Getting something for nothing in the garden
Sick and tired of trying to grow three tomatoes, two potatoes and creating a makeshift jungle on your square footage of balcony?
I think we have all lost our mojo at the moment and feelings of disillusion start to grow, but we’re not quitting this gardening game. Persistence beats resistance!
In the vegetable plot - start from scraps
No seeds? No problem. Don’t be a seed snob. It’s possible to grow your own food from leftovers. Start with the obvious candidates, like sprouting garlic cloves and potatoes from the vegetable rack that are covered in ‘eyes’ and well past their best.
Take your garlic cloves and plant in soil at a depth of approximately 10cm with the pointy end facing upwards. Cover over and water well.
Potatoes, on the other hand, can be placed in a large container with drainage holes, ideally holding no more than three or four plants at a time, depending on the size of your pot.
Cover with soil and continue to top up fresh growth with more compost until you reach the rim of your container. Water regularly and within a few months you’ll be harvesting potatoes and garlic anew.
From here, progress to celery bases and carrot tops.
All you need is a small vessel filled with water and a few cocktail sticks for balancing awkward shapes on. Allow your scraps to be half submerged in the water, then watch them grow.
Once you have new growth on leafy scraps, such as carrots and celery, transplant them to a soil filled container. Cover the roots and base but allow the new growth to stay exposed and get ready to harvest fresh veg once more.
In my experience bio produce is the best medium to grow from, but necessity is the mother of invention. Use what you have, you literally have nothing to lose.
Admittedly, not all plants are going to give you a quick turnover of fresh food. But, even slow growing ones, like citrus and avocado, will make beautiful house plants while you are waiting for them to mature.
So, give it a grow! Don’t consign your garbage to the garden compost just yet.
In the garden - free for all
I’ve yet to meet someone who dislikes getting something for nothing. Taking cuttings from existing healthy plants in your garden to grow yourself some brand spanking new ones is a win, win scenario.
Spring offers the perfect opportunity to try this technique. This time of year provides the optimum conditions for softwood cuttings to root and survive.
Some of the best plants to propagate from are our most popular ones; such as buddlejas, hydrangeas, deciduous magnolia, fuchsias and pelargoniums. But the easiest to start with are herbs. Lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme are all good candidates for this exercise.
If you want to try this method there are a few things to bear in mind:
● Select new growth. Think soft, flexible shoots, not woody old stems.
● Take cuttings early in the day.
● Choose stems approximately 10cms in size and cut with a sharp knife or secateurs.
● Cut above an existing bud on the parent plant.
● Remove the lower leaves and buds from your cutting. This gives you a clear stem to insert in soil.
Prepare pots with drainage holes for your cuttings and fill with a little damp rooting compost of your choice.
Use a blunt stick, known as a ‘dibber’, to make a hole in the soil and insert your cutting into - an old pencil makes the perfect dibber tool for small cuttings.
If you have taken cuttings from herbs, then several can be placed around the edges of the same pot. Once firmly in place, water lightly and put your container in a warm, semi-shady spot.
You can put a plastic bag around the pots to increase the humidity for softwood cuttings, but I don't think it is always necessary.
Rooting times will vary. Look out for new growth and leaves on your potted cutting, it’s a good indication that roots have already formed.
Once regular growth is underway, transplant to your garden or container and then repeat the process all over again.
Try it. What have you got to lose?