In these difficult times there is a little light that can help and give you a rosy glow. Getting back to nature can give you a little lift when you see the first green shoots appear through the dark soil with a promise of vegetables for the future. The harvest is the achievement of your labours and the wonder of nature.
You don’t have to have a big garden, greenhouse, green fingers or be an expert. If you have a pack of seeds just read and follow the instructions. As a rule of thumb if it’s a small seed lightly cover it, larger seeds need more depth. You can obtain seeds from a number of sources, online, garden centres will take orders over the phone, B&Q, supermarkets, Wilko and many more. My friends and neighbours share what is left over or ask family and friends to get seeds.
What you need
Potting compost or good soil is essential to give the seeds the best start in life. If you haven’t got pots there are a variety of household items that can be used instead. Water, warmth and light will germinate the seeds and make them grow. A window sill will work just as well as a cold frame or greenhouse.
Toilet rolls and yoghurt pots, which would require holes in the bottom to allow water to escape and lolly pop sticks can be used to mark pots and rows to remind you what has been planted and where.
Plastic fruit containers and ice cream cartons can also be use, don’t forget to put the drainage holes in.
Partly fill your containers with soil leaving a little room at the top to cover the seed. Place the seeds apart to allow for growth, many seeds will be very small so tip them either in your hand or on a small dish so that you can see the seeds.
Place your pots, toilet rolls, yoghurt cartons on a waterproof tray or dish and water enough to dampen the soil but not too much to leave the containers floating. Test the soil regularly by touching the soil and if dry, add more water. Place your tray or dish on a windowsill, greenhouse or cold frame and wait for the seeds to grow. Keep soil damp so that the plants do not dry out.
This summer I decided to invest in a small upright cold frame and 2 pop up cold frames. As you can see below you can get a lot in the upright frame and adjust the temperature by opening the lid. I also bought two pop up cold frames which are easy to erect as their names suggest. Otherwise grow the plants on your window sill. When the second set of leaves appear put the plants outside on sunny days to start to harden them off. Preferably in a sheltered area with not too much sun. Take the plants in at night to protect from frost.
Upright cold frame treated with teak oil to protect the wood.
I have recycled a banana box with a black bin liner to collect the water in the bottom of the tray. Ideal for moving plants around and it fits perfectly in the upright cold frame.
This year I am trying two pop up cold frames. You literally take them out of the box and they open up like this. One is made from a fleece keeps the cold out and allows the rain to penetrate. The second one is made of plastic and does not allow water in but keeps the plants warm and moist. The only down side I have found with the plastic frame is that water tends to collect on the top and push it down. I have resolved this with a yoghurt pot on top of a cane in the centre of the cold frame.
The cold frames stop birds and my oversized chicken from pecking the small vulnerable plants. Choock has the run of the garden and pays with six eggs a week with a day off for good behaviour. The have also stopped Lara, my guide dog, and Ruby from joining in and digging holes in the garden.
This year I purchased troughs to put cut and come again lettuce in. I have half a row of radishes and spring onions and another trough of carrots in one cold frame. This will protect the plants from the cold nights, birds including my chicken and the two dogs from digging them up.
Hints and tips
To stop slugs from eating your vegetables put crushed eggshell on top of the soil next to the plant.
You can also purchase organic slug pellets safe for birds, wildlife such as hedgehogs, dogs and cats.
Stagger the planting on salad crops to give you a longer harvesting time. I left three weeks between my first lot of cut and come again lettuce and the next batch.
As an experiment I bought a box of mushrooms to grow in the house. They are sitting in my warm bathroom and I am waiting for them to grow. I have put the date on when I added the soil on top and water to keep the soil moist.