Though the current situation means that most garden centres are closed and demand for gardening supplies, along with many other goods, has increased, there are still places you can find seeds, plants and compost to get growing this summer.
Carpenters Nursery in Sandridge is selling their full garden range in addition to their farm shop range (including lots of great local produce!), so you can get your groceries and your garden supplies at the same time.
Aylett Nurseries are offering a local delivery service; email them via their website to order.
Remember, you should only go if you have an essential trip to make, but there are several essential shops (supermarkets, DIY stores, general stores such as Wilko or the Range) where you MAY also find garden supplies – and even if seeds have sold out as I know they have in some, it’s possible that seasonal plug-plant deliveries may still arrive soon. I’m told that Sainsbury’s has seeds in stock right now!
Online businesses are experiencing very heavy demand at the moment too, but it’s still possible to buy seeds from many, albeit with slight delays:
Thompson-Morgan.com still has a very good range and promises to dispatch fast, though it’s closing the website periodically to catch up with orders so you might have to be patient. Marshallsgarden.com says they have new stock coming in all the time but to expect a longer delivery time than usual. Suttons.co.uk has a queue to enter the website but is still selling.
RealSeeds.co.uk and victoriananursery.co.uk are two excellent independent companies also struggling with demand but still selling. There are probably many more too!
Even if seeds and garden ranges are out of stock, you may be able to find something to grow in your kitchen storecupboard, or on food shop shelves…
Sprouts are grown from seed without compost – kept moist by twice-daily rinsing – and eaten in their entirety when they have just two leaves, or even earlier: beansprouts are an example everyone will be familiar with, but the same can be done with many, many veg and herb seeds. They’re ready in just a few days and extra healthy, especially when eaten fresh, because the nutrition is so concentrated and they’re so full of life and energy, containing loads of healthy enzymes.
Here’s a good guide to getting started with sprouting: https://www.growveg.co.uk/guides/how-to-grow-sprouting-seeds-for-winter-salads/ Wholefood shops often sell a range of ‘sprouting seeds’; online, try organiccatalogue.com, buywholefoodsonline.co.uk or skysprouts.co.uk. My favourites are alfalfa, broccoli and sunflower.
It’s safest to only sprout those seeds sold specifically for sprouting, as they are certified free from e-coli and other disease-causing bacteria which can breed in the moist, enclosed conditions sprouts are grown in. Observe good hygiene when growing sprouts and discard any that become smelly or yellowed.
Microgreens are young shoots grown from seed in compost OR on kitchen paper/cloth, snipped at the bottom of the stem and eaten when they have just two leaves - sometimes four - like when you grew cress in school… They’re also very healthy and full of enzymes.
For example, dried peas sold for eating are a great way to grow your own peashoots at home; really tasty in salads and sandwiches and very quick to grow in just a week or two! Dried marrowfat peas are easily available in supermarkets and perfect for this purpose - and Earthworks have just shared a brilliant post about this, which we will share here! This method can also be used for sunflower shoots, lentil shoots and others – or with many garden seeds such as carrot, salad leaves and anything in the cabbage family.
In the supermarket you can also find live herb pots, which can be planted out in the garden or into garden pots. Look carefully at the pot and if there are lots of plants close together, they can be split and planted 15cm apart, and it’s best to do this to allow them to develop properly. (The exception here is chives, which are best grown as a close clump.) Before planting out, get them accustomed to outdoor temperatures by putting them outside during the day and bringing them in at night for a week – this is known as ‘hardening off’. (Don’t plant any basil outside before mid-May – it hates cold temperatures.)
Another way to start a plant from supermarket produce is to take a stem of fresh basil, coriander or watercress and put it in a jar of water – like you would a flower – for a few days until it grows roots. Then pot it up in soil and go from there…
Harvest fresh seeds in your kitchen
You can grow tomatoes from fresh seed scraped from a tomato you have at home; just put the seeds in a small cup of water at room temperature and stir daily for 4-5 days until it smells yeasty and fermented – skim off any mould or scum and cover with a loose lid if you find it smells. This process gets rid of the gel around the seeds which prevents them from germinating. Then rinse your seeds and sow them! (The time to sow tomatoes is almost behind us so hurry up if you wish to do this!)
Regrow veg scraps
Surprisingly, many things you’d normally put in your food waste bin can be regrown for more food! The root-ends of onions, spring onions, leeks, lettuces, cabbages, celery and fennel; and the leaf-ends/tops of carrots, beetroots and turnips can all be grown on for tasty new leaves. Just place them in a tray with a centimetre or so of water, put it on a bright windowsill and wait, refreshing the water each day or two. Within a week you should see new growth begin, and a few weeks later you’ll be snipping edible leaves – OR once new roots have developed you could even plant it out in the garden! More info here: https://www.ruralsprout.com/regrow-vegetables/
You can also grow potatoes – or parts of potatoes – that have started sprouting in your cupboard. Bury them around 10-15cm deep and mound up the soil a little as the plant grows, to keep developing tubers in the dark. (Be aware however that using potatoes not certified for growing carries a slight risk of plant disease – it’s better to do this in a container if possible and discard the plant and the soil if the plant appears to suffer from disease.)
If you don’t have any plant pots don’t despair – you can repurpose all sorts of plastic containers from the kitchen for the purpose. Look out yogurt pots, margarine tubs, fruit punnets and mushroom boxes. You can even use tin cans! Just be sure to put a few drainage holes in the bottom.
Lots of people like to use toilet rolls and cardboard egg cartons to start seeds in. When the seedling is ready to be planted out in the garden, you can plant the whole thing and allow the cardboard to rot away – this minimises disturbance of the plants’ roots.
If you don’t have access to fresh compost, you could consider growing microgreens on kitchen towel as mentioned in yesterday’s post. But there are other options too:
If you have a compost bin in your garden – even if it’s old and neglected – look there. It might not look ready on top, but if you poke around at the bottom you’re likely to find at least a little bit of good compost waiting for you.
Though fresh, light compost is the best medium for new seedlings, you can still use garden soil in a pinch. Scrape away the top layer with any big pieces of debris and use the stuff just below the surface, breaking it up as much as you can with a trowel, fork or rake. If possible, leave the soil in a tray in the sun for a day or two before sowing to allow insects to leave and to kill off a few bacteria. If you’ve got some compost but not enough you could also use garden soil to bulk it up.
Don’t miss out!
Finally, don’t miss what’s already under your nose. Many gardens have a long forgotten apple tree or rosemary bush. Why not give it some love this year and pledge to make the most of its produce?
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