Simone O’Kane talks to the gardener who hopes that his new book will help more Lancastrians to cultivate their own veg.

GROWING your own vegetables in Lancashire can be a tricky task. With a climate that’s unpredictable, our county is a far cry from being a gardener’s haven.

The North West region alone includes both the coldest place in England, Cross Fell in the Pennines, and the wettest place in England, the Lakeland fells around Seathwaite in Cumberland, making it difficult to achieve those luscious lettuces less than anywhere else in the country.

But Lancastrian Malcolm Greenhalgh has discovered that we can grow like those in the south and is encouraging East Lancashire folk to get productive in the garden regardless of your environment, space, age and ability.

His latest book, Grow Your Own In Lancashire, is aimed specifically at gardeners in the north west encouraging them to make the most of what they have got.

“People who watch gardening programmes such as Gardener’s World and find it frustrating as it’s really aimed at the weather in the south east and it’s completely different when you are growing round here,” says Malcolm.

“We get advice like sewing your broad bean in November for an early crop. If you did that in Lancashire they would rot in the ground. Here you could grow your cucumber and tomatoes together.”

At the age of 12 Malcolm was given a spade, fork, rake and trowel by his parents and was inspired by his grandfather Herbert Haslam who was a semi-professional gardener himself.

In 1958, he became a keen fan of ‘Grow Your Own’ and was inspired by the likes of Gardener’s Question Time.

Malcolm studied biology at Lancaster University and was then a lecturer until his 40th birthday.

For the last 20 years, he has been a freelance writer specialising in wildlife mainly fishing.

He has published about 30 books, including The River Ribble: A Local and Natural History Freshwater Fish, The Natural History of Over 160 Native European Species and a Pocket Guide to Freshwater Fish of Britain and Europe.

The 68-year-old says people should grow vegetables, fruit and herbs to save money and live on fresh produce.

He says: “The book encourages people to grow even if they don’t have a garden. My wife and I have enjoyed new potatoes for several weeks. They are grown in big pots in the conservatory. Everybody should grow as much as they can to save money and eat fresh and healthy vegetables.”

As an ecologist by profession, the keen gardener insists the book was written for pleasure and gardening is his real passion. At his Lancashire home, Malcolm has a greenhouse, a large cold frame, vegetable beds, fruit trees and bushes. He also grows crops in containers including melons, courgettes, lettuces, watercress, figs, blackcurrants, gooseberries and lots of strawberries.

When he’s not writing books, fishing and gardening, Malcolm spends time with his wife Yvonne, and is always busy with his three children and six grandchildren.

Gardening is Malcolm’s passion and his advice is that those who have a small, medium or 'lucky' garden can benefit from his latest book.

He says: “When you are getting on in years, ageing is horrible, but gardening is good and it keeps you fit.

“I do a lot of digging. I don’t understand people who go to the gym or people who jog when they could be putting all of that energy into gardening.

“It’s a wonderful hobby and pastime and the book proves that no matter how big or small your space, it’s possible for everyone to grow their own.”

n Grow Your Own In Lancashire is out now.