Fringe Box



Millmead Views: Grow Your Own

Published on: 5 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 5 Sep, 2012

An occasional column written by our local GBC councillors…

by Angela Gunning

Cllr for Stoke Ward and Leader of the Labour Group

Food airmiles, water use, Fair Trade… Worried about green issues? Land use in Africa? Fancy produce for us while they go without food.

What about air miles? Some say nonsense, they don’t prove anything and they deprive poorer countries of livelihood and currency. But vegetables grown here require diesel-fuelled tractors and all sorts of herbicides and pesticides.

What can you do about it? Well – grow your own! But where?

What about lawns? Who needs them? They’re work, worry and money. They keep on growing, need water and are unproductive. Damp to sit on. A stone patio is far better. Leave stripy green swards to the parks department, and make your patch productive. No garden? You could join the queue for an allotment. But there a huge waiting list for a plot in one of Guildford’s fourteen Allotment gardens. More of that anon.

Community Garden at Bellfields

So what are worth growing? Tomatoes, herbs, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, rocket, beetroot, lettuces [These are nearly all red Angela? What about blueberries? Are they politically incorrect? Ed].

What’s stopping you? Sounds easy, just get seed, plant them and sit back for a few weeks, crop and enjoy. And what else? A big warm feeling that you’ve done your bit for the planet, and feel good comparing prices in the shops. Did you know that organic raspberries are about £24/kilo? This year I cropped over 10 kilos. Sound like a clever-sticks? Sorry, I am just pleased.

However, it’s not all easy-peasy. There’s a Noah’s ark of creatures who also love home grown produce. Cabbage white butterflies, pigeons, squirrels, blackbirds, and the worst of them all…. slugs. Vile, slimy, sinister, silent…and, er, stupid. I could use slug pellets but the wreckage of corpses the day after the night before is revolting to deal with and not very ‘green’.

Better to go out armed with a trowel and box on a warm damp dawn or dusk and prowl the garden. My biggest haul is 170…….The box was full, a heaving mass of ginger, black and grey. They can shrink themselves from the size of a big finger to a muscular plum-sized blob.

The sunflower community

Then I dispose of them ‘thoughtfully’ where they can eat weeds in the verges – or each other. They’re cannibals. Did you know! Do I sound like a slug-fetishist? You can get like that when you see the damage they can do to seedlings and strawberries. No wonder organic veg cost more .

Blight…the bane of tomato and potato growers. Appears from nowhere, spreads almost over night and there’s no saving the crop. Then you have to burn the plants. It’s almost like a quarantine operation. Makes you want to weep. That’s why people have a lawn and buy their veg!

Hope I’m not putting you off!

Back to allotments… Guildford has fourteen allotment gardens and a huge waiting list. If your garden has become too much like hard work, why not offer space to someone else? Garden sharing is a growing [no pun intended] trend. Everyone’s a winner; if you know someone, maybe elderly who is finding tending their garden too much, offer to use the space. There are also ‘Community Gardens’ not exactly allotments, but communal land for growing produce. There is one in Bellfields, off Fir Tree road. It also has a rough grass playground and ball court.

Welcome to the Fir Tree Community Garden

Growing your own produce is fun and very satisfying. Ask around about sharing a garden, else get on the allotments or community gardens waiting list .

Get further information on allotments from GBC Parks. Tel 01483 444718

In a fortnight’s time it will be the turn of the Conservative councillors…

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Responses to Millmead Views: Grow Your Own

  1. David Rose

    September 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I totally agree with Angela’s comments. Gardening is great fun, but it can be a lot of work if you cultivate too much; and you do have to be prepared for some set backs.

    I’m lucky to have my own plot that was used for growing veg by my late patents and grandparents before them. It had been turned back to lawn, but six or seven years ago I figured out it would be no more time consuming if I dug over a small section once more and planted a few rows of vegetables.

    Each year since I have dug out a little more. Now, for me, it does take up quite a bit of my time, but the results of picking fresh peas, runner beans and lettuce, and digging spuds, carrots and leaks, for example, far out weighs the disappointment of the inevitable failures – had no luck with toms for the past three years and this year the courgettes have been pathetic!

    I also grow gladioli and sunflowers, for example, for cut flowers for home. And afterwards the birds and squirrels love the sunflower seeds.

    Doing the weeding or watering (any time of the day, when time allows) is a great leveller to all the other things going on in my routine. You just have to make that extra bit of time. It’s well worth it.

    Although I am not a public allotment holder or a member of a garden society, these can also have tremendous benefits for anyone thinking about growing their own. Not only will you get great advice and tips from fellow gardeners, you may also be able to buy seeds and fertilisers at reduced prices.

    The community benefits are amazing too. I do believe that meeting other growers in your area is another great way for communities to get to know one another better. Who knows what great things that might lead too!

    I was honoured to be asked to present the prizes last Saturday at the Onslow Village Garden Club’s annual show. (See article on this website). That just proved to meet how community spirit can be increased.

    One other thought: you will know that you can get lots of gardening tips by reading the words and thoughts of the likes of Alan Titchmarsh and co in a number of UK garden magazines and publications.

    The Guildford Dragon News would love to have a section about what people are growing right here in Guildford. If anyone would like to write a regular column or contribute, why not get in touch. Email me to or call me on 01483 838960.