Learning to grow vegetables at home will benefit your body, mind and the planet

Vegetable patches tend to conjure nostalgic memories of simpler times. And while our grandparents and parents fed their families from the garden, today we are dependent on supermarkets and disconnected with what it takes to put food on the table.

This was clearly evidenced by the panic that set in when people feared the shops may run out of food. The vast majority of us can’t imagine what we would do without our local supermarket. But growing food isn’t complicated. It’s a skill we have forgotten as a nation — and now might be the perfect time to get back to basics. 

Here, we chat to the man who started the Grow It Yourself (GIY) movement in Ireland, and below, we share a few videos about the plants you can start growing in your garden now.

Why we should grow our own

Michael Kelly started GIY in 2008 because he wanted to grow his own food at home, and couldn’t find a community group he could turn to for advice. He took that simple idea and created a movement. This grew exponentially, and you will no doubt recognise him from his RTÉ series on growing food. 

“It is mind blowing to think that 10 years later, GIY is supporting half a million people this year to grow their own food,” he says.

For too long, it has been easy to turn a blind eye to talk of climate change, to continue to choose convenience and not concern ourselves with where our food comes from.

“I have always felt that food growing is a food activist action — you are doing something profoundly positive for yourself, your community and the planet.

“The penny is dropping now and people are realising that the way we have fed ourselves for the past two or three decades has had a profound impact on the planet.”

It feels like another lifetime ago that a very different and still urgent crisis was at the forefront of our collective conscience. Last year Ireland became the second country in the world, after the UK, to announce that we are in a state of a climate and biodiversity emergency.

 As we wise up to the impact of plastic packaging and extortionate food miles, attempting to turn the tide is a daunting prospect, but GIY can help people to change their ways successfully.

“There is a sense that people are listening now which is fantastic, but I also think they’re despairing slightly, as it is hitting people how severe the issues with the climate are. You hear people saying ‘what’s the point’.  

“It’s up to organisations like GIY who know about these things to be proactive and to provide solution-orientated things people can actually do.”

Get started

Grow salad to use in your kitchen all year:

Beetroot is an easy one to grow:

Courgettes will grow plentifully with little effort:

Onions are low maintenance and store well:

Enjoy freshly picked peas and never look back: