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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Network TV BBC Week 26
Feature

Encouragement for new growers as the BBC's Dig In campaign continues

Advice for new growers is on hand with the BBC's Dig In campaign

Alys Fowler has some words of encouragement for people who are growing their own grub with the BBC's Dig In campaign. As people start to plant and grow the seeds from the free starter packs sent out in April and May, the Gardeners' World presenter is urging novice nurturers to be patient, keep watering and slay the slugs to ensure a bumper bounty come the autumn.


"I can't stress enough the satisfaction of growing your own food," says Alys. "The growing process can sometimes be a little unrewarding to start with but you just have to have patience. My advice to new growers is just 'have a go' – you'll never grow anything if you don't try. And then towards the end of the season you really start to reap the rewards of your patience. There's a lovely sense of bounty and satisfaction that you grew your own produce. And it gives a whole new twist to announcing: 'honey, I've prepared dinner!'"


As we move into mid-summer, Alys stresses that the focus for people growing the Dig In crops – lollo rosso lettuce, gardener's delight tomatoes, Boltardy beetroot, Nantes carrots and butternut squash – should be on watering, thinning and feeding. She says: "Keep watering (in the evening, not in the middle of the day) and keep thinning out your plants – you won't get big veg if they're all crowding each other out. At this time of the season, growers should really be concentrating on thinning beetroot and carrots, protecting carrots from flies with fine netting, keeping slugs off the squash and feeding those tomatoes."


The recent spell of hot weather has brought mixed fortunes for growers, Alys explains: "Lettuce doesn't like high temperatures so you may find that their growth has slowed a bit but the heat is fab for the others. Carrots and beetroot love the heat but if you want big carrots you need to give them a good soak in the evening. The hot weather is great for tomatoes and squash, although they're both thirsty crops and need a lot of water, too. But, best of all, the heat keeps the slugs at bay as they just don't like hot weather."


For Alys, one of the satisfactions of growing your own produce is not just that it can save money but also that it has an environmental impact, too. "You really don't need to spend much money on growing your own grub but if you do have some cash to spend I would suggest you buy a good quality peat-free compost as it can make all the difference," she says. "The great satisfaction for me is that, not only is the taste of home-grown veg much better, but it's also great to know that you lessen your environmental impact, from food miles to footsteps. And it also brings you a little closer to nature, while putting some great tasting food on your plate."


Alys can be seen on BBC Two's Gardeners' World on Friday 3 July.


Please note: Seed starter packs are no longer available from the Dig In website, but are still being dispensed via the Dig In regional tour. Dates and locations for the tour and more information on growing your own grub can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/digin.


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