Salad Days: A run on grow bags and why Harry and Charlotte could help Brits see off food shortage, says RHS
A shortage of fruit and vegetables in particular tomatoes, cucumber peppers and lettuce, is believed to be behind an increased interest in gardening.
Brits have been being advised to avoid salads for the next “few weeks” as supermarkets have kept restrictions in place on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said it had more people looking to grow their own food after adverse weather conditions in the Mediterranean forced Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl to restrict the sale of produce.
As demand outstrips supply for fresh vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, the UK’s gardening charity said it had spike in the number of people who are turning to the grow-your-own movement.
Evidence suggests that the public are already looking for tips on how to succeed with home-grown produce, as visits to advice pages on growing fruit and vegetables on the RHS website are up 70 per cent compared to this time last year.
Meanwhile figures across the RHS’ retail outlets reflect the trend towards grow your own (GYO) as sales of vegetable seeds are up 20 per cent the strongest growth coming from seed potatoes ( up 45 per cent) and onion sets (up 42 per cent).
Blight resistant potatoes
Many potato suppliers have already sold out, with salad potatoes like Charlotte and Salad Blue, reputed as the most blight resistant, up by 136 per cent; Harry, a grown for jacket potatoes, are up 100 per cent.
Figures suggest people are looking to grow not just for sustenance but for flavour, as searches for herbs were up almost 600 per cent last autumn, compared to the same time the previous year.
The most sought after varieties were classics such as mint and coriander, with the addition of more unusual varieties including edible flowers and lemon balm.
Based on sales last year the RHS predicts that chard, salad leaves, tomatoes, garlic, and squash will be among the most popular vegetables to grow in 2023.
In the face of recent shortages, as well as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, the RHS is working on new digital products that will provide extensive advice on growing, sowing and harvesting, to be made available in the coming weeks.
Tim Upson, RHS director of horticulture, said: “More and more people are growing their own food and this is likely to increase as a reaction to the national fruit and vegetable shortages as well as people looking for different ways to save money to keep up with the cost-of-living. Since the start of the pandemic ‘grow your own’ has been a big trend with people enjoying the many benefits of growing their own fresh food.”
Sheila Das, garden manager Edibles at RHS Wisley said: “The current food shortages are a perfect example of why we should be looking to grow more in keeping with the seasons. While a quick fix isn’t always realistic, with a bit of forward planning home growers could have a beautiful array of colourful veg on their plates.
There is a whole world of flavours we can grow in the winter, and people can get involved whether they have a garden, an allotment, or just a window box to spare. Where space is limited pea shoots can be grown on a window sill in old margarine tubs; you can get two or three cuttings from them so they really pay off.”