“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin
For those privileged enough to have a garden or outdoor space a new appreciation has emerged; time available to be spent carefully weeding and turning soil. However, for those who have little to no outdoor space, the stress release of nature is entirely absent at a time when it is most needed.
With lockdown restrictions in place, many people are struggling with the decrease of green space in their daily lives. Perhaps now is a perfect time to bring gardening closer to home for all as a way of increasing our mental wellbeing.
Perhaps the imagery of rolling green lawns and raised beds can make the idea of indoor gardening unachievable, but the reality is that plants have almost the same requirements no matter the location; sunlight, water, nutrients and protection.
With a well-positioned windowsill or counter, or perhaps a porch (as we have done) or doorstep, many smaller varieties of vegetables, salad leaves and herbs may be grown all year round. Perhaps don’t expect an exotic crop of peppers the size of apples, but an interesting and useful varieties are possible. If you are an avid cook, a windowsill herb garden means an abundance of fresh herbs for adding to your dishes. They are also incredibly easy to grow and maintain if the rough guidelines below are followed:
• Choose a suitable place. The window sill you choose must get enough sun per day (approx. 5+ hrs), and be wide enough to hold your wonderful greenery. Bay windows are particularly good, as it is possible to get light from the south, east and west, and white or bright coloured rooms will help by reflecting the light.
• Less is more. Plants hate to be crowded, and often end up more fragile if they are planted too close together. Make sure to find out how much space your selected plants will need before you buy so that you can use suitable planters. Keep in mind that a deeper window box will allow for a wider variety of plants to be grown.
• There are many pot and planter options available to buy, but don’t forget many containers already around the home can often do the trick. Try recycling any wooden boxes or coffee tins into quirky and creative containers. Even used milk containers can be cut in half and used, the top half (with the top serving as a cloche if necessary for more fragile plants)
• The type of compost used will also have a big impact. Buy compost that is specifically designed for containers as it should include features that help retain water or supply added nutrients. These will often come under the terms; loam based, added plant food or water retaining granules.
• Before filling pots with your compost, ensure to create a layer from stones, split polystyrene or old broken pots and crockery so that excess water can drain away. Add the compost and water lightly to prepare it for planting.
• Keep in mind that containers will dry out much faster than a garden bed would. Ensure they are watered often but not overwatered. A good test is to push a finger into the compost, ideally it should be slightly damp below the surface.
• Plants growing in pots will also quickly use up nutrients from the compost, therefore it is important that they are supplemented with liquid feeder at least once a fortnight.
Best Vegetable Options:
Carrots (preferably smaller varieties)
Best Herb Options:
There is something incredibly satisfying watching the little seedlings emerge from the brown earth, and sometimes the speed of growth can be quite incredible. Plants that grow tall quickly, like tomatoes, will need something to support them (a few sticks can do the job), and if you find unknown pests are chomping your greens, a solution of water, neem oil and a drop of washing-up liquid sprayed onto the plant leaves is both effective and harmless/non-toxic.
If you are having to ‘home school’ what better way to teach children about the biology of plants: how they emerge from the seed, what they need to survive, how the plants physically move towards the light (phototropism). You could even place one seeding in a dark cupboard or deprive of water to demonstrate what happens in the absence of these necessary elements. Give one plant food, the other not, and let kids see the difference as they grow. Children could even have one seedling they were kind to, the other they shouted at and treated badly, and they can see which one will flourish. A great lesson on personal behaviour and bullying. The bigger picture, on how the plants clean our air, is a lesson about the environment and why we need our green spaces and forest.
Windowsill gardening is accessible to all, is practical, mindful and a great way to cope with mental anxiety during these trying times. It might also add a bit of extra zing to your everyday cooking.
We would love to see your pictures on our Facebook page, so do message us your success pictures, as well as the failures, and show us what spaces you have used to grow.