Lock-down labour of love: growing greens and being present.
I have vivid memories of spending my childhood out in the garden. Weeding flower beds, mixing soil, collecting bugs, planting carrots, and then (sadly) neglecting said carrots in favour of something no doubt requiring less patience...
The garden was a place of wonder and beauty, of excitement and colour. Where even on a rainy day it was a delightful place to be. Looking back, a bit of weeding and garden demolition was also a way for me to let out stress and frustration as kid. And I know my mum certainly loved having a free weeder.
Since then, I’d always had a supermarket basil plant on the go and occasional succulents but I lost that feeling. The feeling of joy being surrounded by your plants, the care it takes for them to grow and the calm that being among nature everyday brings.
A combination of time spent at home during lockdown and a recent move further out of London, has now changed that for me. It's brought that feeling back.
I'm lucky enough to have a little patch where I now grow my veges (or veggies?) and being able to spend some time out in the garden each day has been fantastic, not just for me but my plants too.
This journey has already been so rewarding and positive for my mental health.
It was a strange time to start a garden and not exactly what I'd pictured the process would involve, given we'd rapidly gone into lock-down a week before I'd moved in. Although having limited access to stock and suppliers really is the last of anyone's worries right now, it did mean I had to take a slightly different approach. My criteria for what I wanted to buy and grow was simple:
Is it in stock?
Will I eat it?
I ended up with a small list of carrots, rocket, sugar snap peas and a good few bags of compost. This haul was also supplemented with a tomato plant I adopted from a generous neighbour and three leftover store-bought potatoes which were sprouting.
You’ll no doubt have a few things around the house that will not only cut down costs but are a great way of up-cycling too.
My collection of vege plants is now about 3 months on and thriving. The rocket is already providing us delicious salads, my potatoes growing incredibly (and very unexpectedly) and my sugar snap peas are starting to look great. All these are happily growing in pots or felt bags on my patio, which I would highly recommend if you have limited space or aren’t looking for permanent structures.
Although I’m still just starting out, I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learnt so far.
You’ll no doubt have a few things around the house that will not only cut down costs but are a great way of up-cycling too. This an area you can get really creative with and I’d love to hear if you have any more ideas to add to this list:
Use an old milk bottle as a watering can by cutting some holes in the cap.
Keep yoghurt pots as these are great for planting seedlings in.
Collect toilet rolls and sow your seeds into them throughout spring and summer
A few potatoes got too old to eat? Put them in a cool dark place for a few weeks then plant them out! I have been genuinely astounded what I’ve grown from something that would have otherwise been thrown away.
Keep all the seeds. I haven’t yet sown the seeds I’ve acquired from various store-bought produce (e.g. capsicum/bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes) but I’ve seen others have success so this might be something you want to try too.
Don't throw away your used coffee pods - you can take out the old coffee grounds and use this as a fertiliser for any fruits and veg that like acidic soil. It is also apparently a non-chemical snail deterrent which I'm currently testing out.
Ease Into It
I’m definitely guilty of getting over-excited about things and going all in from the outset. ‘Enthusiastic’ we’ll say! But in starting my vege garden I eased into it with a small range of veges, initially out of necessity. I have now spent countless hours researching everything to do with each of these plants and I imagine any more would have left me feeling completely overwhelmed as I began to find my feet.
By starting small, I’ve been able to put my energy into doing a few things well rather than spreading myself too thin. I think this has really contributed to how much I enjoy the process, learning about my plants and pottering around out there a few times a day.
Read All About It
There is so much information out there and I have love poring over the different resources available to find what works for me. I would highly recommend rhs.org.uk and am an avid advocate for watching BBC’s Gardeners' World on Friday nights. I also spend a lot of time trawling YouTube and Instagram to learn from others. Below are some Instagram accounts you can follow to either get you started or just to add a bit of colour to your feed. I've been blown away by how friendly and supportive the online gardening community is!
Wake up and Smell the Veges?
This journey has already been so rewarding and positive for my mental health. The time I spend out there each day checking on progress, seeking out weeds, and watering my plants lovingly, has had a profound impact on my ability to be present. I’m also experiencing a newfound resilience and peace in learning some of my plants will make it while others won’t. It centres your focus on the journey rather than just the payoff at the end.
I’m lucky enough to already be enjoying fresh, homegrown rocket and the joy of being out in nature everyday. I know much more is to come which is hugely exciting and I really can’t believe I didn’t tap into this wonderfully fulfilling hobby sooner. I’m proud to say I'm finally doing those poor carrots justice and learning to love the patience it takes to see something grow.
Have you been growing your own too? Or perhaps you're now inspired to give it a go! Leave a comment below with any questions or any tips of your own – I would love to hear from you.