Quick wins in the garden

Posted by Alastair Otter on October 19, 2010
Posted in Garden

We go on a lot at Treevolution about growing and eating your own food. Sometimes we might make it sound a relatively easy thing to do. And usually it is. But there are times when it can be exceedingly frustrating and you wonder if it is all worth it when you look at your less-than-abundant crop.

It’s easy to be disheartened.

If you’re feeling this way then go out and get yourself a few lettuce seeds or seedlings, some tomato seeds and a couple of basil seedlings.

As far as I am concerned these are not only the most rewarding of plants to grow but also the most essential for summer.

Lettuce seeds – we tend to use the Lolla Rossa variety – are among the easiest seeds to grow. Fill a couple of seed trays with vermiculite or seedling soil, plant the seeds and water them every few days, keeping them lightly damp at all times, and within a week you’ll see signs of life.

This year I am using vermiculite for most of my seeds. It’s sterile, holds a good deal of moisture so seeds don’t dry out and I’ve had fewer problems with disease. You can get vermiculite at most hardware and gardening stores and you can use it on its own or together with a good seedling soil.

Tomato seeds and basil seeds are just as easy to grow. Both take little longer to sprout than lettuce seeds but once going they’re pretty robust. If you can’t wait then get a few trays of seedlings which will also do the trick.

The loose-leafed lettuces like Lolla Rossa are perfect for the family because you can pull off a few leaves at a time and they just keep on giving. They have frilly leaves and grow loose, not in in a round ball.

Basil, once it’s got going, grows like a bomb. The beauty of basil is that it’s one of those plants that loves being picked. Rip off a few leaves for dinner and it’ll start growing back immediately. At the end of the season, before they die off, pick the remaining leaves, toss them in a liquidiser and freeze them in icecube trays for use throughout winter.

Tomatoes also take a while to get going – plant them in the garden for full effect – but once they do, and if you’ve got a good number of plants, you’ll have enough to last you out the summer.

There’s not much like a weekend lunch made up of freshly-picked lettuce, basil and tomatoes. Add a bit of good cheese and it’s almost perfect.

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