We had just recruited this year’s keen Learner Plotters this year when Covid 19 hit and social distancing came into force. So, the groups, individuals, families, flatmates + friends who are taking part are designing their growing spaces at home + their plots for the garden, hoping for a later season start. You can join in too, we’ll be updating as we go along and sharing resources + tips.
We had our induction day remotely on Zoom with handouts and videos. 25 households in Streatham and wider Lambeth were delivered seeds, compost + seed trays at the beginning of April. They have designed their growing spaces where they live, from windowsills, balconies to more outside space, and also their plots for the community garden. We have had Zoom Gardeners Question Time every Wednesday and are learning together. Many are first time growers and we think they are doing brilliantly. Seeds have been sown, using seedtrays and recycling, on windowsills and any outside space to get more access to the sunshine we’ve been having. Seedlings have had more attention at home than ever before, with some Plotters saying it is the highlight of the day to see how much they’ve grown each morning.
How to get started…
?Growing spaces at home range from windowsills, balconies, patios to small gardens. The plots in the community garden are generally 1m x 4m. First task, observe your space and make a simple drawing with dimensions of growing space, whether containers or pots or trays, or a small raised bed. Also include direction the space is facing, any trees or tall buildings throwing shade on your space, whether it’s windy or sheltered.
?Secondly, think about some different themes or techniques to divide up your space. Square foot gardening is great for a small raised bed, create a grid initially with string and sticks, use different squares to grow a variety of crops. It’s a good way to learn about spacing and not grow a glut of one crop. Other themes may be a salad garden including edible flowers, with one or two fruiting crops in container gardens. Or a windowsill garden may be herbs and microgreens.
?Thirdly, come up with your planting plan. What you like eating is the best place to start! Consider the aspect of your space, full sun + sheltered gives most options, perfect for fruiting crops. Partial shade still allows leafy crops to grow. Then consider and learn about the timings of different crops from sowing to harvesting. In container gardens ‘cut and come again’ crops make sense, leafy green crops such as salads, chard, spinach, kale give multiple harvests, don’t take up much space, taste best fresh +are expensive per kg to buy. Utilise space round slower growing fruiting crops by sowing ‘catch crops’ such as radishes, rocket, peashoots which will be ready to eat in a few weeks. Try to plan your succession crops – what will replace your first crops in September/Autumn. Find out when to sow them and do that in trays so you’re ready to transplant when the time comes.
Here are some of our favourite veg growing resources out there…
Check out no-dig champion Charles Dowding – www.charlesdowding.co.uk especially useful for sowing timelines and his Youtube channel has videos on every crop.
www.verticalveg.org.uk is great for container growing tips, from irrigation to best crops to grow in containers.
Garden Organic has lots of growing tips, great all round advice on organic growing www.gardenorganic.org.uk
Watch out for seed sowing tips coming later this week.
Thanks to the Lambeth Wellbeing Fund through London Community Foundation for funding our Learner Plot project this year.