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The Good Life – being entirely self-sufficient – has been a dream for decades. But whether you’re pursuing Tom and Barbara’s 70s hippy vision or something altogether more millennial where do you start when it comes to growing your own and turning green fingers into a great life?
If you’re lucky enough to have a fairly sizeable back garden then you’re off to a great start. If you don’t then there’s always an allotment. The idea of an allotment is that you’re allocated a patch of land that you can use to grow. Applications for allotments are made through the local council (search your local council website for details) and availability varies wildly from city to city. Most plots usually come in at between 100 and 300 square metres and will be located with other allotments managed by other local residents. The cost of renting an allotment is low – around £10 per year outside of London. The only complication with allotments is that, in areas where they are very popular, you could be on a waiting list for years.
What you choose to grow really depends on the reasons you’re growing it. If you’re purely looking to feed yourself and your family then opt for the fruit and/or vegetables that everyone likes to eat. If home growing is a money-saving exercise then start with the vegetables and fruit that you eat the most, which are the most expensive to buy.
If you find you’ve got a surplus of what you’re growing then selling it on can bring in some useful extra cash. Farmers markets, local markets, businesses such as cafes and restaurants, festivals, fetes and even car boot sales provide plenty of opportunities to turn a profit from your veg. There are also online resources to help you sell, including BigBarn, which connects customers with independent food retailers and producers. It’s worth remembering that if you’re making income from what you’re growing and selling there could be a requirement to pay tax on it. If you’re an occasional seller then you don’t need a food hygiene certificate but what you’re selling must be safe.
Keeping hens is the ultimate smallholder dream and has many benefits, from daily fresh eggs to the odd roast chicken. There are no laws that stop you from keeping chickens at home but make sure you check your property deeds or speak to the landlord as there may be a rule against ‘livestock.’ If you’re keeping chickens for the first time it’s also worth bearing in mind that their coop will need weekly cleaning/mucking out, they have a tendency to run really fast (away) and if they’re bored they will peck each other.
If what appeals to you about the Good Life is just good old fashion hard work with your hands and the soil then you already have everything you need. However, there are also some handy gadgets out there that will boost what you’re able to grow – here are four particularly useful options.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read about Alex Hartley
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