I know that social media has exploded with people keen to tell you how to ‘grow your own’. My blog is probably not so different, but I think it’s worth saying anyway, as it is a very satisfying and gentle thing to do while we’re all in lockdown and feeling anxious about our families and friends, our jobs and our finances. I’ve chosen to focus on three really simple things here: salad leaves, tomatoes and climbing beans. As the owner of a tiny garden, with no greenhouse, I know what it’s like to have space issues, but you can get round these – and anyone can grow a pot of leaves for a salad.
I would recommend planting very fresh seeds. Older ones may not germinate. You can mail order from Thompson & Morgan, Suttons, Dobies and many more. If you are out doing an essential shop, Wilko’s has a great gardening department (although seeds were running low when I was there 10 days ago).
Other equipment needed is:
a bag of potting compost
a small trowel or an old spoon
Seed trays, yogurt pots with holes punched in or an old soft drinks bottle turned on its side and cut in half, with holes punched in the bottom, or loo rolls cut in half
lolly sticks for seed labels
Line up your pots or loo roll middles in a seed tray and add a nice bed of crumbly compost. Plant a few seeds in each one. I put 2 or 3 tomato seeds in each of these, but only one climbing bean seed. For the mizuna salad leaves, I just sprinkled them evenly into one large flower pot. Then add a coating of compost over the top of the seeds – a centimetre is fine. Some seeds will germinate better with no soil covering them – lettuce is one example of this.
Now the seeds are ready to grow. The idea is to create a warm, moist environment to encourage them to germinate. I added a glass cloche to my pot of salad seeds to make a greenhouse effect. A layer of clingfilm or a clear plastic bag will also do the job nicely.
Clear a few window ledges and bring your seeds inside. It’s too cold for them to thrive outdoors yet.
Make some labels. Okay, it’s not strictly necessary to hand paint them like I did, but many of us have a little more time than usual, so why not? And you do definitely need some sort of label on each pot or container: it’s very easy to forget what you planted and where!
Some of my seeds germinated in 48 hours. Tomatoes first. These will need thinning out in due course, but I was glad to see them! When the seeds have germinated, you can remove the cover from them, although I am keeping mine on for a few hours a day, as it keeps the moisture in and stops them from drying out.
Salad leaves were next to show…
And now they’re like this…
The climbing beans took about five days, but they’d popped overnight, and this was the scene when I got up this morning…
It really is a lovely feeling when you see the first green shoots poking out. When the baby plants get taller and stronger, they’ll be ready to pricked out into slightly larger individual pots. They can’t go outside yet, as it’s still cold and the frosts would kill them. So keep nurturing the sprouts, keep the compost damp but not soggy, and make sure they have plenty of light. I’ll be posting updates on my crops.
I hope everyone is coping with the current situation in their own way. Some people like to be busy, I know that others don’t. So even if you are just sitting and reading this while drinking tea and eating cake, I hope you might find it useful. See you back here soon. x