HOW TO START GROWING VEGGIES AT HOME WITH LONDON ALLOTMENTEER
Lockdown saw a whole lot of people baking banana bread, cutting their hair and growing their own veg. If you didn’t at least try and grow spring onions from offcuts then were you even in lockdown?! If like us you tried and failed but are dying to grow some veggies and herbs like everyone else on your social feeds then here are some top tips from a pro grower. Whether you have a balcony, a garden or a window sill, the green-fingered @london_allotmenteer is here to help you get started, keep your plants alive and match your pots to your personality, including those who are on the more forgetful (aka very busy) side.
How To Get Started: What To Grow & What You Will Need
Some of the easiest things to grow are also the most delicious, like peas! You can start them off in toilet rolls early in year Feb/March or pop them straight into the ground once the frosts have passed. They need a little support but nothing too fancy, which is also a great opportunity to get creative!
I’m growing ginger this year which I found all crinkled and sprouting at the bottom of my veg bowl. So no you don’t need to look far for something to grow. Ginger is usually grown in a much hotter climate but with a good UK summer, you should be able to double or triple the tuber size in a few hot months so it’s worth a try! You can also plant shop-bought potatoes and garlic. If they’ve sprouted in your cupboard and are looking past their best, get them into some soil rather than throwing them away.
What To Plant In And When
I love growing in pots as I’m often short of room and I can move them around if I think a plant can do better somewhere else. I couldn’t get hold of the pots I wanted earlier this year and I was trying to be a little thrifty so I had to look around for an alternative. I found that my local shop regularly throws away wooden crates that fruit and veg are delivered in. I lined them with old compost bags and had perfect temporary planters with a little character too!
It’s not all about veg, don’t forget to grow some flowers! If you’re all about the eating then try some herbs, they’ll happily flower through summer and attract all those pollinators too. Also try nasturtiums as they add a real splash of colour. The leaves, flowers and seed pods are all edible and have a lovely peppery flavour. Throw them into any salad or use as a garnish for a summer dish for that swanky finish. They are also a great sacrificial plant, meaning lots of pests will choose to attack them over your more prized plants.
Not Got A Garden? Try Growing These…
There are plenty of favourites that you can grow in miniature if you don’t have much space. Try the tomato Hundreds and Thousands or the strawberry Summer Breeze Rose. Their small size and tumbling nature are perfect for baskets and window boxes, or even try them as an unusual (and edible) table centre piece. Or you can try trellising a Cucamelon plant indoors to frame a window.
Sometimes the unexpected can be grown in pots like the aubergine Pot Black. It produces small, delicious fruits and will be perfectly happy on a sunny balcony or terrace.
What To Do If Things Start To Look A Little Sad
Plants have one pretty clear way of telling you something is wrong; the leaves turn yellow. Why they are yellow is up to the Sherlock in you to work out! It will be either too much water or too little, too many nutrients or too few. Stick your finger in that soil. Is it soggy? Is it dry? If you’re growing hungry veggies like tomatoes or cucumbers, they will need a bit of feeding. There are lots of products out there but a general feed or tomato feed will take care of most of your vegetables, so you don’t need to buy all the different products out there!
Now You’re Up & Running, How To Keep Going For Next Season
I’ve already started saving seeds from my favourite plants for next year! I chose a couple of broad bean pods from each plant and tied a piece of twine around them to remind me not to pick those ones. I let them mature and dry on the plant, I then removed the seeds from the pods for storage.
I’ve also been saving kale and purple sprouting broccoli seeds for next year. I needed to remove the plants so I cut the seed pods and let them dry in paper bags. They make a really satisfying rattle sound when they’re ready!
Cutting the side shoots off your tomato plants is so important in keeping them healthy and under control, but don’t throw them away! You can double your tomato plants by leaving the shoots in bottles of water until they’ve grown some strong roots, then plant. Who doesn’t enjoy even more tomatoes?
A Plant For All Personalities
Here’s some easy go-to veggies to plant to match your lifestyle.
Thyme. It needs a sunny spot but will need little attention after that. There are plenty of varieties with different leaf colours, textures and flowers. Buy three varieties and plant them together, they will be pretty, fragrant and delicious with a roast dinner.
Purple sprouting broccoli. The foxes try to trample it, caterpillars munch on it and if there’s anything left the slugs will have a go at it. Once it’s autumn though you will be rewarded with delicious purple buds right through until spring.
Onions. If there’s a cold snap they can think a whole year has gone by and start producing flowers. This means your bulbs won’t fatten up quite as much.
Tomatillos. Their lanterns set the most beautiful backdrop for any show!