Grow at home
With lockdown rumbling on, many of us are spending more time at home than usual. Whether you’re green fingered or not, spending a little bit of time tending to your garden will not only create a haven for you to relax in, but can also do wonders for your own wellbeing. The physical exercise can help contribute to a healthy weight by burning calories, and being at one with nature can really help improve your mood.
Of course, not everyone has a garden, but you’ll be surprised what you can do with a small space or balcony and a few pots, some half-decent soil mixed with compost and some seeds. Seeds are great as they’re in expensive, there is a great choice and you can buy them from most hardware stores and even supermarkets while garden centres are off limits. You’ll still reap all of the benefits of watching your efforts bloom, and can enjoy the satisfaction of harvesting and eating your own crop.
It’s really easy to grow your own salad leaves as they are cut-and-come-again crops – as you cut leaves to enjoy for your lunch, more will re-grow. The most common crop is lettuce, but there are a other salad leaves such as chicory, spinach and rocket which are easy to grow.
Salad leaves grow best in sunny areas, where the soil is well-drained, but they’re also well suited to growing in containers, growbags or even in large bowls that have suitable drainage holes. Simply sow the lettuce seeds half an inch deep, and after germination in around 6-10 days thin out the seedlings to 8-inches between plants, keeping them moist. You’ll soon see them start to grow, and it won’t be long before you can harvest your first crop! You will usually be able to cut the salad leaves three or four times, so the secret to having salad leaves all summer is to sow several times, about two weeks apart. So once you finish with one crop, you can start the next.
Mint is a perennial herb, and has some wonderful health benefits. Infused in hot water it makes a refreshing tea, it can be chopped and added to dishes, used to make mint sauce (for the Sunday roast), and is the key ingredient in the class Cuban Mojito!
Mint is a fast-growing plant, so it’s a good idea to plant it in a large pot filled with multi-purpose compost that can be placed in a prominent place to make picking easy. Most types of mint require the same, or similar, growing conditions – they like full sun to partial shade and most prefer moist but well-draining soil.
This fragrant herb prefers well-drained fertile soil in full to partial sunlight. Both its leaves and roots can be used in cooking, and gives a wonderful aromatic flavour in Thai dishes, for example, while its seeds are often used dried or ground down in curries and pickles.
This herb grows will in rich, light well-drained/dry soils in sun. It’s a common herb used in Italian cuisine, and its leaves can be used fresh or dried. To encourage the plant to thrive, simply pinch out the growing tips – this will also delay flowering. Regular sowing will be needed for a summer-long supply.
Thyme’s best friend, Rosemary thrives in well-drained, ideally neutral to alkaline soil in full sun. It’s leaves can be eaten fresh or dried, and go well with meat (especially lamb). Fresh sprigs can also be added to vinegar or oil to infuse flavour, and when used fresh, also compliment the classic gin and tonic!
This herb performs best in well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil in sun. You can maintain the plant by trimming it lightly after flowering – this will keep the plant bushy and full. Its leaves can be used fresh or dried, and go well in savoury dishes.
Jobs you can do in the garden in May:
- This is your last chance to plant evergreen shrubs and herbaceous perennials before the warmer weather comes (fingers crossed!)
- Cut back evergreen shrubs that are straggly to encourage new growth, but be sure to look out for nesting birds first!
- Nip off flower heads on daffodils so the plants will not exhaust themselves with producing seed, but do not cut the leaves off until they turn yellow/brown as this will remove a food source from the bulb.
- This is the time to sow grass seed for new lawns or the renovation of bare patches, and be sure to water seeds if dry. You can also top dress established lawns with lawn sand or selective weed killer, and roll and mow grass keeping blades set high on the mower.
- Finally, now is a great time to clean fish ponds and plant aquatics e.g. water lillies.