Home Grown – salads and veg for quick return during Covid-19

The following notes accompany the BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour between 1 and 2pm on Sundays, on your smart speaker, DAB, 104.9FM and BBC Sounds. I’m writing this in advance so you can follow what seeds I might be talking about.

It’s been difficult over the past week getting hold of any fresh fruit and veg. Quite dismaying to see empty supermarket shelves. I didn’t stockpile, so we are literally running out of everything.

After a bit of a panic, I’ve settled down to this plan of action. Here’s what I’m growing.

Microgreens and Sprouting Seeds

All you need is a kitchen windowsill to grow sprouting seeds. This tiered growing kit comes from Johnsons Seeds, but you could just use a plate with moist kitchen paper, or a shallow tray with compost for the microgreens. Cheap and easy to grow, adds nutrients to soups stews and sandwiches. Perhaps you’ve done this before with children, growing cress and mustard. It’s the same principle.

I’m growing:

Radish Mino Early

Microgreens Gourmet Garnish

Basil

Beetroot for leaves

Mung beans for stir fries.

Microgreens are grown until they are a couple of inches tall, and then trimmed using scissors. You can repeat this process a few times.

Bean sprouts and seeds are grown for 3-5 days and harvested when approx 2.5cm long

Mixed cut and come again salad

I like the idea of these pre-sown mats. All you have to do is pop the mats on top of a pot of compost snd water them. Fuss-free growing. Pick leaves from the outside when they are 5cm (2″) high, leaving the centre of the plants to carry on growing. Anyone can use these. They are great for children too.

PEASHOOTS

I’m growing peas in shallow trays. They will be harvested when the shoots are 4″. The plants will regrow snd you can repeat the process several times. After this, I plant the peas in a 10″ pot in the greenhouse and they grow on to produce a good crop of pea pods. Any edible pea variety can be used. Friends have even used dried peas from the supermarket.

Herbs in Pots

I’ll sow herbs in individual cells, a few seeds per cell. The cells will be moved on to 5″ pots and eventually they will stand on a sunny patio. Meanwhile, I will just keep pinching out the tips to use to liven up pasta and rice dishes, and this will also make the plants bushy.

Spring Onions

Spring onions will be sown in 10″ pots and kept in the cold polytunnel. They are ideal for growing in containers. They are quick growing and can be sown successionally from March to September. One item I do have is a huge bag of potatoes, luckily. Some mashed potato topped with grated cheese and chopped spring onions turns a simple dish into a tasty treat.

SPINACH

Baby leaf spinach is a favourite here, full of vitamins and goodness. I’ll grow these in recycled polystyrene boxes from a delicatessen, garden centre cafe. You could also use window boxes, or 10″ pots.

DILL

Nano is a new dwarf variety perfect for containers. A few clippings of dill turns any dish into a feast. I make a sauce with mayonnaise, butter and dill to add to fish. Totally delicious and full of vitamins. I’ll sow this 3 or 4 seeds to a cell and then the plants will be moved into window boxes.

CARROTS

Round carrots, such as Paris Market or Rondo are perfect for containers and are relatively fast growing. You can also clip some of the leaves to use in salads without it depleting the roots.

TOMATOES – more long term, but starting now …

I’ve a selection of dwarf cherry tomatoes for eventually growing in pots on the patio. These won’t need tall canes for support and won’t need pinching out. They naturally branch into small bushy plants. Started now in a warm window or a propagator at 18C, I’ll be eating tomatoes in June. Hopefully.

CUCUMBERS

I like baby cucumbers for summer salads. I’m growing Beth and La Diva. I’m also trying a new variety, Swing this year. Half fill a 3″ pot with compost and place the seed on edge. Water with tepid tap water. Keep warm at 18-21C. As soon as the seeds grow out of the top of the pot, add more compost around the stem. Harden off carefully, putting the delicate plants in the propagator over night and out in the greenhouse in the day to prevent damping off disease. Keep warm until June. I’m planning to grow some outdoor and some in the poly tunnel.

SOMETHING FOR CHILDREN

With children off school, cress seeds will be a winner. And also start off sunflowers, not to eat, but to brighten the garden and maybe for a competition to see who can grow the tallest.

My propagator glowing in the dark

It’s been a challenging time where stress levels have been through the roof here. But I feel calmer with a plan of action. Just sowing a few seeds has given me some respite from worries. It’s been a welcome distraction from covid troubles.

Let me know how you are getting on. Have you found it difficult to buy supplies. What are you growing their spring?

Links : seeds from Mr Fothergills https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/

Johnson’s Seeds: https://www.johnsons-seeds.com/Home_4/Oriental-Seed_3/Sprouting-Seeds-Sunflower.html#.XnaUjoGnyfA

Little Gardeners https://www.johnsons-seeds.com/Home_4/Oriental-Seed_3/Sprouting-Seeds-Sunflower.html#.XnaUjoGnyfA

Plants of distinction : http://www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk/

31 thoughts on “Home Grown – salads and veg for quick return during Covid-19

  1. Karen was doing an online course on microgreens and sprouts: they have the same properties, vitamins and minerals as in their “big version”. I am very glad that you decided to grow them in the absence of anything in the supermarkets. I am very concerned about the stress you have reached, it is very bad for health. But you have managed to get out of it and find a remedy for the problem as always with microgreens and sprouts: you have a good collection. I love the pre-seeded rugs on the mixed salads. Peas look good. Aromatic herbs: delicious for cooking and for the garden. Chives liven up any dish. Spinach are my favorites. Dill Nano: what a delicious sauce you make for fish. I love carrots. I am sure that in June you will eat a lot of delicious tomatoes. Cucumbers are great in salad at any time of the year. Children who treat: watercress, cherry tomato and sunflower seeds. Your propagator is wonderful, I love it. Now you have to plant vegetable seeds to collect in the summer, which you will have already planned, since the Covid-19 is going to be long. And also what is grown in your garden is much richer. After trying all the supermarkets with online purchases whose websites announced at least a delay in the delivery of the purchase of 10 days or more, I went out into the street yesterday without a mask (crazy) because we are reaching the peak of Covid infections- 19 and I went to several supermarkets and I did not find what we needed. When I got home, another supermarket occurred to me and I went to their empty website. Through the Wahts App I informed myself and those over 65 if they served home orders. I have sent the order through the Wahts App and it is paid in cash when they bring it home. What I do not know is that the order will be missing. I will send a Wahts App tomorrow asking about him. Weirdest way to shop I haven’t seen, but if we get the food, welcome. Lots of encouragement, positive thinking, gardening, lots of health, lots of strength and lots of love for your whole family, for Mr B and for yourself. Loving caresses to Grace and Meg. Take good care of all of you and especially your Karen. I wish you all the best in the world. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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    • Thank you Margarita. We have managed to find a milkman to deliver to the house. I was so jubilant. It seems such a Trumph! We have never managed to find anyone willing to drive so far into the countryside with milk. However, now we will have some. Goodness knows how much it will cost, but I don’t care. We will have milk. I have managed to find a farm shop that sends out a box of mixed fruit and veg for £25. Goodness knows what will be coming, but I’m getting less fussy by the day! I’ll eat whatever they send. And we now have 2 loaves of bread. Oh the delight of toast smothered with butter. We were without any for a week. Usually I make my own, but panic buyers had completely stripped the shops of flour. It’s been a nightmare. However, if we have milk we can make a cup of tea and all will be well. Most people seem to have managed to find what they need, but I’ve found it difficult. Shelves have been empty. Now we sit here for three weeks and pray it makes a difference. I have a feeling this will last longer than 3 weeks, and this is just the start. Much love – karen xxx

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      • What a joy you give me! A milkman who brings you milk home, a box with farm vegetables and two loaves of bread. You already have milk and vegetables guaranteed: that is essential. The Covid-19 is going to last more than three weeks, get ready for at least two months and I don’t want to be fatalistic but yesterday I saw the news and in the UK you are going up a lot in cases of contagion: this is how we started in mid-February and we are going to State of Alarm was extended yesterday until April 11, confined at home. And that for now. And we have already been locked up in the house for two weeks, what was going to be the Alarm State. Don’t sink: look to the future with hope because this will end one day or another. You have a wonderful garden where you can garden and take walks and make a big vegetable garden. Bask in the sun and sit and read and enjoy the birds singing because Spring is already here. Make bouquets of flowers and put them around your house to cheer her up. You have milk: you can make yogurt with pieces of fruit. Don’t stress and see everything you can do and enjoy. You always have me by your side my good friend Karen. Much love to all. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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      • Thank you Margarita. We are all just trying to do what we can and help one another from afar. Oh I wish I could just go out and visit my mother and brothers. But for now, I will ring them lots of times during the day and that will have to suffice. Affectionate greetings in return. Love from karen xxx

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      • Thanks to you Karen. I also want to see my brothers. What we do is call us on the Wahts App video all together at once (up to four multiple calls fit) and we all look as if we are together and talk. Apart from that we call each other on the phone many times: it is the best thing to be united and tell each other our things. No wonder you miss your dear Mother, but the best thing for her is to be isolated. Give love and best regards from me. Much love Karen to everyone. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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      • Karen we are lucky as we have had a milkman deliver milk to us for the last ten years, My daughter who lives in South Derbyshire delivered two large boxes of groceries, left them outside our front door and the telephoned us to say they were there. On opening the front door she stood at the bottom of the driveway saying as she worked as a pharmacist at Nuneaton hospital she could not come near us and she had also wiped all of the containers with a sterilant. Then the next day my son who lives only 5 miles away had his wife deliver us another lot of groceries and vegetables. Now we are set up for at least two weeks without having to leave our premises. Oh to have such wonderful children.

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  2. That is certainly more interesting that what I have going. There is plenty of produce in our store in town, but I have so much here that I have not needed to go shopping. The problem is that it is so boring to be limited to just a few types of vegetables that are not very interesting anyway. Nettles and miner’s lettuce grow wild to the south. Turnip, radish and mustard greens grow wild in the abandoned baseball field to the north. If I had time, I would be canning some of it before summer. If I am off work long enough, I might have plenty of time. (Maybe I should grow something more interesting instead.)

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  3. This reminds me of my days at school during the early 1930’s when we used to grow many edible plants in pots, or even on sheets of flanel. Then it was not just mustard and cress, but many other vegetables, many did not succeed, but those that did gave us great enjoyment.

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  4. This is a really interesting, useful and helpful post, Karen – good for morale too, like a public service message which, with you speaking on the radio, it will be! As far as ‘veg’ goes, I usually only grow tomatoes but have now ordered some seeds for microgreens which I haven’t grown since I tinkered with sprouting seeds years ago! Thank you and take care

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  5. So far my little supermarket has kept fairly well stocked and a lot of the fresh veg sold there is local, so hopefully it will keep us going. But the idea of sprouts is great. I have a special sprouting glass which I must seek out. And I must also check on my herb seeds. Dill is a must, as is basil. But I never sow my basil before the end of May as it only ends in tears… 🤪 Our last frosts are usually mid-May. Yes, good to have plans and keep busy. Nevertheless, I hope you manage to get supplies soon. Take care Karen, and thanks for the ideas. xx

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  6. A wonderfully calming, ‘let’s make a plan of action’ post that is very much needed. I’ve started sowing here too but you’ve given me lots of further inspiration to try other things too.Thanks Karen 🌱

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    • Thank you Gary. I spent the week before last just in a wild panic for all the elderly in our family- and my young daughters who are in front line nursing. we were getting updates before things were being said by the government, so I knew how bad things were. This week I’ve marshalled my thoughts into a plan of action. This virus will test us all and we will find out what we can cope with. I’m hoping I can keep my can-do attitude, with everyone’s help. We will have to support one another, as we always have. Thanks for reading and for your kind words which are always appreciated.

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  7. Grand idea karen,
    I’m trying to use those multi-compartmented food trays that we get at Asian friends feasts. I’ve pierced drainage holes in the bottom, lined them with cut-tosize wet paper towels and sown microgreens direct. We’ll see how well this works soon.

    Potatoes in buckets. Trying to plant the last of my Red Emmallie (red all through) that are happily sprouting in store. Second hand compost and some well rotted horse muck from last year. Might be too rich perhaps. Buckets undercover until leaves emerge. Hopefully in later April. We’ll see.if the frost catches us.

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  8. When I sowed tomato seed last week I got over enthusiastic and sowed the runner beans too (too early). Yesterday started squashkin and patti-pans, early purple sprouting broccoli (for cropping next January!) and rudbeckia. If I rummage I think I’ll find a packet of left-over peas from two years ago and will try sprouting them as you suggest. It’s all a bit of leap of faith. Not yet entirely certain I’ll be able to prepare the ground properly on my neglected allotment and it’s not clear how much walking around we will be allowed to do during the time of the virus – will I even be able to get there? – so it’s all . . . not exactly a leap of faith cos everything is pretty static at present, but something along those lines.

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    • Exactly. I’ve just thought, what about if I get ill, whose going to look after all these seedlings. I’m afraid we just have to hope for the best and keep going. There’s no other option. If it all works out ok, we will have the most fabulous harvest in the summer and boy will we deserve something nice to eat after all this chaos. We can’t get anything locally. No bread, milk or fresh veg, salad. No on line shopping to be had. I started sowing to take my mind off the worry of it all. Felt tons better after a few hours in the greenhouse. I think much of my veg will be in containers on the patio right next to the kitchen door.

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    • Thank you Philippa. I’ve gone from crying my eyes out for all the suffering I’m seeing to my current ‘can-do’ Dunkirk spirit. It seems this illness will really show us what we are made of. Hopefully I’m stronger than I think I am. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. Xx

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    • Thank you for your kind comments. If you have a little patio or front door step, you could grow potatoes I’m compost bags. There’s a how to on the blog under growing new potatoes for Christmas. Have a go at the windowsill herbs. Just picking a few basil leaves makes you feel better because the scent is amazing. Thanks again for reading. xx

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