Sustainability: Grow Your Own
At Bombus we're always harping on about sustainability. Environmentally friendly. Plastic free. From how we source our supplies, to how we run our studio. You can read our sustainability pledge right here. It's an ethos we truly believe in. Which is why, it's not only in business that we live by these principles.
We are sincere when we say that we care about our planet. As a tight knit, small, and (mostly!) young team we practise what we preach. And never more so than in what and how we EAT.
Over the next few blog posts we’re going to take you inside the lives of some of our team members to show you exactly what we mean when we say that our approach to our personal lives, is the same as the one we use at work.
Grow Your Own with Jo!
As Marketing Manager, I’m usually the one spreading the word about our sustainability pledge, and how we’ve worked really hard to be as waste free and eco-friendly as possible. You’ll have read all about our Save the Bees campaign, our efforts to help the butterflies, and our re-wilding at the studio (if not, check out our Save the Bees blog here!). But what am I doing to support that at home? Quite a bit actually.
Starting with my attempts at "Grow Your Own"!
Welcome to my new Vegetable Garden!
At the beginning of the year I moved into my new home and embarked on what I hope will be a much more self-sufficient future. Starting with an almighty effort to begin growing my own fruit and vegetables.
Now, it’s early days. But within the first two months of being in our rural retreat, we managed to clear a huge plot and not only erect a fabulous greenhouse, but also install four large raised beds and several soft fruit areas. Add to this the already established apple trees and even in our first year we’re hoping for a good result!
So why am I growing my own and how does it fit in with sustainability?
There are so many reasons why I’ve chosen to start growing my own fruit and veg.
It’s no lie to say that produce grown right outside your back door tastes better. I thought at first it was psychosomatic. But it’s not. When you grow and eat your veggies in season, the flavour is out of this world. Gone are watery lettuce leaves that taste of nothing. Instead we’ve had Little Gems and Raddichio that have flavour! Our radishes are peppery and have substance. And as for the strawberries….
When you buy your fruit and veg from the supermarket you are inevitably buying mass produced food that has been forced to grow for quantity, rather than flavour. When you force a tomato to grow in poly tunnels or in large warehouses, you won’t get the same sun-kissed ripe delight that you will at home.
I am slowly learning that I don’t need to eat a nectarine in November. Especially when you see on the (plastic) packaging that they’ve flown all the way from China or the USA. The whole principle seems wasteful in an age where air travel is the cause of so much pollution. I’d rather off-set my nectarine consumption with a home-grown apple and save up my carbon footprint to fly myself once in a while (I’m doing my best, but I’m not a saint, I occasionally do fly), and maybe enjoy those nectarines on their home turf.
Where do we import most of our food from in the UK?
Supporting Local Businesses
Have you SEEN what our country is capable of producing these days? Our food scene in the UK has boomed. And if I can’t grow it, I can certainly buy it from somewhere very close to home. We have a gorgeous Farm Shop just down the road from us that sells seasonal fresh produce straight from their fields. I’m resigned to the fact that I don’t have the space for a field full of kalettes (have you tried these? They’re delicious!) so I’m more than happy to pop along to them for a bag.
And at Bombus we are just round the corner from Macknades farm shop in Faversham that is always a treat for local produce.
And by shopping in these farm shops I am fuelling my local community. Putting my earned wages back directly into something that benefits me personally. I know that if I don’t do this, then we’ll lose the farm shops, and all of the joy, jobs, and community that it brings.
Also, it’s true that by establishing a garden you become a good customer to your local garden centre. I don’t pretend that setting this garden up has been cheap. But I’m hoping that going forward I will learn to propagate my seeds, grow plants on from what I’ve got, and reuse and recycle what I can. But using a local plant nursey to get me going has been a real treat. And another way I can support my local economy.
Nutrition and less waste
We’re going to explore this A LOT in later blogs. After all, our Studio Manager Amie is a qualified Nutritionist and has a lot of tips and tricks of how to use your home grown produce to get the most out of it.
But what we’ve already found by growing our own veg is that we are eating much healthier than if we were just relying on supermarket food. We’ve always cooked from scratch, but when you do it with your own grown veg we have found that we don’t need as much oil, salt, or fat because the produce speaks for itself! And, we eat less and waste less. When you’re harvesting your own lettuces, you’ll take only what you need. And when your fruits are ripening at different speeds, you pick only what you can. It slows you down and makes you savour every berry, and every tomato.
The best thing about growing your own…is that the vegetables don’t arrive in acres of plastic packaging. And if you’re choosy about which seeds you buy you can even get them in compostable packets!
This Grow Your Own sounds expensive…is it?
Like I said, setting up our garden wasn’t cheap. I have chosen a greenhouse and sleepers that will last me for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set up a vegetable garden cheaply.
For example, I’ve planted my strawberries in gutters screwed to one of our walls. These take less compost, and less space. It does mean you have to water them more regularly, but so far that hasn’t been a problem. These are brand new plants so they are still yet to establish. But I’m hoping to propagate some of the runners next year to give me a whole new batch of strawberry plants for free!
Likewise, I planted my radicchio in an old pot and left it in the corner of the greenhouse. It’s done us well, and while the crop wasn’t huge (we’ve eaten most of it already) I was able to keep it going for ages by pulling out only the leaves I needed rather than disrupting the whole root.
And as for ongoing costs. By companion planting (more on this later, but this is a great guide), and starting home based composting, I’m hoping to keep my beds nutritious for quite some time without needing to purchase much else. Letting some veg like peas go to seed adds nitrogen to your soil for next year, and knowing how to rotate your crops (if space allows) means you can get the most out of your soil.
Any other tips?
Seeds are often on sale as they come out of season. From research I’ve found that while older seeds may take longer to germinate, if you treat them well you should still get a good crop for half the price!
Everything is a learning curve for me at the moment when it come to grow your own. This is all brand new. But one of my favourite tips is to sow small, but often, when it comes to some plants. For example, if you sow just a few new spinach or radish seeds every week, you can stretch your harvest far longer without finding yourself with a glut.
My water is straight from two water butts I’ve installed by the greenhouse, and so far (thanks to plenty of sporadic rain) I haven’t had to use mains water once to water any of my vegetables. These weren’t expensive, so I hope to put a few more dotted around the front garden too to help through the drier seasons to come.
Saying NO to pesticides
In order to be as kind to the biodiversity on our plot as possible I refuse to use any chemicals on my produce. Instead, I’ve gone old school. I surround my herbs with gravel chippings to deter slugs. I encourage birds into the garden to keep the bugs down, but net off my fruit so they don’t decimate my crop, and I’ve installed raised beds to deter things like carrot fly. I will also be building a brassica cage to prevent cabbage moths, and I am not adverse to simply picking the little devils off of my plants by hand. What I won’t do is contaminate my food or the environment. And if one of my tomatoes serves as a meal for a hungry caterpillar, so be it!
What else are the Bombus team personally doing to be sustainable?
I’m not the only one growing my own at Bombus! A lot of our team are also doing their part to reduce what they buy from big supermarkets. And we’ve even planted our own tomatoes at the studio, which are a perfect addition to our lunches.
While I will also be delving into some tips and tricks on what I’ve been growing at home, we’ll also be sharing with you other things we as a team do to be as sustainable as possible in our personal lives. We’ll have posts coming up on No Mow May, Bio Mass energy, Going Plastic Free at home, Supporting Local Business, Working From Home – with no commute, Eating Nutritionally, Cooking From Scratch (with recipes from Amie!)
And in the meantime you can read all of our Destination Kent blogs that give you great options for holidays and staycations right here in the UK!