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free vegetablesWhat is it about gardeners that makes them such "givers"? I don't know about you, but my garden – edible and ornamental – is jam packed with bits and pieces that have been passed onto me by friends, family, neighbours – even complete strangers whose fence I happen to have poked my nose over. You simply have to remark on a pretty specimen, an unusual vegetable, or the size of someone's spinach and, wammo, before you know it, it's wrapped up in wet newspaper or bundled into a shopping bag, and shoved into your hand. So much so, in fact, that a good many of the plants in my garden aren't called by their botanical or even common names, but are referred to simply as "that shrub of Mrs Marshall's" or "old Jim's gooseberry".

Nowadays, I think there's more reason than ever to be giving away garden goodies, especially the kind that fills tummies, reduces low income-earners supermarket bills, and encourages self sufficiency. There are all sort of ways to do this, formal and informal. Produce going to waste in your garden can easily be dropped at the door of a neighbour who needs it, or passed on to a church, food bank, or community group that will take care of distributing it. Think just a little further ahead, it takes only a few minutes to sow an extra punnet or two of seed that, in spring, can be donated to a school fair, a community garden, or to a family trying to start a veggie plot of their own (phone citizens' advice for ideas on who could use seedlings).

One of the most satisfying things I've done in recent years, is to commandeer a piece of roadside wasteland and turn it into a "Free to Harvest" food garden for passersby. Holiday makers, backpackers, neighbours, and families out walking, all enjoy watching it grow and taking from it what they require for a meal or two. Because it's "help yourself" nothing goes to waste as the veggies stay growing in the ground until the moment they're required. Best of all, many of the folk who've enjoyed produce from the garden return the following year to tell me that they've been inspired to start an edible bed of their own (one man has even set up a free-to-harvest roadside garden of his own!) This year, I'm hoping to offer, not just mature vegetables, but free punnets of seedlings that folk can take away with them to plant in their own garden. That's because, like gardeners everywhere, I find it a joy to give what I grow.

Tips for garden-givers

  • Now is the perfect time to divide and pot up herbs such as chives, rooted pieces of marjoram and oregano, Chinese leeks, and sorrel (to name but a few).
  • Pot up self-sown herb seedlings from the garden. Little parsley plants, taken indoor now, will be ready for giving away around Christmas time.
  • There's still time to divide rhubarb clumps and give away spare rooted pieces. Strawberry runners, too, can wrapped in damp-paper until a home is found for them.

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