What can we easily grow at home?

From lettuce to melons, it's not as hard as you may think



Growing your own food at home is an easy and sustainable thing we can all do. Even if you don't have a garden, you can still grow a salad on your window sill. Farmer Tom from the community based charity The Garden Army, gives us a little inspiration and some tips on how to reduce the amount we buy (and waste) from the supermarket.

If you imagine walking into a supermarket and looking at all the fruit and veg laid out. Apples in little trays, wrapped in plastic. Salad leaves in little plastic bags. Strawberries carefully resting on little bubble wrap cushions in plastic containers, wrapped in… more plastic.

And then there is the journey to get to the shelves; large lorries rumbling across the country, often disembarking from ships that have sailed across the ocean. Or collecting pallets that have arrived by air.

Take a further step back and imagine the tractors, the land ploughed repeatedly. The fertilisers manufactured and the water used.

When you give it some thought, there’s an awful lot of energy and materials that go into producing that little bag of salad that sits at the back of your fridge and may well even end up in the bin because it looks a little shrivelled and sorry for itself by the time you come to use it.

Like so many of the sustainability challenges we face, it can seem quite daunting and difficult to know how we can help or indeed where to even start.

We were keen to understand how much of that process we can cut out by growing our own fruit and veg at home.

So, we asked Farmer Tom ‘what are the easiest things to grow at home?’. As it turns out, the process of growing a salad on your windowsill is quite easy and very satisfying.

How to grow a lettuce at home

1. Get some lettuce seeds

2. Get a pot

3. Get yourself some good quality soil – Farmer Tom recommends wool compost from Dalefoot. It is sustainably made and gives your lettuce the best start in life

4. Sprinkle the seeds thinly on the soil – then add a thin layer of compost over the top

5. Give it a thorough spray of water

6. Pop it on a sunny windowsill and watch the magic happen

7. You can remove the weakest plants if you need to give the stronger ones more space.

8. If you keep the soil moist and remove the leaves as and when you want to add them to your salad, the plants should grow at least twice before they run out of energy.

The same process can be used to grow more exotic leaves for your salad as well. Such as Mizuna which has a mild, peppery taste and Nasturtiums. All parts of a Nasturtium are edible - the leaves, the stalks, the flowers. They add a lovely, colourful touch to a salad.

If you are looking for something even more exotic, Farmer Tom suggests having some fun growing cucumbers or even melons!

How do you grow cucumbers at home? (Or even in the office!)

The RHS have a great page explaining how to grow a cucumber. But sometimes just the basics are enough to get started. Farmer Tom says:

Cucumbers like to be warm – around 20C. If you are growing them in your home, then April/early May is the best time to sow your seeds.

1. Get some cucumber seeds

2. Get a pot (start off with small pots and then transfer to 25cm ones when the plants are of handling size)

3. Get yourself some good quality, peat free soil like the compost from Dalefoot

4. Push a couple of seeds about 2cm deep into a pot. Make sure they are either on their side or vertical. (Not flat)

5. Cucumbers quite like to twirl themselves around something upwards, so if you pop a vertical wire in the middle of the pot and train the main stem around it as it grows, it will be happy. They then tend to do what they like after the initial guidance!

6. Place on your sunny windowsill

7. Water little and often

Can I grow melons at home in the UK?

According to Farmer Tom, yes you can grow melons at home! Again, if you want to know the ins and outs of nurturing this exotic fruit then the RHS has some good detail here.

But if you don’t fancy reading too much and just want to give it a go, here are the basics:

1. Get some melon seeds

2. Get a pot (start off with small pots and then transfer to 25cm ones when the plants are of handling size)

3. Get yourself some good quality soli from Dalefoot

4. Push two seeds about 1.5cm deep into the pot in late April

5. You can remove the weaker seedling once they start growing

6. Melons love to be warm so if you have a sunny window or glass roof / conservatory, they will thrive

7. Keep the soil moist and during the early weeks of growth, if it gets very sunny then you might just want to protect them with a little shade on those days.

More tips from Farmer Tom

If, like us, you are feeling a little bit inspired then check out our blog where Farmer Tom gives us his top tops on growing your own food at home as well as how to prepare your soil and get rid of the weeds without using chemicals or breaking your back.

A bit about Farmer Tom and the Garden Army

The Garden Army is very simply a charity-run program for people who need space and support to deal with a wide range of mental and physical challenges. From children who have had a tough start in life, through to directors who might be suffering with burn-out; The Garden Army is a place for them to spend time learning about how things grow, how to harvest, how to build.

If you want to find out more, then you can watch ourvideo with Tom here.