Lighten the lockdown load with a spring vegetable garden

With England’s third lockdown coming to a close and the country beginning to traverse the Government’s plan for a return to normal life, one thing is becoming increasingly apparent at a time when being stuck indoors has taken its toll on the nation both physically and mentally. That is the idea gardening can provide relief and distraction under these constricting conditions.

Spring is well on its way and with the season of rebirth and renewal comes hope for a summer spent with family and friends once again. The change of season is synonymous with vast arrays of blooming bulbs, blushing borders and the re-emergence of a saturation of greenery from the parks of London to the Dales of Yorkshire. But no matter the location or situation, spring can be ushered in at home with the simple and pleasing undertaking of growing vegetables for the table.

How to make a garden with limited space:

Vegetable garden. Pic: Hans Linde

Small balconies and fire escapes provide ample out door space for plant pots and troughs, but anywhere with sun and shelter will provide perfect conditions for plants to thrive. If outdoors space is unavailable then a windowsill can be better utilised by using old books or shelving to create a tiered structure to hold planters and double the number of plants housed. Likewise, the smallest of spaces in kitchens or living areas can provide space for growing herbs, as these are often grown in smaller pots or containers. 

Terracotta plant pots are both light weight and affordable, however in an indoor or city setting a saucer or tray placed underneath will both hold water for longer periods, keeping soil moist, and avoid water stains beneath pots with drainage holes. For avid recyclers, any container lying around the house can be adapted to hold plants with the simple addition of drainage holes cut into the bottom. In the event of a container that is not watertight, the application of a lining can be fashioned through stapling or gluing a plastic bag to the inside, to be hidden once topped up with soil. 

What to plant now:

Asparagus. Pic: Pixaby

Planting in spring is highly rewarding for the pleasure of harvesting and eating produce in the summer due to the fast growing nature of summer vegetables. Root vegetables such as Beetroot and Carrots come in many heritage varieties and provide beautiful colours with particularly deep flavours on summer plates. These will require deeper potting but also prove much more cost effective than buying heritage varieties from green grocers and farm shops. Above soil level, tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes may prove more satisfying as you see the vegetables develop and mature, with home grown tomatoes in particular tasting unparalleled to shop bought alternatives.

What to enjoy now:

Fresh rhubarb. Pic: Mike Goad

For those who advocate seasonal eating and have not been able to grow their own produce, there are a number of vegetables to look out for this time of year. Every spring is blessed by the first rhubarb of the season. Sweet pink stems, which can be forced for a few weeks indulgence before the main season starts, provide a bright and refreshing break from the heavy food of winter. Artichokes and fennel are all highly anticipated for their unique flavour and beneficial health properties, yet it is Asparagus and Watercress that are championed British cultivars, favoured above other varieties for their flavour. 

Home grown veg has been known to contain higher nutrient levels and hold better flavours than mass-produced vegetables, whilst the act of gardening is commonly associated with promoting mental wellbeing. Why not try producing your own vegetables whilst waiting out the remainder of lockdown at home, both as a hobby and a remedy, ready to impress guests with garden to table entertaining over summer.

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