A site produced by Yusuf (Joe) Yusuf and Diane Yusuf authors of Olives, Lemons and Grapes: Towards self-sufficiency in food: a guide to growing your own in a Mediterranean or Subtropical climate.
Growing your own food is invaluable for many reasons: it's great exercise and relaxing; provides tasty and chemical free food and significantly reduces your carbon footprint. It will also save you money on your food bills. The price of some produce in the supermarkets is high due to the intensive labour required in harvesting crops such as soft fruits and if you take into account the premium price attached to all organic produce you will save on most crops you grow. Growing your own food does not need to be expensive and we will provide money saving tips, such as saving your own seed, methods of propagation, making your own compost, fertilisers and organic treatments for pests and diseases. .
In the UK we had a large garden and an allotment which allowed us to grow much of our own organic fruit and vegetables for over 25 years. Why organic, because most of our food is grown by large corporations which use large amounts of artificial fertilisers and pesticides to improve yields and profits. These chemicals penetrate and leave residues in every part of the plant. Our food is then processed using more artificial chemicals and preservatives before it gets to our kitchens. Although residue limits are set, nobody knows the long term health affects of this constant diet of small amounts of this chemical cocktail. Grow your own for better, cheaper, tastier and more nutritious food which is guaranteed to be chemical and GM free.
Having enjoyed growing our own produce in the UK, our new challenge is to use our knowledge to grow and enjoy a much more varied crop in a sub-tropical Mediterranean climate. A climate with extremely high summer temperatures, reduced rainfall and water availability and mostly mild winters. A climate where Spring runs from mid-February to mid-May, Summer from mid-May to mid-October, Autumn from mid-October to the end of November and Winter from December to mid-February. So adjusting planting times is the first thing to consider.
Our aim is to provide guidance and advice on organic gardening which undoubtedly requires much more effort than chemical gardening. The advice will hopefully be useful for first time gardeners or for those, like ourselves, who find themselves in a sub-tropical area and need to re-adjust their growing methods. The climate not only provides new challenges but the opportunity to grow crops which are not possible in North European climate. Tasty new additions to our diet such as okra, black eyed beans, molokhia, kolokasi, prickly pears and many more. The most important of all our new additions is undoubtedly the olive tree which provides tasty fruits and the opportunity to produce our own organic olive oil. An oil which is the basis of traditional cooking in Mediterranean cuisine which research shows is one of the healthiest diets on the planet.
The goal all organic gardeners is to continually improve your soils fertility by manuring and composting and by keeping weeds at bay, a task which is physically more demanding compared to the ease of using chemical controls. Different crops need different soils and the key to successful growing is learning the requirements of the vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts and edible flowers we grow.
The pleasure of eating just harvested fresh produce untainted by chemicals and which tastes far better than supermarket produce far outweighs the effort involved. Pest control is another challenge which can be approached in a number of ways without resorting to man-made chemicals and one has to accept some losses along the way. We will provide some ideas on organic alternatives to chemical insecticides and pesticides using everyday household items.
Use the links for information planning and starting, manuring and composting, digging, weeding, mulching, watering, seed sowing and planting and seed saving. We will also provide information on how to store and preserve the fruits of your hard labour. From wine making to jams, chutneys, drying fruit, bottling, pickling and freezing there are many ways to continue enjoying your produce throughout the year. There is also a recipes page to try some authentic Cypriot cuisine using your own produce.
We were influenced around 35 years ago by reading The Complete Book on Self Sufficiency by John Seymour who inspired us to live a life that does not harm our environment and we started to grow much of our own food. The book sold over one million copies and was translated into over twenty languages and John Seymour became internationally recognised as the leading authority and pioneer of the self-sufficiency movement. His view that we could not as humans continue living in an oil hungry and environmentally destructive way are as important, if not more so, today than when he first published his classic book in 1976. Whatever has influenced you to grow your own, I hope you find the information provided useful. Whether you live in a small apartment in a town or city or have a small or large garden we can also grow some of our own food and reduce our dependence on the large food multinationals dependant on oil for growing and transporting food thousands of miles around the world.
However much of your own food you can grow, good luck and whatever the problems you encounter along the way remember gardeners are some of the most optimistic people you can meet as we continue to learn and adjust our growing methods to cope with challenges we meet. If a crop fails it will, we know, succeed the following year.