Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Lotti, Sustainable Living, Vegetables

gardening in ww2

In WW2 Britain, times had never felt so tough. With the scream of German bombers wheeling ahead and the continued destruction of homes, businesses and lives, it was clear that the war had reached Britain’s shores. The people were afraid – and hungry: just years before, 75% of Britain’s food had been imported by ship, but the German blockade meant that these food imports had been halved by millions of tonnes.

Rationing came in small increments – first bacon, butter and sugar then meat, tea, biscuits, cereals. By August 1942 all food was being rationed apart from vegetables and bread, which were in incredibly short supply. In some places, even domestic fruit like apples were restricted to one per person, and it wasn’t unheard of for grocers to only sell oranges to children and pregnant women.

Then, in 1939, Agricultural Minister Professor John Raeburn set up the Dig For Victory campaign. Men, women and children across the country were encouraged to grow their own produce in a bid for self-sufficiency and to ensure that all families had enough food to go around. The campaign was a famous success and across the country people took to their gardens to fill the gap that was left by strict rationing.

dig for victory poster
A Popular Dig For Victory Poster

The effect the campaign had on the common allotment was electric. In 1939, when Raeburn first set up the programme, there were 815,000 allotments across the UK. By 1943, there were around 1,400,000. Gardens across the country were transformed, flower beds replaced by vegetable plots, petunias swapped for potatoes. People were even encouraged to grow their own food on top of Anderson Shelters – the corrugated steel structures designed to withstand the impact of bombs.

It wasn’t just fruit and vegetables that started to fill residential streets: people were encouraged to raise animals too – pigs were particularly popular as they could be fed with table scraps, and chickens and rabbits reproduced quickly and provided families with meat during rationing and shortages. Keeping chickens was especially encouraged by the government, and you could exchange your egg ration for chicken feed – a good trade off for chickens laying eggs virtually all year round.

The well-stocked and dug-up garden became a symbol of British resilience. Known as Victory Gardens, they were a way for those at home to feel like they were part of the war efforts. Soon, it wasn’t just home and family gardens that were dug up for produce: almost every available green space was transformed into one of these Victory Gardens. Grassy verges on the sides of roads, playing fields and cricket greens were replaced with rows of vegetables. Bombed out playgrounds were ripped up and replaced with allotments, homes that had been turned into rubble were transformed into vegetable patches. Even the moat around the Tower of London was filled with vegetables. There were demonstration patches in London Zoo, pig clubs were set up around the country and national gardening societies and competitions shut down to encourage members and contestants to turn to growing food, not flowers.

allotment crater
A mini-allotment in bomb crater in Westminster

From the smallest children to the elderly, everyone was out with their spades. Tending to fruit and vegetable patches became a part of the school day as children worked in what used to be their playgrounds. In Scotland, children volunteered picking potatoes and were encouraged to make it part of their schooling, getting teachers involved and requesting trips to local farms where they could help gather the harvest. Many people were keen to do their bit, and hundreds of young people headed to Harvest Camps where you could volunteer for a week or more working outside harvesting vegetables or flax. The work was hard going and while those attending these camps did often receive pay (1/6d per hour) no one who attended them was there to make money.

Raeburn himself said it best – “We want not only the big man with the plough but also the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn. The matter is not one that can wait. So let’s get going. Let ‘Dig for Victory’ be the motto of everyone with a garden and of every able-bodied man and woman capable of digging an allotment in their spare time.” Propaganda at the time showed a kind of duality – it aligned the British people who were putting so much effort into growing their own food with those fighting on the front line while also reminding them that they weren’t gardening because they had to but because gardening was a pleasurable and relaxing experience. Gardening wasn’t just necessary – it was fashionable.

In fact, Dig To Victory led to one of Britain’s first true gardening celebrities – Cecil Henry Middleton (popularly known as just “Mr Middleton”). Mr Middleton hosted a Sunday afternoon radio show on the BBC Home Service where he guided listeners on how to best tend their garden. By 1940, Mr Middleton had 3.5 million listeners and around 70% of people with wirelesses tuned into his show every Sunday.

To make the campaign even more appealing, two mascots were introduced – Dr. Carrot and Potato Pete. Potatoes and especially carrots were easy to grow almost anywhere, and were the vegetables which were in most plentiful supply. The characters featured heavily in posters and even had their own songs to get children and families interested. They were in surplus supply, so it looked likely that the populace would soon get sick of eating them: the government had to make sure that didn’t happen. Carrots especially were praised for their versatility – not only were they a staple vegetable, they were also sweet, so were turned into jams, spreads and even drinks. Praised for their nutritional benefits, a hugely successful propaganda campaign told families that carrots helped you see in the dark, and that the British pilot’s victories over the german Luftwaffe was thanks to their improved eyesight from eating so many. This was, of course, a myth: but one that still lives on today.

potato pete
Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot

After the war ended, allotments began to drift back out of fashion. With supply-lines reopening, growing your own food was no longer a necessity – soon, gardens that had once been full of chickens and potatoes had turned back to lawns and flowerbeds. Land which had been transformed into vegetable patches was used for building houses. The post-war climate was very different: the television saw a massive boom in popularity and how people chose to use their leisure time changed. Gardening was popular but the allotment started to seem old-fashioned and, dare I say it: uncool. By the late 50s, allotment funding was withdrawn.

After a long period of disinterest in the grow your own movement, the trend appears to be slipping back in. A 2011 survey of around two thousand people showed that one in six adults had started to grow their own food, and half saying that they would consider doing so if food prices continue to rise. On the whole, however, gardens still seem to be dominated by immaculate lawns, flower beds and the odd trampoline. With the threat of increased food prices on the horizon and the need for more sustainable living practices, perhaps it’s time we took a leaf out of our great-grandparents’ books and returned to the spade to dig for victory once more.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Composting, Grow Your Own, Megan, Sustainable Living, Vegetables

Live More Sustainably by Cultivating your Kitchen Waste – Start Growing Vegetables from Kitchen Scraps!

Composting is a great, sustainable way to reduce your kitchen waste – but did you know lots of kitchen scraps you toss into your compost can be used to grow a new crop of vegetables? Growing vegetables from kitchen scraps is easy, fun and will help you reach a new high of sustainability in your kitchen.

Spring Onions

Growing Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps - Spring Onions

This one is probably the most straightforward on this list! Simply place the root ends of the spring onions in a jar of water and let it do it’s thing, it should start to grow within a few days. Make sure you replace the water when it needs it. It’s as simple as that! The same technique applies to leeks and fennel. Spring onions are the perfect vegetable to begin with when delving into the world of growing vegetables from kitchen scraps.

Avocado

Growing Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps - Avocado

Want to make smashed avo on toast with you very own homegrown avocados? It’s easier than you think! After polishing an avo off, take the pit (which is actually the avocado seed) and give it a wash to rid it of any left over green flesh. Identify which end is the top and bottom. The top, where the sprout will grow out of, is slightly pointy and the bottom is flatter. Take three or four toothpicks and stick them around the circumference of the avocado at even intervals. Place in a cup of water with the toothpicks resting on the rim, so the bottom of the pit is immersed in water. Set on a windowsill where it will get some sunlight, and change the water every few days. Once the pit starts to grow roots, place in potting soil and you’ve got yourself an avocado plant!

Potatoes

Growing Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps - Potatoes

We’ve all left potatoes a little too long and opened the vegetable draw to find them sprouting. Once the potatoes are at this stage they are inedible, so instead of tossing in the compost why not try planting them and see what happens? Make sure you bury them deep into the soil and add a little compost. Water & mulch the potato plants well and cover the stems as they grow for the optimum crop turnout. Growing potatoes is very cost effective and one potato will give you 1kg+ of homegrown produce! If this isn’t proof that growing vegetables from kitchen scraps isn’t one of the most economical and sustainable things you can do in your kitchen, then what is?

Carrot Greens

Growing Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps - Carrot Tops

If you buy carrots with their tops, you can use the tops to grow carrot greens which can be used as a garnish for salad, added to smoothies or even made into pesto. Place the carrot top cut side down in a small bowl of water and place on a sunny windowsill. Change the water every day and wait for the tops to sprout shoots. Once sprouted, plant in soil. Harvest the greens early if you prefer baby greens or later if you prefer a more developed, deeper flavour.

Garlic

Growing Vegetables from Kitchen Scraps

Garlic is an essential ingredient for all food enthusiasts, and it is easy to grow – all you need is a single clove. Plant in potting soil with the roots facing down. Garlic likes lots of direct sunlight. Once the clove starts to develop shoots in the form of green stalks, cut them back. The clove will then start to grow into a full bulb. Garlic is a crop that keeps on giving – simple take one of the cloves from the newly grown bulb and plant again and you will never be short of garlic in the kitchen again!

Ginger & Turmeric Root

Growing Vegetables from Kitchen Scraps

As ginger and turmeric already come in root form, all you need to do to regrow them is place them in soil with the largest buds at the bottom. Soak the roots in water before planting to help the root retain moisture. Keep the soil moist but be careful not to over-water. Be patient with this one – they take a while to grow. After a few weeks you should see shoots develop and after a couple of months small pieces should be ready to harvest.

Overall, growing vegetables from kitchen scraps is a great contribution to living a more sustainable lifestyle, so why not get started today?

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Composting, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, Megan, Organic, Plants, Vegetables

What Is Organic Gardening?

The most basic interpretation of organic gardening is  ‘gardening without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals’. But organic gardening is about much more than simply avoiding pesticides and fertilisers. It is about working as one with nature and viewing your garden as part of the wider, balanced ecosystem. Organic gardening is fabulously rewarding for the environment, wildlife, plants and the gardener!

Organic Gardening - Rainbow Chard

What Are The Benefits Of Organic Gardening?

There are numerous benefits to organic gardening. Not only will the quality of your crop intensify, you will save money, improve the health of your soil (and yourself) and help contribute to a more sustainable way of living.

  • Quality of your crop – it is well known that organically grown food is significantly higher in vitamins and minerals than its non-organic counterparts, not to mention you won’t be ingesting chemicals that may be harmful to the body.
  • It’s money saving – by gardening organically, you will alleviate the need to buy expensive fertilisers and pesticides. You may think that because the prices of organic fruit and veg at the supermarket are inflated, that organic gardening will cost you a buck. In fact it is quite the opposite!
  • Soil health – adding organic matter to your soil adds vital nutrients to your soil and helps create a good soil structure. Further information about how composting improves soil health can be found below.
  • Sustainability – organic gardening contributes to sustainability by conserving resources, causing no harm to the earth and gardening in a way that is sensitive to the environment. In addition, growing your own fruit and veg means you will have to buy less in the supermarket.

How can I start organic gardening?

Compost, compost, compost!

Organic Gardening - Hands Holding Compost

Compost is a great, all natural, organic soil amendment. Work it into the soil, or spread it on top to allow weather and worms to do the job for you. Compost will improve the quality of your soil in a number of ways; it will add valuable nutrients, help soil retain moisture, contributes to balancing the soil’s pH and improves the soil’s overall structure. Composting also saves money you would be spending on chemical fertilisers that could be causing harm to you and the environment.

Plant in perfect pairs (companion planting)

Organic Gardening - Hand Holding Plant

Companion planting and organic gardening go hand in hand. It is a great way to reduce pests and naturally block weed growth. Additionally it supports plant diversity thus benefiting the soil and the ecosystem. With companion planting, you really can let nature do a lot of the work for you. To find out more, check out our post here.

Choose the right plants

Organic Gardening - Seedlings

Plan and assess what plants will flourish best in your garden. Choosing plants that are native to your area will allow for easier growth. It is also more sustainable than trying to change your environment to suit a plant that is destined for another land. Look for plants that will be sure to thrive in each spot you plant it. Take into consideration light, drainage, moisture and the quality of the soil.

Control pests naturally

Organic Gardening - Ladybirds On Plant

Prevention is the best and first step to discouraging pests from devouring your precious plants. Composting, mulching and the use of natural fertiliser will develop strong, vigorous plants that are less susceptible to pests. Using seaweed spray also enhances growth and helps repel slugs. Another great way to prevent pests is attract beneficial insects to your garden. These prey on the insects you’re not so keen to welcome.

Overall, organic gardening reaps more benefits than you can initially imagine, and today is the perfect time to start. In no time your garden will be flourishing into an organic and chemical-free oasis of nature at its very best.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Allotment, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, How To, Megan, Planting, Plants, Vegetables

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Proteins

Vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise, with stats showing a massive 360% increase in 10 years. Even reducetarianism is a thing now. Cutting or reducing meat in your diet doesn’t mean your food will be boring – it’ll just be more rainbow! As Primrose’s resident vegan, I have decided to address the age-old question ‘where do you get your protein from?’ by compiling a list of plant based proteins and how to grow them. In no time, your garden will be flourishing with nutrient rich rainbow veggies that would be a welcome addition to any plate.

Green Peas

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - green peas

Green peas are a great source of plant based protein, with 5g of protein per 100g. Peas also contain many essential vitamins and minerals and a good amount of fibre. If choosing the meteor variety of peas, sow in November and the peas will be ready to harvest between May and July. We suggest sowing the seeds in old guttering and drilling holes at regular intervals for drainage. Store in a cold frame or in your greenhouse to protect the seedlings from pests. After the seedlings are well established, they can be transferred into your garden. The use of cloches would be beneficial for growth here. When harvesting, be sure to pick regularly for ultimate freshness.

Quinoa

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - red quinoa

Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wah’, is an ancient grain that is packed full of protein, 13g per 100g to be precise. It contains all nine essential amino acids making it a complete plant based protein. As exotic as it sounds it is actually relatively easy to grow quinoa in the UK. The best time to sow quinoa is in April, and you should be able to enjoy your quinoa from early autumn. Early growth can look a lot like weeds so ensure you mark your plants carefully to prevent treating them like weeds by accident. Harvesting is the trickiest part – remove the seed heads when the leaves start to turn yellow and leave them to dry for a couple of weeks. To remove the seeds, rub the seed heads with your hands. Ensure you rinse quinoa well before cooking, as un-rinsed quinoa tends to be quite bitter.

Pumpkins

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween – the seeds inside are packed full of nutrients and have a mighty 19g protein per 100g, making them a great plant based protein. They are also very high in magnesium and omega 3. Pumpkin plants take up a lot of ground; each plant requires around 3 foot of ground around it, making a single plot more than 6 foot each side. Sow seeds directly into the ground from late May to early June. Use mulch coupled with tomato food to feed your pumpkins, ensuring you water the seedlings regularly in order to keep them in optimum health. It is important not to harvest too early, so ensure the skin is tough and the stems have started to crack before picking. You can use the pumpkin to make a hearty soup and the seeds as a healthy on-the-go plant based snack.

Broad Beans

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - broad beans

Broad beans contain around 6g of protein per 100g and are high in vitamin K, vitamin B6 and zinc. The best time to sow them is between February and April. If sowing earlier, ensure you put cloches in place to warm the soil ahead of time. Alternatively you can sow them in small pots in the greenhouse where it is easier to protect them from pests. Broad bean plants tend to flop which can cause the stems to bend and break so help keep them upright by investing in some cane and string. To keep your broad beans as fresh as possible, store them in the freezer or dry them out.

Broccoli

Vegetarian Garden: Plant Based Protein - broccoli

Broccoli is a very nutritionally-rich food, boasting a variety of vitamins and minerals and 2.8g of protein per 100g. This plant based protein is part of the cabbage family and there are lots of varieties including sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower. Sow broccoli seeds from late March to early June. It is preferable to sow in a seedling tray and place in a greenhouse, poly tunnel or cold frame. After the seeds have germinated let them acclimatise to outdoor temperatures by using cloches or storing in a mini greenhouse. The amount of space you give each seedling in your plot will determine how large the broccoli head will grow. Ensure you harvest the broccoli before it turn yellow, as by then the florets are starting to bloom.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

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