Can you have a garden if you don’t have sun? If you don’t have warmth? If you don’t have earth?
Over the past while I’ve been wanting desperately to make things grow, something which is an instinctive desire in me and helps keep me sane during stressful times. It’s difficult because of where I live: I’ve no garden; the one window in my flat faces due north, and is opposite another row of tall, Georgian red-brick houses – so the sun never manages to make its way in. Yet there is light, and a windowsill, and I’ve been able to make what I can almost call a garden – it’s amazing how little space you need, really.
I’ve been compiling a list of some of the ideas I want to try, to develop my tiny array of greenery a bit more, as well as habits I need to focus on maintaining, so that this crucial – I really do feel it’s crucial – part of my life doesn’t get dropped when things get busy and difficult (which is exactly when I do tend to forget about the things that help me the most at these times. Aren’t I ridiculous altogether!) If there’s anybody reading this (unlikely) who has similar Tales of Woe – maybe there’s a ghost of a chance you might find some of these helpful too. What else keeps your head on your shoulders?
- Herbs I have two further setbacks in that I live nowhere near a garden centre, and I am on a student budget. I can still buy herbs in supermarkets, however, and these ready-potted plants are amazingly cheap and will also grow nicely and taste good even with very little sunlight, unlike things like tomatoes, which taste terrible if grown in the shade. I already have parsley, rosemary, dill, basil, thyme, chives, mint (perfect for growing in a pot as it spreads like nobody’s business!) and until recently some coriander, which suffered a tragedy and drowned in the latest rains. I would love to also get some lavender in a pot if I can find it.
- Potting Soil – don’t run out of it! I am insistent that mine be organic, but beyond that I am not too picky about the soil. A bag of it I bought last week contains a lot of turf, which doesn’t overly please me, but at least it’s natural, and I’ve decided that I have to allow some flexibility and prioritise my values for the sake of sanity
Sow seeds for flowers –I’m already growing Dwarf Green Kale from seed, I know I have a tendency to veer towards Useful, Serious Plants – so I must remember to sow more flowers, whose lightness and colour are as necessary as any vegetable to my health.
I found Calendula seeds from the Irish Seed Saver’s association and they sprouted really quickly and easily for me. Calendula is bright yellow (If I can’t have sun I’ll have things that resemble it!) – is loved by honeybees, and as a bonus has plenty of medicinal uses and edible flower petals!
Other flowers I’d like are:
- Bulbs such as daffodils (yellow again!)
- Love in the mist and Honesty (for their names)
- A wildflower mix like this one.
Containers: I’ve been experimenting with growing micro-greens in cut-open milk cartons (thanks to this post from Eleanor for that idea) – but also coffee cups I’ve found are brilliant, when I run out of (or can’t be bothered to find) flowerpots.
I poke a hole in the bottom of the cup so it doesn’t get water-logged, fill it up with compost, water so it’s damp and sow the seeds. I must also ask my local coffee shop for a bag of used coffee grounds so I can add them to the soil to enrich it. I am also dying to try out this idea as soon as I can get around to buying some mushroom spores online
Experimenting with Seed-saving –last year I found that a garlic bulb had stayed on my counter for a little too long and a spiky green shoot had begun to sprout out of it. On a whim I stuck it in one of the big ceramic pots I keep in the yard, and in a couple of weeks I had a great big clump of garlic greens for garnishes and to add a bit of kick to soup and pesto, and was rightly pleased with myself. I want to experiment more with this idea; I’d love to try it with pumpkin and squash, although it’s probably too late this year for that. If I’d more light I’d save tomato seeds, and if I had more space I’d plant potatoes.
Dealing with Wriggly Things
Slugs have been the bane of my life lately. I keep on finding them lying on the surface of the soil in my pots or slithering around the edges. I don’t like to admit pure hatred for an innocent living thing but these really are one of the few creatures that just make me instinctively wince in disgust.
At first I’d just fling them off the edge of the pot using the end of a (very long) nail, but I’ve had to become more hands on (not literally) lately after they almost succeeded in demolishing my poor basil (It’s now safe indoors and being carefully nursed back to health, I’ve all fingers crossed for its recovery.)
My dad told me that supposedly sprinkling salt around the plant helps to keep them away, so I’ve done that although I’m a little doubtful as to how well it actually works. The last time I found one I screwed up my teeth, got out my scissors and just cut it in half. I’m determined to do this with every one I find after this, although it was probably the most horrible thing I had to do that day. I’ll try to look at this as a Good Thing – add the dismemberment of slugs to the list of Ways to Make Life Better – by making everything else I have to do, from clearing out clogged drains to emptying the bins, appear Delightful in comparison.