Sowing Seeds – beginner’s tips for good growing

1 March 2019

By Catherine Greig, Director, make:good

This month we’ll officially be entering spring and that means it is time to sort through our seedbox, get the gardening gloves out and get growing. It’s delightful to get started once more and exciting to think about what new produce this year’s harvest may yield.

Growing, and specifically food growing, is something make:good seems to get involved in on lots of our projects. I often wonder why because, frankly, nobody in the team is an expert at it. We all enjoy it and get a kick out of eating something that we have nurtured ourselves, but we tend to learn as we go along.

Maybe that’s the joy of it – you don’t need to be an expert and everybody can get involved. It’s also a great way to get people to participate in our projects.

So in the spirit of not being an expert, here are my favourite seeds to sow:

Tomatoes

Year in, year out, we seem to get an amazing crop from tomatoes. We dig some of the previous year’s crop into the ground at the end of the season and then come spring we get lots of new plants, and I mean LOTS. You might end up with so many spare you won’t know what to do with them (hint: preserving is your friend). Thin them out when they have their second set of leaves and then watch them thrive. Plant them in a grow bag, a window box, a planter… as long as they have plenty of access to sunlight, they always seem to grow. We have caned them up and thinned the leaves as well as just letting them grow wild – either way, we have always had a huge harvest.

Use your bumper crop to make salads, ketchup, passata and chutney – we’ve made and happily consumed all.

Beans

Growing runner beans would be our tip for rookie gardeners; twice we’ve had aphids ruin our broad beans so we won’t be growing those this year. To grow runner beans, plant dried-out beans from the previous year in small pots inside and lightly water them. Keep them damp over a two-week period and they should sprout. When they have two sets of leaves you can plant them outside. They need something to grow up so you can go traditional and build a wigwam, use some netting or mesh or just plant them somewhere they can get a grip on something (a TV aerial got consumed by runner beans on one of our projects last year, so they’ll find a way of clinging onto whatever’s in the vicinity!). We like to keep a couple of pods at the end of the season, dry the beans out and use these to grow our plants for the following year. Runner beans for me are all about adding crunch to a salad or pasta sauce.

Garlic

Take a garlic glove, plant it (pointy end up is the only instruction you need), cover with soil and it will grow a garlic bulb. When the leaves die down it’s ready to harvest, so pull them out and let them dry. You can plait them if you like to be fancy but it doesn’t affect the taste so this isn’t mandatory! Again, keep a clove at the end to plant next year, so the cycle continues. Garlic goes in… well, everything! I can’t think of a savoury recipe I don’t use it in, plus it’s packed with health benefits.

So give growing a go. Whether you have a windowsill, a balcony, a hanging basket or a garden, plant some seeds and see what happens. More beginner’s tips are available here, or you can read more about how food-growing features in our engagement work.

We would love to see the results, but would also love to hear about other activities that draw people into positive participation without a need for expertise. Tell us on Twitter!