This is my 4th year taking part in the Earth Hour, a global event aimed at raising awareness about sustainability issues.  This year, I have decided to write a daily post during the month leading to the event in order to share some thoughts about the environment and give tips the little changes we can make in our daily lives.  There will also be some guest posts by fellow bloggers who will share their own views on a topic related to the environment.  You can read my introductory post here and access the Earth Hour website here.

I encourage you to comment and share your own tips, ideas and experience.  In the last couple of days before the event I will do a few posts about what readers had to say.  I believe we can learn a lot by sharing!

The other day, I highlighted a few food issues and particularly the fact that we should make informed decisions about what we eat.  I discussed this issue further yesterday by suggesting to shop locally or at the market, where it is easier to know about your food’s provenance.  There is another way to know where your food comes from and it is by growing it yourself.  You might not be able to grow everything, for climatic or space reasons, but whatever you grow will supplement what you eat and the money you will save can thus be spent on better quality products at the market.  I started growing my own veg two years ago.  Food shopping that summer was only minimal because I would eat a lot of my own veg and would buy nearly everything else at the market, such as lovely local cheese and eggs.

Chillis

The first thing you can grow, even if you do not have a garden, are herbs.  I have always been horrified by the price of herbs and the packaging involved.  Most of the time, you buy a few stems packed in a huge plastic box and they only last a couple of days.  It is not difficult to have a small herb garden or a few pots of your favourite herbs on your window sill.  Most herbs will not even require much attention and can survive cold-ish winters. 

I think that the only herb I have never managed to grow is basil, but I will try again this year and I am determined to succeed because I love basil!  On the other hand, I was quite proud to have managed to keep these chilli plants for a few year, and the chillis got hotter with time.

Now I have also planted camomile and lemon balm, which come handy for medicinal purposes or simply if you like infusion.

What you can do, is freeze or dry those herbs to have your own stock for the winter.  Some gardening books will give you explanations about the various processes to keep herbs. 

Parsley growing in a window-sill pot

Parsley thriving in the middle of winter

Herb garden the first year

Herb garden two years later

It survived the winter despite minus temperatures

If you have a small garden, growing veg can become a bit of a problem, but a veg patch does not necessitate that much space if you organise it properly.  For instance, you can plant radishes in between plants that need more space to grow.  The first year, I made the mistake to plant courgettes in the patch, but the plant ended up taking a lot of space.  Now, I plant it in the garden. 

Temporary veg patch

Getting more organised

Some veg, such as chard, can also be decorative and thus fulfil two purposes at once.  Also, if you need more space in your patch, you can always plant salads in a box as they don’t necessitate much depth.

Chard, decorative as well as tasty

You learn with time what works best for you and experimenting can be fun.  For instance, I find dwarf beans very handy; they don’t require much attention, don’t need much space, but give a lot of beans.  I also have a wild strawberry plant, which is very resistant, grows on its own and gives very tasty fruits.

Young wild strawberry plant, I kept it for a few years in a pot until I owned my house

It is even bigger now!

Looking after your veg can take a little bit of time, but not more than going to the shop to buy veg on a regular basis, and it is so rewarding.  I had never eaten a courgette so tasty (I was very proud of my courgette plant)!

Baby courgette

They take space but are so tasty!

I hope this year to manage to grow a few winter veg as well.  We will see how I get on…

Another way to get your food for free is to go foraging.  It is amazing what nature can give us in the wild.  And if you live by the sea, the seashore will provide you with a lot of shellfish (I love periwinkles, for instance!).  And for the most courageous, rent a boat and go fishing.  You will have a fun time and, if you’re lucky, you might get a catch that lasts you for a little while if you have a freezer!

A good catch!

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