“Grow Your Own Pharmacy”

Grow Your Own Pharmacy:

There are a number of vitamins and minerals we need on a daily basis to keep us healthy. Strictly speaking we should be able to get all we need from nature, but when you see those irresistible bottles and jars of ‘extra vitamin’ supplements, it’s almost criminal not to give them a try. However, it seems that a) most of them get left in the back of a cupboard or b) we didn’t actually need them in the first place. Sometimes both ‘a’ and ‘b’ apply!

There are nine main vitamins we can find in everyday food crops and all of them can be grown at home. Vitamins D and B12 are absorbed through sunlight, and in meat and dairy products, so unless you are keeping your own hens, some vitamins will have to be ‘bought’ in – although that still doesn’t mean hitting the pill bottles… buy organic fresh produce as far as possible and grow the rest of the vitamins you and your family need:

Grow Your Own Pharmacy by vitamins……

Vitamin C:

Probably the most talked about vitamin, but we often cook out a lot of the goodness from vegetables, apart from tomatoes. They are one of the rare foods that hold their vitamin C during cooking, so grow lots! Other garden produce high in vitamin C includes blackcurrants, peppers and strawberries. Peppers need to be planted every year, but strawberries and blackcurrants need a permanent patch and will produce fruit for a number of years with just a little TLC. Find out more about growing peppers, hot or sweet :-) on this page: Growing Peppers And did you know rosehips have more vitamin C (gram for gram) than oranges? These Rose Recipes use rose hips, and rose petals.

Vitamin A:

Well, yes apparently carrots really do help you see in the dark! One medium carrot can provide all the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, which helps vision, and also acts as an antioxidant in the body to help fight off free radicals. Pumpkin is another good source of vitamin A, as well as winter kale, so remember to plant some before the summer’s out. Fresh green veg in the winter will help ward off colds and flu as well. More about carrots in all colours here:Growing Carrots

Vitamin B1:

Vitamin B1 converts carbs and fats into energy so for a boost of daily energy, keep up with the B1. Foods rich in this vitamin are broad beans ( which can be grown twice a year ), sweet corn, hazelnuts and garlic. Garlic is easy to grow in a small space and will add that touch of ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your cooking! Sweetcorn and hazelnuts need a bit more space, but are simple to grow and are popular and nutritious family foods. Find out more about growing nuts at home here: Growing Nuts

Vitamin B2:

Although vitamin B2 can be found in spinach and is easy to grow in the home garden, we could diversify a little here and go for different tastes. Mushrooms are a good source of B2 and can be grown in kit form indoors. Salsify is a vegetable that many of us have forgotten about. It used to be called the oyster vegetable and is a great root crop as long as you have a good depth of soil in the veggie patch. ( You can have fun with food while you grow your own pharmacy! ) There are some amazing varieties of mushrooms you can grow at home. More fungi info here: Growing Mushrooms

Vitamin B6:

This is where we can hit the good old fashioned staples. Potatoes and onions are a good source of vitamin B6. If you worry about potatoes being a weight gaining food, a fresh potato straight from the ground doesn’t need any additional butter, cheese or other toppings to make it tasty! (Oh, and And onions, if stored well, will last for months.) Buy a specially designed potato barrel to save space – and digging!

Build a birdhouse ready for spring nesting

Your birdhouse tenants may change every year but they always keep themselves to themselves…

Although, having said that, if you grow fruit in your garden, the birds will definitely ‘help’ themselves!

If you want to save some for you, protect your fruit with ‘bird-friendly’ netting. ( garden birds can easily get tangled in ordinary netting )

Where to set up your birdhouse

Location is the most important decision you’ll make if you want to attract birds. If you already feed birds in a particular area, build a home there! Otherwise here are a few things to note when deciding on the location:

1. Not too close to your veggie/fruit plots

2. High enough to be safe from animals but not too high to be able to enjoy the entertainment!

3. Go for semi-shade or shady area, not direct sunlight.

4. Not too close to a regular path or play area. Birds like a little privacy!

5. A birdhouse close to hedges or trees is good.

And of course, the birdhouse must be made secure from cats and other climbing creatures. If you do have cats prowling around, unless they are very lazy and the birds are extra bold in your region, you may have to get inventive with locating your bird feeders or houses!

Ready-built or DIY?

Building a simple birdhouse can be fairly straightforward if you have basic DIY skills.

Use solid un-treated wood. The birdhouse needs to feel sturdy and safe. Most birds don’t like a front step ( perch! ) so it’s not worth having one. We had a family of nuthatches once who made it their business every morning to tap away little by little until they’d removed the perch completely. Fascinating to watch though!

Once you’ve finished your wild bird home, don’t be tempted to paint it in wild colours however creative you feel. Paint with an environment-friendly paint/preservative keeping to natural colours. And it’s not advisable to paint around the entrance hole or the inside surfaces. Even if the paint is environment friendly, the birds won’t like it!

If you fancy a quick fix on this, browse the beautiful designs available. Have a look in your local garden centre or online.