AFTER Dave Middleton’s amusing article on Growing Concrete, I think there is probably space for a more serious Gardeners Corner, so I will attempt to share my experiences in the garden and some tips and hints for growing wherever you live and whatever space you have.
It is a fact that “Just gardening for several hours provides instantaneous reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, while gardening daily is associated with reduced stress and increased life satisfaction.”
I live in West Wales where the climate is mainly damp and cold with some glorious summers, so my timing of planting may not suit all.
So far this year I have planted garlic and potatoes. I am holding off on broad beans as they can be subject to rot and damping off.
Garlic is a fairly easy crop; it can be grown directly in the ground, in pots or builders’ buckets and requires little attention apart from weeding till it is ready in late August/September. You can buy cloves for planting from a seed catalogue, garden centre, or you could experiment with some from the grocery store, particularly if they have started to sprout already.
Due to the prevalence of blight with our local climate, I grow potatoes in buckets so here is the method I use.
This could also be used as a fun project for children and a way of connecting them to their food supply.
First the bucket: I use builders’ buckets, £1.39 each from various outlets, with holes drilled around the base.
The potatoes need to be chitted or sprouted. This can be done deliberately by placing them on a tray or in egg boxes in a warm dark space, or you may find some shop-bought ones lurking in the back of your food cupboard, especially at this time of year, which have decided they want to grow. Larger potatoes can be cut in half to provide two ‘seeds’.
I now place a couple of inches (50mm) of soil or compost in the bottom of the bucket and place a couple of potatoes in each bucket as shown below, shoots pointing upwards.
Now you need to fill the buckets to the top. You can use whatever you can get hold of, shredded paper, grass cuttings, topsoil, or compost. Keep them watered, damp but not sloppy. After two to three weeks you should start to see the green shoots of the potatoes peek through.
At this stage you can top up the bucket with soil or compost.
If you have used topsoil or grass cuttings you may have to keep the buckets weeded.
The potatoes should continue to grow. If at this stage at any time there is a frost forecast overnight, you should cover them with fleece or you could use bubble wrap to cover them or bring the buckets indoors.
After twelve to sixteen weeks you should have healthy plants and, once they have flowered or started to die back, your potatoes are ready. You can have a feel around in the bucket or you can just tip it out onto the ground or onto a tarpaulin or some cardboard and then rummage around to pick your potatoes. The compost and haulms (the stalks and leaves) and discarded seed potatoes, which will be mushy and horrible, can be reused to fill the bucket for your next crop, although the addition of some fresh compost is advisable.
This method gives us, a family of two, enough potatoes for at least two meals per bucket.