Blog by Ruth Baber
Community Gardening Coordinator
Why not make the most of spring time and start growing some veg at home? With very little extra resources your window sill, balcony or tiny outdoor space can provide you with tasty home grown produce. Good things to grow are herbs, salad crops and peas because they are not difficult to grow and will be ready to harvest fairly quickly. Seeds are available on-line - perhaps you can share some packets with your neighbours, as a single packet often contains more seeds than you really need. Radishes, lettuce, dill, coriander, parsley, chillies, chives, basil and sugar snap or mangetout peas are all things I've had success with. If you have a balcony or garden tomatoes are good too. Beans, carrots, courgettes, pumpkins, broccoli and greens need more space so I wouldn't recommend them - unless you want to grow micro-greens: more on that in a later instalment If you don't have any soil or compost maybe you can buy a bag of compost or a grow bag (peat free if possible) online, from your milkman or possibly at a large supermarket which also stocks garden stuff. Or ask around your neighbours to see if they have some to share with you. You don't need plant pots to get started. Re-use well washed yoghurt pots, meat or vegetable trays (not polystyrene), milk cartons/containers turned on their side and cut in half, loo and kitchen roll cardboard centres, or make newspaper pots. The main thing is that any container must let water drain through - use a skewer or scissor points to (carefully) make drainage holes spaced 2 or 3 cm apart. Click here for other ideas. Fill your containers with compost, but don't press it down too hard. Sow a few seeds in the container and lightly sprinkle a bit more compost on top. If the seeds are large enough that you can sow them individually (eg chillies, tomatoes, coriander, peas) do that and space them 1 or 2cm apart. I recommend using a sprayer to water the seeds, to avoid drowning them. Wash out any household spray bottle really well and re-use, or make holes in the lid of a plastic bottle or milk container with a hot skewer or nail to use as a watering can. Put a clear plastic bag or some cling film on top (you can re-use the cling film for later batches of seeds too) to create a mini greenhouse. Rest your containers on a tray, plate or other waterproof surface, put them in a warm light place and wait for them to germinate (sprout).
Different seeds will take different lengths of time to germinate - parsley is slow, radishes, peas and dill are quick. When you see several sprouts take the container out of the plastic bag. Keep the compost just moist, but not too wet. Ideally, if the sprouts fall over when you spray them, gently use a pencil tip to stand them up again.