the Second World War, the British Ministry of Agriculture
captured imaginations with its Dig for Victory campaign, which
encouraged people on the home front to grow their own produce.
Eighty years on, the COVID-19 pandemic presents us with a very
different kind of battle. Nevertheless, cultivating a few crops –
even on a sunny windowsill – can still serve as a small yet easy
step towards countering panic-buying, redressing lost income and
staying at home that bit longer between trips out for
Not convinced? Home-grown produce buffs up your
sustainability halo too. We’re entering serious farm-to-fork
territory here. You’ll cut food miles to zero and reduce the need
for harmful pesticides and
single-use plastics as well as cutting back on the waste that
ends up dumped in landfill. It’s win, win, win, win, win.
Don’t throw it, regrow it
You don’t need to (virtually) hotfoot it to a garden centre, nor
possess a fertile vegetable patch or horticultural talents to begin
a kitchen garden. In fact, you should look no farther than your
compost bin. Many offcuts can be regrown on a small, sunny
windowsill. Carrot tops, mushroom stalks, the bottoms of onions,
lettuce and cabbages are often considered scrap, but these items
can often be easily regrown and enjoyed all over again.
Nurturing avocado pits and pineapple tops may take a few years,
but with this simple method, you can re-harvest everything from
spring onions, leeks and pak choi to lemongrass, cabbage and celery
in as little as two weeks.
- Cut off the root end of your chosen vegetable and place in a
shallow bowl or glass of water. Be sure the water does not fully
submerge your trimming. Place in a sunny, warm, well-ventilated
position for best results.
- Change the water daily. Eventually, you’ll see shoots emerging
from the top of the cutting.
- Once roots are well established in the water, transfer the
sprouted plant to a pot of soil, watering daily, until ready for
harvest and/ or needed in your dinner.
Start a herb garden
Peer into the abyss of your fridge and it’s likely you’ll find a
bag of slimy coriander or yellowing parsley. We’re all guilty of
it. Growing herbs is not only a satisfying lockdown project, but
also helps cut down on waste while jazzing up bland meals and
Spring is the perfect time of year to begin. Simply place a pot
or container in a sunny corner or make the most of a small balcony
or patio with a vertical garden tower (this one doubles up as a composter
too). No outdoor space? No problem. Try a windowbox or grow
indoors – there’s all manner of retro-chic terrariums and sleek
hydroponic grow kits available to buy (try Ikea’s KRYDDA / VÄXER), but
an upcycled tin can work just as well.
Sowing a few seeds or cultivating cuttings from a neighbour gets
you bonus points, but there’s no judgement if you opt for a few
pre-potted herbs (note: the ones you find in supermarkets rarely
last; those available from dedicated garden
centres tend to be much more hardy). Some of the easiest to
grow include kitchen stalwarts such as mint, rosemary, thyme, sage,
parsley, chives and oregano.
Top potting tips, according to Petersham Nurseries’ Amanda Brame
- Generally, herbs aren’t too fussy and will cope quite well in
containers as long as they are around 40cm deep.
- Make sure your pots have drainage holes.
- Fill your containers with a soil-based compost such as John
Inns No 2. Failing that, a good, organic, water-retaining compost
is also suitable.
- Regular watering is really important.
- Give them a liquid feed every two to three weeks with an
organic seaweed fertiliser and this will help speed up the growth
for a regular supply.
- Keep the containers simple by filling each one with a single
herb type and grouping them together for that final stylish
Microgreens: good things come in small packages
Small spaces are best suited to small plants; there’s no point
trying to grow broccoli in a pokey flat where you can’t swing a
cat. Step forward microgreens, the quick-growing powerhouses of the
plant world. These sprouts pack a punch when it comes to flavour
and nutrition, but tend to come with that hefty price tag too often
associated with “superfoods”. Growing them yourself is cheap, easy
and our idea of fun. Mustard, alfalfa or broccoli sprouts are among
the most common, though we love the deep-purple hue and peppery
bite of radish sprouts.
The growing process is a little different from regular produce,
and kind of miraculous. Nifty kits are available, but
don’t feel like you have to invest; simply find a shallow container
(an old baking tray will do) and you’re hot to trot.
- Procure seeds. It’s easy to get your hands on a few packets
- Fill a shallow container or tray with a light potting mix and
moisten with water.Alternatively, forego soil altogether; a few
dampened sheets of kitchen roll work just as well as a base.
- Sprinkle seeds evenly. The goal here is that they’re close
together but not touching.
- Place in a warm spot that gets plenty of sunlight. South-facing
windows are the brightest.
- Spritz daily with water to keep moist, but not saturated. A
couple of sprays morning and evening usually does the trick. Once
germinated, make sure you’re directing the water at the roots, not
- Microgreens are ready to harvest when they reach around 4-5cm
tall (roughly 10 days, depending on the growing environment).
Simply use scissors to snip off what you need, when you need
Like this? Step up your sprouting game and try this method with pulses such
as lentils and chickpeas.