My Dad was a gardener of regimented lupins, stripes from the mower in the grass, neatly pruned roses and co-ordinated bedding plants. My Mum loved flower arranging and the more blousy and floppy things were in the garden the better she loved it. A tricky compromise every year. There was a pond to fall in. I did, and perennials to flatten falling off my bike into. I did that too. And a cherry tree with the sourest fruits known to man. We learned flower names, Mum’s favourites and picked up a few tips. And every year in mid May she’d find just a few Lily of the Valley hiding away in the shade for my sister’s birthday. Neither of them grew anything from seed though.
For thirty years Nick and I had our own family garden with sandpit, water play, a few vegetables now and then, some spectacular raspberries, weeds, plant casualties and some successes. It was a play garden and so it didn’t matter. Now we have a grown up garden with a small greenhouse and a big need for plants. So I’m learning to grow from seed. Nothing is more satisfying that successfully growing a seedling and waiting for it to grow its first proper little leaves so you can ‘pot it on’. Nothing so frustrating as growing a batch of seedlings and stupidly putting them outside to get some air and them getting wind burn instead.
Or not getting the heat/water/light combination right and growing leggy seedlings all straining for the light like microfilaments hardly strong enough to support their own weight. But, when you succeed you get fresh veg ready to pick when you want them, and a few flowers for a jug on the table. All well and good if you’ve got space and time, and lots of us haven’t. So its good to have learned some short cuts.
Anyone, really anyone can grow broad beans. Tip some compost into a loo roll cardboard centre, pop in a seed, water and wait. Very, very soon a huge seedling will sprout and when they look strong and healthy you can plant them out still in their tube in the garden or in a pot on your balcony.
A courgette plant will grow in a 18″ pot or plastic dump bin. Water it well and it will give you courgettes all summer. If you want pots of geraniums for your window sill buy them when they’re small, nurture them and as they grow pot them into a bigger pot before eventually putting them in a window box. Our garden centre recycles flower pots of all sizes for free. The market and nurseries sell small vegetable plants you can take home and just care a little for. You can grow chillis in a pot, tomatoes in a bucket and potatoes in a sack.
A packet of seeds gives you dozens of plants. Usually too many. So share and swop. Save whatever seed you can at the end of the summer and that’s free plants right there.
Calendula is a great example of exaggerated brightness, perfect for cutting and cheap as chips. The seeds are like goblin toe nail clippings – really.
Today I experienced micro greens for the first time. Little snips of vegetation bursting with unexpectedly zingy flavour. They’re highly nutritious and will grow on a window sill, ready to be snipped as you want them. Have them in a sandwich, or sprinkled over a leafy salad. Fine dining when you want it. I’m going to have a go myself.
If you want to read all about them http://backtoherroots.com/2015/04/07/how-to-grow-microgreens-indoors/
Meanwhile the pigeons have chopped the head off one of my baby lettuce plants and I can hear the slugs marching towards the Hostas. I shall arm myself with netting and scissors and take my revenge. Gotta love gardening. x