Top Tips to Grow Something Green
08th July 2016
TV producer Ade Sellars takes some time out to write a blog for Grow Your Own on his passion for allotmenteering, and provides his top tips.
With a busy career in television and a daily three-hour commute, trying to maintain both garden and allotment can be challenging. However, in the last few years I’ve come to re-think my routine, maximizing what little time I have. A lack of time shouldn’t cripple your gardening ambitions – you can still enjoy bountiful harvests without clock-watching.
Owning an allotment is a dream scenario for many. A blank canvas to cultivate seems ideal, but the reality can be daunting for the novice gardener. Growing fruit and veg can be made easier by involving the family, sharing jobs, and even drawing up a rota. Think about what your family eats and avoid planting exotic vegetables simply for novelty value. Sow crops that require little maintenance – potatoes, radishes, or beetroot are good examples. Don’t weed and water everything in one go, it is better to do this little and often. Focus on one section of your allotment each time you visit. If your trips are infrequent, ensure that you have mulched your plants thoroughly to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
Sadly, more and more allotment sites are being threatened by development and with waiting lists at an all-time high, living ‘the good life’ may seem impossible. One solution might lie in community gardening, where like-minded people share land, jobs and practical advice – when you can’t get away from the office, someone’s on hand to water your plot. Alternatively, the excellent organization Lend and Tend can put you in touch with people who have space to share.
If a more anarchic approach appeals, maybe ‘guerilla gardening’ is for you. Richard Reynolds, the man behind this trend, has been instrumental in revitalising unloved pockets of land through community growing. If you have minimal time to invest, joining Richard’s ‘war against neglect’ could be the solution!
If you’re lucky enough to have outside space at home, vegetable beds could be the answer. Raised veg beds are easy to construct from timber, bricks or railway sleepers, making an attractive addition to any plot. If you build these a stone’s throw from your home, finding those precious moments to garden could become a lot easier.
You can also consider growing flowers amongst your vegetables. Companion planting can deter pests and provide extra colour and structure to your borders. Your crops will benefit from the pollinators darting among your flowers, and you can water everything in one go. Ideal flowers for companion planting include marigolds and nasturtiums.
If garden space is limited, try growing vegetables in pots. Before I had an allotment, I grew much of my produce this way. Courgettes and peas in pots thrived alongside potatoes in sacks. Watering and maintenance takes little effort and they look great wherever you place them.
Vertical growing is a great way to cultivate fruit and veg if you have no access to outside space. From hanging baskets to pocket planters on your wall, it’s still possible to grow your own. Strawberries and cherry tomatoes are perfect for hanging baskets – they are less prone to pest attacks as they are elevated. Mixing moisture-retaining gel with your compost also reduces watering time.
Even a sunny kitchen windowsill can become your very own Garden of Eden using herbs, watercress, lettuce and more. Don’t be tempted to buy herbs in pots from the supermarket as they are poor quality and over-planted. Instead, try ‘cut and grow again’ varieties of seeds that will last throughout the season. If you encourage your children to maintain them, you will also set an example for young gardeners to follow.
No matter how small the space or how little time you possess, if you have the passion, you can always grow something green.
Visit Ade’s blog at agentsoffield.com
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