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Spreading the seed of growing your own love

In this, the third installment of a new series of sustainability blogs inspired by content from her Climate Change Garden book, Kim Stoddart explains how to reach out to others in a positive way during these challenging times…

As the opportunity to grow some of our own food becomes a more attractive and sensible prospect than ever before, any excess we can produce could also be given to elderly or in need neighbours around us. The idea of bartering, swapsies and shares has always been a firm element of allotment-style growing and in the face of our current challenges, it enables us do something positive and heartfelt. Whether it’s a few surplus plants left outside a friend’s door for them to grow on, or some produce picked and boxed for another person to enjoy, here are some ideas to help you further widen your green-fingered reach over the months ahead.

Grow easy, fast cropping plants

Pick and come again leaves like lettuce, rocket and micro herbs will grow easily and readily on a sunny windowsill and are very straightforward to germinate from seed. Why not consider growing extra plants for leaves or pot up seedlings for others to grow on that don’t have a garden and can’t get out. You could use old plastic produce containers to plant them in for indoor growing opportunities further afield. Radish will also grow quickly so could be another useful plant to add in.

Create surplus produce

Come summer many gardeners around the country have had enough of trying to find inventive ways of cooking with their bountiful supply of courgettes and are trying to palm them off on others. This year they are therefore one of the best crops to grow for food to pass on. Runner beans are also very reliable and bountiful producers, and tomatoes can be as well if grown in a sunny, protected spot. This year I’d recommended planting up as much as you can for a greater degree of self-sufficiency. As well as enabling you to give some produce away, it also opens up a whole world of pickling, fermenting and preserve-making opportunities which are set to become a popular pastime and we all bunker down over the months ahead.

Snip snip away

The taking of cuttings works well in the more resilient garden, as by growing on and expanding what you already have when it is working well, you can strengthen the best of what your garden already has to give. It’s also a fantastic way of sourcing plants that you have yourself created which can be passed onto others to enjoy and harvest.

Right now, if you’re quick there’s still time to take hard wood cuttings from soft fruit bushes like black or red currant and gooseberry, which are the easiest with which to work. Just snip away a roughly hand length size cutting from a healthy-looking stem and place it in a pot, or bare patch of weed free ground so it can grow roots in spring. No rooting compound required.

More plants for free

Some plants are quite capable of self-seeding readily on the veg patch, affording you with lots of lovely seedlings for little to no effort at all. Most of the so-called weeds in my polytunnels are actually edibles created in this way. By allowing plants to complete their natural cycle you can also bag lots of no cost seedlings to pass around which are often perfect for windowsill pickings. Here are the most reliable contenders for growing on and seeding.

Parsley

This delicious herb can be a bit fiddly to germinate from seed, yet it will do the job itself readily and often with great success. As a biennial, this means leaving the plant into its second year.

Calendula

This pretty flower has many uses around the veg patch, and its petals are edible and make an attractive addition to salads and dishes to impress. It is an enthusiastic reproducer, and in return for leaving it to produce its fascinatingly alien-like seed, it will spread far and wide across your garden. When you consider that the blooms also make very attractive cut flowers to boot, you will see that calendula is a good ally all-round.  

Nasturtium  

With many of the same properties and benefits as calendula, for me this edible plant (flowers and tangy, peppery leaves) make it a climate change veg patch must have. It’s more attractive in the edible stakes than calendula, but otherwise works in many of the same beneficial ways, growing in and around plants to help prevent soil drying out and also acting as a beneficial sacrificial plant against cabbage white caterpillar attack, around and in-between brassica plants.

For some reason, the caterpillars tend to go for the nasturtium first, making it easier to pick off the frantically munching foes before they get to your cabbages.  

Rocket  

This is lovely peppery leaf will self-seed with abandon given half the chance.

Coriander  

With this zest herb’s natural bolting tendencies, especially during the summer, by allowing it to do what it really wants you will get lots of hands-off seedlings the following spring by reward.  

The Climate Change Garden Book

Co-written with Soil Association magazine editor, Sally Morgan, the book aims to empower you with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to become a climate change savvy gardener.

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