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Book Review: Growing Self-Sufficiency

September 7, 2017


Sally Nex is an experienced and passionate grower of fruit and vegetables and her aim in Growing Self -Sufficiency is to get you started whatever the size of your plot.  You may only have space for a window box for herbs or a small patio or balcony for pots but you will be able to grow an impressive amount of produce.  With an allotment or sizeable garden Sally’s advice will show you how to be near self-sufficient and shave pounds off your food bill. She says:

‘Taking control of your own food is one of the easiest ways to tread lighter on the earth: as easy, in fact, as planting a seed’.

One motive for the book is the need to avoid where possible the thousands of miles food travels to get to your table. Add to that the concern over chemicals that are regularly used to keep produce artificially fresh. But Sally Nex is also inspired to pass on what she calls her addiction to growing produce and it’s one that I share.

The opening chapter explores gardening in window boxes and discusses the easiest veg to grow. Sally says salad leaves can be picked for months on end as can perpetual spinach, Swiss chard and kale. Herbs also do well in window boxes and I can vouch for that having filled two surplus troughs with parsley, mint, basil, chives and coriander this summer.  I have been picking herbs for the last three months saving on average two pounds a week so aside from their beauty it’s definitely cost effective. If space is limited and you enjoy cooking this would be an easy way to start and there are great tips on freezing herbs to keep a supply though the seasons.

From window box gardening Sally moves on to three container gardening which she says will feed one person for a year. Double that up and it can feed a family of four. Easy to grow produce such as salad leaves, Swiss chard, perpetual spinach and beetroot fit nicely into this project and with sufficient space more containers can be added. Early new potatoes can be planted in spring with beans and peas to follow and these would provide vertical interest climbing up wigwams.

Chillies are pretty plants that do well in a pot and crop throughout summer and surplus can be dried for winter use.

Sally provides charts showing sowing times to cropping times for all the produce to keep you on schedule. Perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage can be woven in around other plants and chives can line the edge of borders.

Mini orchards can be grown in pots but in a bigger garden Sally has encouraging advice for using fruit cages. In gardens the vegetable plot can be defined with espaliered fruit trees on the edges or fruit can be trained against walls. Blueberries make attractive plants for a large pot and can be supplied with the ericaceous soil that they need to thrive. Figs should have their roots contained so these make an ideal fruit tree for a container. I fancy her idea for lemons, limes and oranges to be grown in pots outside and then brought in for winter. Strawberries can be used to edge borders or planted round the outside of containers.

There’s advice on preserving, bottling and freezing to extend the seasons and there’s a great chapter on saving seeds. I loved the idea of cutting  a ripe tomato in half to scoop out the seeds onto kitchen paper. Simply leave them to dry then store on the paper in an envelope to sow next year.

Something to move onto if there’s space is her chapter on keeping chickens, weaner piglets and lambs. I have friends in Devon who started with a vegetable patch and have steadily built up their self-sufficiency to this level and they are loving the challenge. But most of us have space for at least a window box and with Sally’s book to inspire it would be a great start to self-sufficiency. That then might be followed by renting an allotment or moving to accommodation with a garden for a vegetable patch. Whatever the space I believe this book is just what is needed to inspire you to get started.

Publisher Green Books: ISBN 9780857843173

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2017 4:12 pm

    I share your ethos; as much pleasure as I derive from my ornamental garden there is nothing to describe the joy of eating what one has grown. When using the saved tomatoes you can even leave them on the paper, if they are spaced enough and they will happily germinate, just keep the paper damp while the seed is germinating.

    • September 8, 2017 10:34 am

      I also like the challenge of experimenting with a glut. My numerous courgettes were transformed with about six different recipes this Summer.

      • September 8, 2017 12:31 pm

        I agree. There is something liberating about cooking with a glut. Do tell us what recipes you used and liked.

  2. September 8, 2017 1:13 pm

    Sri Lankans courgette curry from Guardian. Spiralized courgette instead of pasta with various sauces. Marrow and ginger jam for the ones that got away. Yellow courgette rings cooked in oil with lemon and grated parmesan on linguine.

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