Personalised support and guidance on nutrition and lifestyle

Growing your own food and connecting with Nature

Jul 12, 2024
Posted by: Monique Parker



So, I just read an online article by WickedLeeks about the fruit and vegetable shortfall in the UK, a sobering read with an important message.

They mention the publication of ‘Home-grown: A roadmap to resilient fruit and vegetable production in England’, published by The Soil Association, Sustain and The Wildlife Trusts.

Here are some statistics from the report; when I say ‘sobering read’, this is what I mean…

  • 17% of fruit we eat in the UK is produced in the UK
  • 55% of our vegetables are produced in the UK
  • Only 33% of adults get their recommended 5-a-day
  • Only 12% of children (aged 11 to 18) are eating their 5-a-day
  • According to Riverford’s #GetFairAboutFarming campaign, almost half our growers fear they could go out of business within a year
  • Less than 2% of the UK’s farmed land is used to grow fruit and vegetables

Fruit and veg consumption in the UK has fallen to its lowest levels in 50 years, in the meantime the NHS spends an estimated £6.5bn a year on dietary-related health issues.

If you are interested in the report, you can read and download it here




Talking of fruit and veg, last weekend I was on a panel at the Best of Nature Show in London, with Joe Clark aka joesgarden.official, talking about growing your own food, a subject close to my heart.

In my book ‘Conversations on the Lost Connection with Nature’ I have written about my first experience with growing vegetables, when I was about 8 years old.

I grew up in The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands, in an area full of concrete buildings. We lived in a small top floor flat with a balcony where my mother created a mini garden with window boxes full of geraniums and other colourful plants. The primary school I attended happened to be near the Zuiderpark, a huge park with 105 hectares of green space. In the park there was a Children’s Farm where the school managed to get an allotment to start a gardening club for pupils who were interested. After school, a teacher would take a small group of children to the allotment where we learned about growing vegetables and flowers.
I will never forget how proud I was when I harvested my first carrots. It was then that my love for growing food was born.

Eventually we moved to a ground floor flat with a garden in the same street and we could grow our own produce there. My parents have always grown their own food quite successfully, either in a garden or on an allotment. I will always remember the day my father came home from the allotment with eleven red cabbages, that he could hardly carry. My mother was not impressed! But it was just one of the common mistakes that are made when you grow your own vegetables. It is easy to get carried away and plant too many seeds.


A comment I often get is that growing your own food is only for privileged people with big gardens. That is not completely true as you can easily grow fruit and veg in pots on a balcony, in a small courtyard, in front of your house (if allowed) or even on your windowsill. Tomatoes, salad leaves, spring onions, radishes, strawberries, pak choi, are a few examples of what you can grow in pots. How about growing fresh herbs on your windowsill or microgreens that don’t take up much space, are very nutritious and don’t take long to grow.
I get my microgreen seeds from Teeny Greeny 





What are the benefits of growing your own food?

- You decide what goes into your food, from the soil, compost, water, what kind of seeds, to what you use to help growth and fight against pests.

- Your food can be picked at the best time, and you will have the freshest produce, full of nutrients.

- It is a great way to connect with nature. Your hands in the soil, watching seeds germinate, plants grow and then eating the food you have grown yourself.

- It can save you money. I.e. buy a basil plant in the supermarket or grow it from seed and then take cuttings.

- It can be good exercise if you have a garden, and you’ll also spend more time outdoors.

- No plastic or other packaging.

- You will appreciate what it takes to grow vegetables and hopefully waste less food.



Growing your own food has an impact on your overall relationship with the food you eat

- You’ll be eating seasonal food, which is important, as it is part of the natural rhythm. Home grown food brings you closer to Nature and you’ll be eating as Nature intends.

- You will very likely waste less food if you have spent time growing it. And you pick when needed.

- It makes you eat more vegetables and fruit. People growing their own fruit and veg were found to eat 6.3 portions a day, well above the 5-a-day recommendation, and 70% higher than the national average. Another interesting statistic says that the amount of fruit and veg wasted by people growing their own food was 95% lower than the UK average.

- You can get your children to eat more vegetables, especially if they have helped you growing them. Get them involved.

- By growing your own food, you enter into a mutual relationship where the care you give the soil is returned in the form of nutritious food. This bond is very important for our well-being.

- You will appreciate healthy, nutritious food. Compare the taste!




How does growing your own food affect your health and well-being?

- By growing your own food, you are connected with Nature, and you will be following its rhythms, like the seasons for instance. It is important to be in tune with these rhythms as it benefits your overall health and well-being. Our own circadian rhythm is closely linked to Nature. Think of light and darkness for example. Most living things have circadian rhythms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms. Even your gut bacteria!

- Being outdoors is great for your vitamin D production, as our skin produces vitamin when exposed to sunlight.

- Being in touch with microbes in the soil has a positive effect on our immune system.
Studies have shown that children without regular exposure to the microbes found in soil have increased cases of asthma, allergies and autoimmune issues.

- Consuming nutrient-dense foods grown in soil rich with diverse microbial communities positively effects our health.

- You are more likely to eat more veggies and fruits if you grow them yourself.

- There is a correlation between the amount of green space in people’s living environment and their general health including stress levels.

- Joining an allotment or community garden is a sociable activity and human connection is good for our mental and overall health.

- Food becomes part of us after we have eaten it. We don’t absorb the food; we absorb the nutrients. That’s how closely we are connected with Nature when we eat foods grown in Nature.




How does growing your own food contribute to a more sustainable and resilient food system?

- Crop diversion and crop rotation

- Growing organic produce

- Seasonal vegetables & fruit

- Reduced waste

- No packaging

- Less food miles

- Involve children and educate them – they are the future

- Growing your own fruit and veg could contribute to multiple Sustainable Development Goals and play an important part in increasing the resilience of the UK food system while improving diets and related health outcomes, which could particularly benefit those with limited physical or financial access to fruit and vegetables



What is the environmental impact of growing your own food?

- No packaging when you grow food at home

- You don’t have to go far (reduced carbon footprint)

- Less food waste (you harvest what you need)

- You know where your food comes from and what is in it, for example by using your own compost


What are common mistakes that people make when they start growing their own food

- Getting the timing wrong of planting seeds

- Putting seedlings outdoors too early

- Not spacing out seeds enough so there is no room to grow

- Over watering / under watering

- Not harvesting at the right time and letting the veg get too big (i.e. courgettes)

- Planting in the wrong location (too shady/too sunny)

- Not reading the seed packets correctly

- Not labelling when you plant seeds, and you have no idea what it is (been there, done it)

- Putting seedlings in pots without drainage holes

- Planting too many seeds

- Growing food doesn’t end with the harvesting, you need to use it! So, know what you can do with the vegetables (cooking, preserving etc. – no food waste)

The above mistakes can be easily avoided by always reading the instructions on the seed packets and following the advice. Also, be patient! It will be rewarded.
Talk to other growers. Read books, listen to podcasts. There is a world of info out there.

Join an Allotment Association or Community Farm. A good example is Sutton Community Farm. One of their aims when they set up the farm was to provide a space for local people to learn more about growing food.

Another option is Garden Sharing (explore local gardening communities)which is a great starting point as you can learn a lot from others, plus it is a sociable activity.

Follow experienced gardeners on Social Media. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Jamie Walton @nettlesandpetals
  • Joe Clark @joesgarden.official
  • Huw Richards @huwsgarden
  • Patrick Vernuccio @thefrenchiegardener
  • Charles Dowding @charles_dowding


Do a course! Just Google food growing/gardening courses in your area, and don’t forget to check your local Wildlife Trust as they have wonderful courses on offer.



No matter how small you start, I wish you lots of fun growing your own food and a good harvest when the time comes.



Come and join me at the Best of Nature Show

Come and join me on Saturday 6 July at the Best of Nature Show at the Shoreditch Exchange in London.

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Let's Pull that Sweet Tooth

On Sunday 23 June I was a speaker at the Allergy & Free-From Show at Olympia, London.

My talk was about sugar: ‘Let’s Pull that Sweet Tooth – Why We Should Go Sugar-Free’

The purpose of the talk was to explore the benefits and pitfalls of a sugar-free lifestyle, especially for people with allergies and/or those following a free-from diet.
There is an increasing prevalence of food allergies and a growing interest in free-from diets due to health concerns.

Here is an overview of the content of the talk.

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The Amazing Mengelmoestuin


Last year in September, I visited the magical Mengelmoestuin, along a dyke between Bergambacht and Ammerstol, in the Netherlands.

Mariel, one of the owners and guardians of this amazing organic, biodynamic garden, is one of the collaborators on my book 'Conversations on the Lost Connection with Nature', a book about the importance of being connected with Nature for our health and well-being and for the future of our planet. I wanted to personally hand over a copy of the book.

It was a wonderful experience. Read more about the Magical Mengelmoestuin.

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An organic farm in Singapore? I had to see it to believe it, and it didn't disappoint, far from it.

One of the highlights of my recent visit to Singapore.

A lush, green and peaceful oasis in the most biodiverse capital of the world, where 50% of the city is now green space.

But Bollywood Farms is not just an organic farm, it is much more!


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I was recently invited as a guest on the Outside and Active Podcast with Dominic Brown. Listen here to find out what we talked about.

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Have you read my book yet?



Have you read my book 'Conversations on the Lost Connection with Nature' yet?

The book is full of interesting facts and practical advice, focusing on the special relationship we all have, consciously or unconsciously, with nature, the benefits for our health and well-being, and the necessity to restore this lost connection to save our planet and our future.

It also contains conversations with 27 inspirational people, all of whom are strongly connected with nature, through either profession or personality. The interviews produced twenty-seven fascinating stories about the importance of nature. Be inspired!

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Using all your senses to (re)connect with Nature


In my book ‘Conversations on the Lost Connection with Nature’ I talk about ways to (re)connect with Nature. There is a non-exhaustive list of suggestions in the book, and one of them is ‘using all your senses’.

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Make Menopause Matter - A functional approach to supporting menopausal symptoms

Why do some women sail through the menopause and others are clearly suffering?
Is there anything women can do to help the transition go as smoothly as possible?


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A holistic approach to endometriosis

According to Endometriosis UK 10% of the women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis, one of the most common gynaecological conditions and an often crippling condition. Nutritional therapy is one of the complementary therapies that can support this condition. 

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