Living the Good Life

by Laura Storey


The BBC comedy the Good Life depicted the joys and disasters of suburban couple Tom and Barbara who escape the rat race and convert their front and back gardens into vegetable patches. Their disasters included a storm tearing through the garden just before their first harvest, a leek thief struck and their neighbours built an arbour, throwing their patch into the shade. Despite their struggles, Tom and Barbara never waver in their embrace of the Good Life, even when Tom was sentenced to prison for shooting the leek thief.

The Good Life aired almost 50 years ago, but today more and more people are attempting to recreate the couple’s attempts to get back to nature and grow their own produce. If you’re tired of lugging your shopping bags home from the supermarket and are keen to reduce your carbon footprint, a vegetable patch may be just right for you.

plants such as tomatoes and herbs don’t need much and can even be grown on sunny window ledges

If you’ve been dreaming of growing your own, Northern Life has tips to get you started. Spring is in the air and it’s the perfect time to get gardening. Not only do vegetable gardens provide an abundance of fresh produce, they are an invaluable educational resource. Teaching your children or grandchildren to grow their own food can encourage them to eat healthier whilst also enhancing valuable skills.

Many people feel that they don’t have enough space to grow a vegetable patch, but plants such as tomatoes and herbs don’t need much and can even be grown on sunny window ledges. Sow tomato seeds in spring, water regularly and you will soon have delicious home-grown tomatoes to use in salads or sandwiches.

A kitchen window box can also be perfect for growing leafy plants like lettuce and rocket. Make sure the plant is in shade for some of the day and water as needed. You can chop off what you need to make that salad and the plant will continue growing.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, a raised bed is the most beneficial for plants and you can grow more than you’d expect even in a small space, if you’re not handy you can buy kits that are easy to put together and are relatively inexpensive.

Once you’ve got a patch together follow these five steps to a successful harvest:

Decide on what vegetables you wish to grow – cabbages take a lot of room and a long time to grow, while spring onions grow quickly and take up less space. You also have to consider whether to grow veg you could pick up easily and cheaply at the supermarket or if you would prefer something more unique. You can buy all sorts of seeds online and it’s worth putting in the research to find out the best varieties for your soil type and time. You can also choose crops that are resistant to pests and diseases – there are types of carrots that are resistant to carrot fly rot.


The right location for your crops is essential for a successful harvest. You’ll need plenty of sunlight for most crops so find a nice sunny patch out of the shadow of your house. Wind can also cause problems so finding somewhere sheltered but not shady is essential.


Mulch is essential to ensure you’re not fighting with weeds. Mulch comes in many varieties from grass clippings to tree bark and all have their benefits and drawbacks. Grass clippings are probably available to most gardeners but it is important that you avoid clippings from lawns treated with chemicals.


Sow seeds in rows or triangles and avoid overcrowding, once the seeds have grown a little you’ll be able to pull out any weaker plants so that there’s enough space between them.


Every gardener’s pet peeve is pests, these little blighters can ruin a perfectly good harvest, but don’t worry too much, the more resilient a plant is, the less pests worry them, ensure your plants are given sufficient water and nutrients to ward off these critters. If you see a snail or a slug slurping on your plant, gently pick them off and place them on the ground where birds will see them. Cracked egg shell can deter pests as they usually need a flat surface to cross, planting strong smelling herbs such as chives can also help (plant them next to lettuces to avoid slugs making a meal out of your salads. If drastic action is needed then use a pesticide designed for use on vegetable gardens, but beware, this will get rid of beneficial insects and could worsen the issue. It may be better to look at alternatives such as a vegetable oil spray.

Following these tips, you could be living the good life in just a few weeks, as long as you watch out for the British weather, keep an eye on your leeks and ensure your neighbours don’t have grand ambitions for garden furniture.