Dig for Victory was the slogan in World War II. And now, Dig to Survive could be apt during the cost of living crisis, with the price of food spiraling.
Which explains, in part, why an increasing number of people are looking to find homes with space to grow their own fruit and veg.
Allotments are being snapped up countrywide as soon as they become available and, according to research by Savills, a fifth of their estate agents ranked a vegetable patch as the number one outdoor amenity sought by buyers.
Going green: A cottage with fruit and vegetable beds. Savills says a fifth of its estate agents rank a vegetable patch as the number one outdoor amenity sought by buyers
‘We are seeing a new cohort of young people — often with children — who took up gardening in lockdown and want to create bigger vegetable patches now they are still working part-time from home,’ says Nick Ferrier, director of Jackson-Stops, Midhurst.
‘They are not doing it for the money. They see it as a way of getting back to basics, sharing an interest with their children and helping with their education.’
Genevieve Harris, 39, has made a fabulously productive garden from the overgrown jungle that once surrounded her 15th-century house, Sowdens, in Udimore, East Sussex (now for sale for £1.5 million, phillipsandstubbs.co.uk).
She sought help on her iPhone. ‘I gathered an Instagram following of almost 70,000 and it was a great way of getting advice,’ says Genevieve, whose Instagram is @mrs_trufflepig.
‘They talked me through creating a meadow and countless other things, such as using raised beds.’
Growing your own is unlikely to make you a fortune but it can provide a handy side-income.
Rayner Peett, 59, grows everything from apples to chillies on his two-acre garden in Narberth, Pembrokeshire. ‘We freeze fruit and vegetables for use throughout the year,’ says Rayner, who works in marketing. ‘I barter what I have left over for eggs with my neighbours, or sell it in the local farm shop.’
Rachel and Howard Miller have also created a productive garden in the ten years they have lived in The Coach House, Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, which is for sale at £850,000 (fineandcountry.com).
As well as growing tomatoes, potatoes and fruit, they have planted a small orchard. ‘Someone in the village makes cider from our apples,’ says sales executive Rachel, 58. ‘I sell chutneys, apple sauce and hoisin sauce.’
Vegetable gardens don’t only enhance the value of country houses. Housebuilders are making vegetable patches the focal point of their new developments.
West Carclaze Garden Village is one of the most imaginative building projects under construction today. Built around the china clay tips outside St Austell, Cornwall, it will have allotment space allocated for each of the 1,500 new homes there, as well as communal allotments run by the local community in St Austell.
Fruit trees will line the pavements and the developer, Eco-Bos, has even produced a cookery book with local chef James Strawbridge.
West Carclaze will span 500 acres, with 350 of those left undeveloped as a country park. There will also be five lakes and 12 miles of trails.
‘It’s all about creating a sense of community,’ says Dorian Beresford of Eco-Bos. ‘We think the social interaction in the allotments will foster friendships.’ Prices start at £187,000 for a two-bedroom apartment at West Carclaze. About 169 homes should be finished by next year and building will continue for another eight years.
A similar philosophy is behind St Mary’s Hill, a brand new village of 44 two, three and four-bedroom homes in Hampshire’s Test Valley, between Hurstbourne Priors and St Mary Bourne.
There is a village green and residents can grow their own produce in the communal ‘kitchen garden’. There is even a ‘welly boot exchange’ where families can swap their Wellington boots. Prices start at £320,000 for a two-bedroom cottage.
Although veg patches aren’t the prettiest part of a garden, 39 per cent of Savills agents believe they add value to a home. Not that they are solely about making a profit.
‘It is so relaxing,’ says Rayner in Pembrokeshire. ‘You can feel the stress just draining away while you garden — and of course the produce tastes far better than anything you can buy.’
On the market…complete with a veg patch