Kirsty McLean on the joys of growing your own….
There’s something special about blackcurrants munched from the bush as you pass, or lunching on a salad prepared from leaves you’ve grown yourself. You don’t need acres of space either, a sheltered patio, balcony or simply an indoor windowsill can all be productive spaces, growing herbs, chillies or bushy tomato plants in the sun.
On a patio, Veg Trugs are neat, portable and easy to use with the added benefit of being raised, making gardening easy on the back! Exotic salad leaves, strawberries or shallow rooted veg all thrive here and many have frames and covers turning them into mini-coldframes for growing courgettes or cucumbers too.
If you have the option of growing in the ground, use wooden, pressure treated boarding to form a square or rectangle to edge beds neatly or create raised beds with wooden sleepers. If you prefer a kit or something ready-made, made-to-measure raised beds are available in lots of different sizes and materials.
For small spaces such as balconies, look for neat, upright tiered shelf planters or opt for a vertical planting system on a sunny wall. Vertical gardens are growing in popularity, creating a lush backdrop. Alternatively, you can go high-tech with soil free vertical hydroponic growing systems. There’s no mud or weeding to deal with, though the neighbours may wonder just what you’re growing!
Once you have your growing space sorted, it’s just a matter of choosing the best easy-to-grow options. Lettuce, tomatoes, peas, radishes, carrots, onions, potatoes and beetroot are all easy for the first time gardener. Seed specialist Suttons offer a reliable planner and plenty of free advice for new veg growers at gardenplanner.suttons.co.uk/garden-planner-intro.aspx or use the RHS’s veg planner at rhs.org.uk/advice/pdfs/vegplanner.pdf. Keep in mind that our growing season starts 4-6 weeks later than Southern England.
Even if you only have a windowsill, there’s plenty you can grow.
Herbs do well in pots and kids love getting involved in indoor growing. Why not
try some of these?
Take a leftover onion cut down to a 3cm cube around the root and plant the root into potting compost in a plant pot with drainage holes. Cover with a couple of inches of more potting compost, keep in a warm place (but not in direct sunlight) and water lightly, often.
Soak a fresh leftover ginger tuber in warm water overnight. Look for buds and plant in compost with buds facing up. Cover the entire tuber lightly and then treat as per the onion.
Suspend half a sweet potato over a glass or bowl of water using 4, cocktail sticks with the cut end submerged. Change the water every 2 days and then, when the roots are around 10cm long, transfer to compost in a pot. If you have the root ends of lettuce, bok choy or cabbage, these can be submerged in water and planted when the roots and new leaves show. Celery, lemon grass, or spring onion root ends can be placed in a glass with enough water to cover and leave in the sunlight. After around a week when you see new growth you can plant into compost.
After that, it’s just a matter of watering, feeding and waiting, then deciding what to have for lunch!
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