for most of March and April, is now a great big greenhouse!

NO F16 WW2 veg 03
NO F16 WW2 veg 03

If you have a sunny spot, inside or out, you have somewhere to start growing. If you have any sort of container you can put soil into then you have a ‘garden’. If you are not able to get your hands on a packet of seeds but you have fresh tomatoes, peppers or chillies in your salad drawer, you are up and running.

Plant any potatoes with ‘eyes’ on them – I have even started sprouting potatoes from peelings before. A clove of garlic with a green sprout poking through is ready for planting.

You may not have success with everything you try, but you will learn a
lot and may find yourself tucking into a plate filled with something you grew yourself a few months from now.

If you have more space for a vegetable patch, with careful planning it is possible to feed a family in fresh vegetables all year round on a surprisingly small piece of land.

The best advice I was given was to only grow what you want to eat. I didn’t heed that tip until I brought home a bumper crop of broad beans – enough to feed our family of four for weeks – when only one of us likes broad beans!

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A poster from the Second World War encouraging people to grow their own vegetables.

NO F16 WWII veg chart