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Follow these 10 clever grow-your-own ideas and give new life to your garden or window box!
Even if you live in a high-rise flat, all you need are some very basic materials you probably have lying around anyway, and a sunny windowsill. Spring is the perfect time to start growing everything from fruit and vegetables to flowers and herbs. Plus, you’ll save money on your shopping, and enjoy the satisfaction of the growing process.
This is a superb family activity while everyone’s self-isolating, so get the kids involved, whether it’s in your private garden or just on the windowsill! Even things like soil can be bought online.
Remember to follow the NHS guidance on staying safe, and buy anything you need online to avoid unnecessary shopping trips.
Also remember to research any plants you intend to grow for possible toxicity. If you have young ones and pets that could potentially get their hands on your flowers, for example, you’ll want to make sure they’re safe.
Growing fruit, veg, plants, and flowers at home indoors or in your own garden is an excellent way to de-stress and get involved in something practical. The satisfaction of seeing your crops bear fruit, or your flowers bloom, is an incredible experience.
It’s the perfect way to reconnect with nature, even within the confines of your own home. You don’t need much space or many resources at all to get stuck in. If you’re not sure about starting from scratch, buy a small house plant and take time to nurture it. Focus each day on watering it, or ensuring it has sunshine – just spending a few minutes around something green can really calm you and boost your mood!
As always, safety first! Keep an eye on kids and do your research on each plant first. Avoid anything that’s known to be toxic when ingested (so stick to edible crops with kids, for example).
Younger children love to get their hands mucky, so give them the responsibility of putting compost in pots or turning over flowerbeds. Give older children a pot or a patch that’s their responsibility – they’ll have a great sense of achievement when ‘their’ plants or vegetables grow.
We have tips for easy grow-your-own fruit and veg below. Some grow really quickly, which is ideal for impatient little ones!
If you’re lucky enough to have your own garden and you’ve never bothered growing anything in it before, now’s the ideal time to get started.
As long as the soil in your garden is clean (i.e. away from visiting cats and dogs who like to use it as a toilet!) you should be good to go. If that is an issue, stick to pretty flowers rather than things you’ll eat! You can always try cat repellents too, such as sonic posts that emit a noise – cats don’t like them so will stay away, but it isn’t harmful. There are also cat-repellent plants you can put in to keep them away, too. The RSPB has some great tips for keeping unwanted felines away from your garden.
In an ideal world, you’d get the right soil and fertiliser to maximise your crop yield. But if you’re just starting out for fun, keep costs down and use what you already have where possible.
Try creating a range of areas in your garden, if you can. Some vegetables like shady spots while others crave sunlight. You might need to add some poly tunnels or netting to help plants grow and be protected from birds.
Get creative with your space, too. Even small spaces are easy to grow things like cucumbers and tomatoes – you can grow them vertically on bamboo poles rather than along the ground! Invest in a potato pot to grow your own potatoes without the need for an entire field.
Raised beds are easy to install and make it much easier to reach your plants. They’re ideal for people with bad backs or mobility issues – and they look good, too! They’re also really handy because you can decide on the depth and choose the right soil based on the plants you want to grow. You can use them to install bamboo frames for runner beans, sweet peas, or vine plants, too.
Even if you live in a small studio flat on the 10th floor, you can still grow things!
Plants love light and water, so a small window sill box with soil and seeds of your choice are enough to get started.
Smaller plants like herbs, berry bushes, and flowers are excellent choices for smaller spaces.
There are lots of innovative small space ideas on websites like Pinterest, too. From arranging lots of pots on a shelf to using a fabric shoe hanger to plant herbs in – there are all sorts of fun ways to grow plants indoors!
There are loads of guides out there on ideal soils for different types of plants, but as the idea here is to use what you’ve got as much as possible, and it’s mainly for fun, there’s rarely any need to buy new soil. If you’ll be growing in window boxes, you’ll only need to buy minimal soil online.
Head online to sites like eBay and Amazon and get yourself some seeds, too. Radishes are among the easiest veggies to grow, and can be planted in late winter or early spring. They add a great kick to salads! If you plant them now, you should be just in time for tomatoes, too. Along with salad leaves, you’ll have everything you need for healthy, organic garden salads you’ve grown yourself!
Beetroots are quick to grow and take up very little space – you can get a good crop from a 20cm pot. You can eat the greens while you wait for the roots to grow, too!
You may think fruit doesn’t grow well in the UK, but that’s a myth! Berries, especially strawberries and blackberries, grow very well here. They make a great summer or autumn treat once they bear fruit.
If you do have your own garden but not loads of space or patience, look into rootstocks. These clever tools stop fruit trees getting too big, so they’re ideal for growing miniature apple and pear trees.
You can grow strawberries in a window box – they grow sideways, so keep an eye on them and maintain the plants every few days. This makes sure the plant’s energy goes into growing fewer, bigger, juicier strawberries.
The first year of any crop may seem a little disappointing but don’t despair! Next year will always be a much better harvest.
Flowers are excellent for brightening up a windowsill or giving new life to your garden. There are lots of varieties that grow well in the UK. These include sweet peas, which are pretty and vibrant, and have the added benefit of growing even more when they’re picked!
Californian poppies are really easy to grow too, and will keep on seeding and growing year after year.
If you really want to grow-your-own, remember that edible flowers exist, too! From planting your own wild garlic (perhaps not indoors, it’s a bit stinky), to having a kitchen shelf full of herbs – they’re all edible! Chives have lovely purple flowers when they bloom, while lavender looks lovely all the time (and tastes great in lots of things). Flowers like nasturtiums, pansies, and even marigolds are edible and add a beautiful splash of colour to any salad or dessert.
If your garden or windowbox doesn’t get much light, don’t fret! There are plants that grow well even with minimal sunshine.
Ferns are among the best plants to grow where light is limited. This is true whether it’s a garden or windowbox. They produce big, vibrant leaves that work really well as grow-your-own decorative plants. A great indoor plant to try is the classic spider plant – they grow and grow, and you can take the sprouts to repot and give as gifts! They’re toxic for cats though, so best avoided if you have feline friends.
Primroses look great too, and are really easy to grow. They do well in lightly shaded areas.
If you want to grow edible plants in the shade, go for brassicas like cabbages, carrots, or broad beans. The Gardener’s World website has lots of tips for planting in shady areas.
Save money on your gardening by using what you already own. Have a clear-out and see what you could use as containers for growing things. For example, clean an old wellie (cutting the top half off if you like) and you have a great window box! If you’re growing things from seeds, egg boxes make the perfect starter pot.
Old kitchen containers make great planter boxes, too. You could even use an unwanted mug to grow flowers in. Be creative!
You just need to make sure you can put a drainage hole in the bottom of any container you use. Otherwise, you risk drowning your plants!
Even if you’re just growing things for the fun of it, share photos on social media of your crops, flowers, and plants when they’ve grown. It could be a great way of inspiring people to do it themselves!
Look out for other home-grown creations online for inspiration, and maybe even join gardening forums to share tips.
Don’t be afraid to be experimental. Maybe grow a couple of different types of things (space allowing) and see what works. Gardening can be simple to start with, but takes practice, skill, and patience to get really good at. Don’t give up even if all your crops fail. Just look at what’s in season now, order some seeds online, and try again!