Tiny Veg Patch

Tiny Veg Patch was set up by Naomi, one of the Food4Families tutors, on Facebook. You can follow the original here: Tiny Veg Patch but we will reproduce some of the ideas and projects below for those not on Facebook:

19th March

Seed ideas

Seed PacketsThere are lots of lovely veg you can grow at home even if you don’t have much space and I’m hoping to share ideas on this page. In the meantime if you can get hold of pots and compost can that would be fab plus here are some ideas of seeds to buy.

  • Salad leaves
  • Rocket
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Spring onion
  • Carrots (the small ones pictured here will be ready sooner)
  • Herbs such as parsley, basil, coriander
  • Dwarf veg plants especially for containers such as courgette, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans
  • Seed potatoes (early varieties if possible)
  • Rainbow chard/spinach
  • Edible flowers to brighten things up such as nasturtiums and marigolds
  • Sunflower seeds

Household items recycled for growing seeds

Recycled plant pots

If you don’t have many spare plant pots there are lots of other containers that can be used for sowing seeds such as milk cartons, yogurt pots, egg cartons, fruit trays and toilet rolls (if you have managed to get hold of any!) You can also use newspapers to make newspaper pots and yogurt pots can be cut up to use for plant labels. I’ll be showing you which containers work best for various seeds over the next few weeks.

20th March

Salad leaves on the windowsill

Today I sowed some salad leaves to grow on my kitchen windowsill. This is a variety called ‘Speedy Mix’ which is fast growing and contains a mixture of different leaves. The back of the pack made me laugh as for serving suggestion it says ‘impress dinner guests with this unique mix’. As this isn’t likely to happen for a while given the current situation perhaps you can impress yourself with your growing skills and give this a go! Anyway here’s how to do it.

Sowing salad leaves

  • I’ve used an old fruit punnet and made holes in the bottom for drainage.
  • Fill with compost and firm down.
  • The seed packet contains 500 seed so please don’t sow them all! Instead sprinkle about 10-20 across the top of the compost.
  • Cover with a thin layer of compost.
  • Water gently - aim for the soil to be moist rather than water logged.
  • Label.
  • Place in windowsill.
  • Water when soil seems dry.

This particular mix should be ready in about 25 days or sooner if you want to use baby leaves. Good luck!

Plastic milk bottles used as watering cans

21st March

Recycled watering cans

Today we had a go at making watering cans from empty milk cartons. I made holes in the lid (we used a needle but you could use nails and a hammer instead) and the children decorated them using Sharpies. Fill with water and they’re ready to use!

22nd March

Edible flowers

Edible flowers such as nasturtiums are really great to grow if you have a garden or a balcony. Leaves and flowers can be added to salads and seeds can be pickled. This particular variety can be grown in a container or hanging basket.

Sowing nasturtiums in a decorated potWe planted them in a decorated pot today to celebrate Mother’s Day. Here’s how we did it:

  • We got a plastic plant pot and cut some pictures from an old magazine to stick on the side of the pot using PVA glue.
  • Once these had dried we filled the pot with compost (use seed compost if you have it to hand but if not then normal compost is fine).
  • Make a hole in the compost approx 1cm deep and put the seed in, then cover over with compost.
  • Label your pot (we’ve cut up a yogurt pot into strips to use as labels).
  • Water gently and place on a sunny windowsill.
  • Keep soil moist and these will then be planted outside when it gets warmer.

If growing things for a small space just be mindful about how many seeds you sow. The packet contains 25 seeds but we’ve only planted 3 in our pot as firstly we don’t have much windowsill space and I’d like to grow some more things indoors, and secondly only about one or two will fit in our garden among the other things we're planning to grow this year!

23rd March

Outdoor Herbs

Herbs in containers

Today I’ve been making the most of the sunshine and planting up a herb garden in pots. Herbs are easy to grow, can be used to add flavour to food, smell amazing and their flowers attract bees and other pollinators.

The herbs I’ve used here are - sage, oregano, lavender, chives, tarragon, chamomile and catmint.

Here’s how to plant them up.

  • Select your containers and ensure they have good drainage holes. Most herbs prefer free-draining soil so if you can mix compost with a few handfuls of grit or perlite.
  • Fill you container with compost until you can sit the herbs on top so that they are slightly lower than the top of your container.
  • Remove the herb from the pot and if the roots are tightly packed (this is called root bound) gently tease the roots out with your fingers.
  • Arrange the herbs in the containers and then fill around them with some more compost and firm down.
  • Water.
  • Find a sunny spot for them in your garden.

If you don’t have much sun try herbs such as chives, mint, dill and chervil. To look after your herbs water regularly but not too much as they are used to drier, Mediterranean conditions. Pick regularly as they benefit from regular picking and enjoy!

Seed sowing tips

Here are some tips to help make seed sowing a success! Sowing seeds

  • Use seed compost if possible as this is finer and lighter than ordinary compost making it easier for young roots to work their way through.
  • Seeds contain all the nutrients they need to get started so don’t need any additional nutrients at this stage.
  • As a general rule seeds are planted at a depth of two or three times their width.
  • Smaller seeds can be scatter sown in a tray filled with compost and then covered with a thin layer of compost.
  • Larger seeds can be station sown by filling a pot or tray with compost and then pressing the seed into the soil.
  • Water gently and place in a sunny place indoors or in a greenhouse.
  • Most vegetable seedlings can be planted outside once the risk of frost has passed - usually at the beginning of May.
  • Seedlings may need to be potted up before they are planted out so it’s a good idea to leave some space for additional pots inside rather than use all available space straight away. It’s tempting and I have made this mistake before!

24th March

Sunflower growing competition

Sunflower seeds sown in potsThis felt like a good activity for the first day of lockdown! Have a go at growing a sunflower and measure how tall it gets. Let us know here and we’ll see who has managed to grow the tallest one!

Sunflowers brighten up your garden with their big, yellow flowers, bees love them and birds enjoy the seeds once they have flowered.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Fill up a small plant pot with seed compost (or normal compost if you don’t have this) and firm the compost lightly with your fingers.
  • We used a pencil to make a hole 1.5cm deep.
  • Sow the seed and then cover with compost.
  • Label (we used lollipop sticks and the kids drew pics of sunflowers to put on top) and water gently.
  • Place indoors in a sunny windowsill and keep soil moist.
  • As the weather turns warmer the plants can slowly become used to being outdoors (this is called hardening off) and they can planted outdoors when the risk of frost has passed.

If you have a balcony then dwarf, multi-flowered varieties work well in pots.

25th March

Magic beans

Beans

Freshly picked beans are very tasty and easy to grow in pots and containers.

There are lots of different varieties - climbing varieties can be grown up cane supports or walls and fences while dwarf varieties work well in pots.

I’ve sown a mixture of different beans today - three dwarf varieties - French Bean ‘Speedy’, Berlotto bean and Cannellino Bean plus a climbing French Bean ‘Cobra’. With younger kids its fun to tie in planting beans with the story of Jack & the Beanstalk especially if you have a good selection of ‘magic’ beans such as these!

I made some toilet roll pots and placed them in a fruit punnet. Toilet roll pots are easy to make and when the plant is ready to go outside it can be planted straight into the compost as the toilet roll will just break down. You can use plastic pots instead.Pots made from toilet roll inners

Here’s how to do it.

  • Make a series of 2cm cuts into one end of the toilet roll.
  • Fold the cut sections in towards the centre to make the bottom of your pot.
  • Stand the pots in a tray and fill with compost.
  • Water gently and plant the bean roughly 4cm deep deep in the soil.
  • Label.
  • Place on a sunny windowsill and these will be ready to plant out in May.