It is that time of year when many of us amateur gardeners need to make decisions about what to grow and what to buy in the way of vegetables. If you are lucky enough to have a garden there is the incentive to try to grow your own crops. The task is made very much easier if you have a greenhouse. With the ever-increasing cost of food the temptation to grow your own has never been more pressing. There is little doubt that homegrown tomatoes always taste better than those wrapped in plastic in the supermarket.

The choice of what to grow depends on space and what you consider value for money. I have often grown potatoes, usually in large potato bags. They are lovely but I wonder if the effort and cost is really worth it. One of my more successful plantings has been runner beans. However I have found that if they go out too early they can quickly be stripped completely by garden pests. Not sowing in a regular time frame has meant they all crop together. As the yields are plentiful, though, they do seem good value for money.

My attempts at aubergines and peppers have been a disaster, but radishes and spring onions have proved very reliable. I did grow a big crop of kale but failed to cover it with netting so the yield was minimal. Broad beans have proved worth growing but I found they do need a lot of support as the pods develop. Perhaps the sheer pleasure of growing your own though far outweighs the cost as buying vegetables. Many things that we like to eat are beyond our ability to grown ourselves. It is worth cultivating blackcurrants and soft fruit. We have had blackcurrants bushes for many years which need little maintenance and always produce a good supply of berries for the birds and ourselves.

columnist John Howells
John Howells (Submitted)

The winter weather has not been kind to my garden. The grass area remains very wet. The increase in extremes of weather as climate change continues to cause havoc and will make our garden growing far more problematic. We could rely on the seasons to be predictable but that is not the case today.

Sadly the offerings in the shops can be very disappointing.  I have particular complaint about salad leaves. In France I can always buy lovely fresh crisp lettuce at the local supermarket. Here the leaves are presented in small plastic bags with an expiry date almost of the day you buy it. They also have very little taste and are not worth buying.

Why so much of the produce on display has to be wrapped in plastic is unclear. Cucumber always comes in a tight plastic sleeve. Peppers are sold in threes, also in a plastic bag. Perhaps we should all make the effort not to buy food that is packaged in this way. The French are far more hands-on when it comes to buying fruit and vegetables. It is a common sight to watch shoppers picking up produce to test them before buying them.

To grow or to buy, that is the question.