I love the hustle and bustle of the city, I love walking to work in a morning and seeing all the professionals darting to their offices and most of all – I love all of its hidden gems, cultural events and pop-up shops. I would challenge anyone who says they know London inside out because it seems there’s always something more to discover. With all of its marvellous selling points, there is just one hindrance, it is very rare to find decent garden space in central London. The solution? Urban gardening!
Last year I tried my hand at growing potatoes in bags and, after nurturing them all spring, I prized the tangled roots out of the bags only to find not one of the potatoes exceeded the size of my finger nail. I think I discovered the ‘diet potato’ – the only variety where it’s perfectly acceptable to cook 20 of them for supper. Despite their size, they were delicious and it’s true – you really can taste the difference when they’re home grown.
When I moved to London earlier this year, I was determined to have another go at growing something. I’d missed the boat for growing potatoes. (My green-fingered mum tells me potatoes have to be sown at Easter time) Instead, I decided to grow lettuce. I was getting fed-up of buying packet salad from the supermarket only for it to go off. Having my own living lettuces means that I can pick a few leaves whenever I fancy. I’ll admit, I cheated a little bit, not growing my lettuces from seed. My mum had a few seedlings spare (the teeny leaves on the left in the photo) so after a visit, she packaged them up very carefully for me. We arrived in London unscathed and I gave them a drink on the window sill until I had time to find them a real home!
When you don’t have a vegetable patch – let alone a plant bed – the cheapest and easiest way to create a make shift veg patch is to buy a compost bag (I got mine in Tesco). By cutting a square window in the centre, it fast becomes an ideal container. As with all living plants, a bit of TLC is required in the form of watering and keeping the slugs off but lettuces are very easy to look after. And what’s great is that they grow so quickly so you don’t have to wait too long before you can enjoy their crisp, fresh leaves. A top tip from the RHS – when the lettuce leaves are ready, cut them off the plant with scissors or a knife, don’t pull them or the whole plant might fly out.
I recently found this fantastic website dedicated to promoting genius urban gardening ideas. www.verticalveg.org.uk has well and truly mastered ‘the art of growing in small spaces‘ and reports on the savvy solutions of fellow urban gardeners. Next on my list is tomatoes – in a window box!