by Alex Ward
Spring is springing and it’s the time of year that many of us may start thinking about growing our own fruit and vegetables. The wintery backdrop of brown and bare now holds promise with sunshine and blossom. There is not much more satisfying than harvesting food you’ve grown and this is the perfect time to sow seeds.
Where do we start?
Some people are finding themselves at home with more time on their hands or families are looking for activities to do with kids. Whether you have a windowsill, a patio or a garden, growing food is possible.
It can feel a little bit overwhelming if you don’t really know where to start or what equipment you will need. Below we have included some simple steps for getting started, some tips on where to buy seeds and soil, and some gardening hacks for those of you who might not have all the equipment.
As you may know, certain seeds need planting at certain times of the year so we’ve started with April and May. We’ve also started with vegetables that can be grown in pots and small areas.
What to grow
April and May
- Dwarf French Beans
- Kohl Rabi
For more information on what you can grow, when to sow seeds and when you can harvest, the Royal Horticultural Society has a great veg growing calendar.
Where to buy seeds
There are many places you can usually buy seeds and Brighton and Hove has one of the biggest annual seed swap events in the UK, which takes place in February. But for now, in the absence of shops and garden centres, we have to stick to online shopping. Some of the bigger supermarkets do stock seeds so it may be worth checking next time you are there. Demand for seeds has been high in the past weeks but you can still purchase from The Organic Catalogue, Grow Seed, Kings Seeds, Vital Seeds and Marshall’s. You may wish to chat to friends about what seeds they are ordering, then order something different and swap (contactless swap or in the post). Seed packets often come with lots of seeds in them and they don’t all last forever. Please expect some delays when ordering due to high demand.
Another great way to get seeds is by saving your own and there are plenty of tips and videos for these online, depending on which vegetable seed you want to save. Saving tomato seeds from a tomato you buy from a shop can be a great activity to do with your kids.
What else do you need?
Another question we are getting asked a lot is ‘where can you buy compost?’. Compost is a nutrient rich soil that consists of decomposed organic matter such as vegetable scraps and garden waste. The nutrients in the compost help seeds to grow and gives seedlings the help they need to become stronger. If you have a garden, creating your own compost from your uncooked food scraps is a great way to dispose of food waste and it provides you with free compost. There are also tips and FAQs for those already starting to compost at home.
However, as that’s not an option for everyone, below are a few places you can buy bags of multipurpose compost. Luch and Pauls Compost near Roedale allotments (currently offering a 10% discount on local deliveries or collection), Enthusiastic Gardenrs Supplies, Tates of Sussex, Goldcliff Garden Centre, Robert Dyas, Argos and B&Q. If you need a large quantity of compost it’s worth checking out Brighton Compost Coop. Post lockdown you may also wish to look at the Brighton and Hove community composting scheme.
Often, it’s best to start seeds off in small pots on your sunniest windowsill and then transplant them into bigger pots to go outside if that’s an option for you. There are a few reasons for this. One is that, at this time of year, we may still get some colder weather and we want to keep seeds warm inside until they are strong and resilient enough to go out. Another reason is that planting seeds into big pots straight away means they may be planted too deep (meaning the roots will rot before the plant gets the chance to makes its way to the surface) or too shallow (not have the support needed for the root structure). To get the seeds planted you don’t need anything fancy. Here are some examples of homemade seed pots:
- Toilet roll
- Egg boxes
- Egg shells (with a drainage hole in the bottom)
You will need to put a dish underneath all these options to catch excess water. You may wish to put a bit of clingfilm over the top of them to keep the moisture in, but this will need to be removed as soon as the seedling starts to show.
Once the seeds have started to grow and have their second set of leaves (‘true leaves’), you will need to transplant them into larger pots. Some of the websites mentioned above also sell equipment. But there are others that may be worth a look: Dobbies and Primrose. There are alternatives if you wanted to use things you may have laying around the house – this picture may spark some inspiration. Although you may wish to ensure they are not in use before you fill them with compost!
There are many positive things about growing in pots. You can move the pots around as the sun moves during the day, you can bring them indoors if there is chance of a frost of colder weather and you don’t need to have a garden. Pots can live on your windowsill, patio or doorstep.
What next and how to?
If you’re interested in growing and don’t know how, the best thing is to try and learn from your successes and disasters. I think most gardeners have had a fair mix of both. We will also be creating some ‘how to’ videos soon with tips and useful things to think about.
For those more seasoned gardeners and perhaps those with garden space or an allotment, we have some monthly top tips. You can also find top tips for new allotments holders on our YouTube channel. We have some recent videos on Facebook and Instagram so keep an eye on these pages for future information.
How to grow your own veg at home
The next step-by-step videos show how to plant seeds using trays you might have laying around the house. Happy growing!
Transplanting & Separating Seedlings