A SAVVY woman has revealed how she transformed a tiny alleyway in her home into a vegetable garden so she can grow all her own produce.
Yazmin Highton, 30, from Manchester who shares her gardening journey on Instagram, said she initially had no interest in growing her own food.
She told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: “I grew up with parents who grew their own food, but really wasn’t interested in it until having my own home.
“But after settling into our home, I realised it would be nice to have a nice garden, with things I could take inside and eat right away. Plus, it was a great hobby that I could do from home, but still get outdoors and get some exercise too!”
But creating a garden from scratch was no easy feat with the policy officer having to start from scratch.
Yazmin continued: “I live in a terraced house with a tiny paved yard. It’s taken some creativity and inspiration from others locally, but I first started by growing in small pots, planters, and hanging baskets in my own yard.
“Then I began clearing out our communal alleyway with a couple of neighbors, as some other nearby streets had done similar.
“After clearing dumped rubbish and weeds, we began sourcing pots, soil, seeds, plants, etc and began planting. Although it’s a shared space, it’s so quiet and lovely even though we are in a busy area.
“Initially, we needed any supplies we could get hold of to grow produce in, plus soil. We used upcycled buckets, containers, cheap or free pots, etc.
“We bought peat-free soil from the shop. Eventually, we were awarded a neighbor improvement fund from our local council, which we used to invest in giant wooden raised beds, buying soil and manure by the tonne, and more plug plants and seeds.
“The building of the raised beds and filling them took a few days overall. Maintenance of the alleyway is regular, but the nicer it looks, the more people who get involved and the less time individually it takes.
“We bought a lot of plug plants initially just to fill in the space and make sure we had some stuff early on, but now as we are more settled in, I plant from seed in late winter/ early spring for summer and autumn harvests. ”
Yazmin’s vegetable garden started small, but has grown significantly in the time that she’s had it.
She continued: “Initially we began in 2018 with some potatoes, but it’s grown significantly since then and each year we try new things!
“So far I have grown potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, raspberries, peppers, chillies, lettuce, broad beans, chives, strawberries, garlic, shallots, green beans, sunflowers (for sunflower seeds), courgette, radishes, red cabbage, cucumbers and pumpkins. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, too!”
Once the crops are ready, Yazmin can begin preparing meals that aren’t just budget-friendly, but super healthy, too.
“I make loads of classics like roast potatoes and carrots,” she says.
“I’ve made fajitas with peppers and shallots, falafel with broad beans, salads, basically anything I’d normally have, but with local and fresh produce! We save £100s during each harvest season.
“One of my favorite recipes is falafel, which is made with broad beans in Egypt where I am originally from. I make them using 400g fresh broad beans, soaked in cold water overnight, with spring onions, parsley, garlic, cumin powder and bicarbonate of soda.
“I form them into thick but flat patties and fry them. You can also dip them in sesame seeds before frying, or freeze them to have fresh falafel all year round! Once the patties are brown, they are best served with tahini, fresh vegetables, pitta bread and hummus.”
Yazmin says that you don’t need to be green fingered or have a lot of time to develop your own plot.
“Anyone can give it a go regardless of where they’re living,” she says.
“I’d suggest people just give it a try! Some things are really easy to grow outdoors either in pots or in the ground, like potatoes, and can feed you for months. You don’t need fancy stuff or tons of space.
“There is often lots of garden stuff, including seedlings, going for free or cheap on Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace, too. I’d also suggest if anyone is considering a similar community project, finding out if there are grants available to help with initial costs and getting a few neighbors involved.
“There’s a lot of reasons people grow their own. It’s fun and relaxing, it keeps you busy, but a big one for me is it reduces my environmental impact. I don’t grow ALL my own food, but I grow enough to have it throughout my meals for most of the year.
“Sometimes I only get a small crop, enough for a meal or two, but that still is a small change! I love knowing my small changes add up over time and it makes it so much easier to do day-to-day. I know sometimes it feels overwhelming and we feel we have to do all or nothing, but even little things matter and even if you can’t do it every time, doing it sometimes is too good!”
Tom Church, Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, said: “Yazmin is clearly dedicated to fruit and vegetable gardening – it’s great that she teamed up with members of her community to create a space for harvesting crops.
“As she rightly said, it just takes a few small changes to make a difference. If we all did that, imagine the impact it would have.”