Grow at Home

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Logo: RHS - Inspiring everyone to grow

As the UK’s leading gardening charity, the RHS is more committed than ever to continue to support the nation to get gardening and is now launching the Grow At Home campaign to help nurture a new generation of gardeners.

Appetite is definitely increasing. More than a million visits were recorded to RHS gardening advice pages during the first 10 days of lockdown. Hundreds of thousands more people are using RHS online advice than the same time last year. The most popular topics have included composting (page views up by 500% compared to last year), sowing seeds outdoors, and dividing perennials.

Lettuce 'Weston' and chilli pepper in terracotta pots on table at RHS Garden, Wisley ©Marianne Majerus
Lettuce 'Weston' and chilli pepper in terracotta pots on table at RHS Garden, Wisley ©Marianne Majerus

And there are very few, if any, other activities that can achieve all of the things that gardening can, in particular, the measurable impact on mental wellbeing.

Studies have shown reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction and quality of life. And the physical exercise during gardening is sufficient to trigger complex activity within our brains which releases chemicals that not only help us to feel good, but also helps to protect and improve our cognitive function and behaviour.

All the leading national newspapers and broadcasters have run numerous pieces aimed at helping people get started. Focusing on easy-to-grow crops, and accessibility, advice given ranges from where to get seeds, to how to cope without council green waste collection and even how to garden without purchasing anything from outside the home.

It’s all about maximising the materials available: where more plant pots are needed, toilet roll tubes, yoghurt and other pots can be used or plants can be grown in any tray, those used for supermarket fruit or mushrooms for example.

Even a 1x1m plot can be rewarding. Just grow what you like to eat. Lettuces and tomatoes can be grown on windowsills. Basic supermarket seeds give acceptable results. Other crops most recommended for beginners include squash, new potatoes and leaf beets such as perpetual spinach, chard and beetroot.

Some vegetables don’t take kindly to transplanting and these can be sown direct in outdoor tubs or borders; broad beans, carrots, peas and parsnips for example. Those with large seeds, courgettes, French beans, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn and runner beans grow fast and you can sow them outdoors from mid-May if you are short of space.

If only windowsills are available, consider microsalads such as mustard, cress, pak choi and kale seedlings, or baby leaves cut when the plant is about 5cm tall, leaving a little stump that often regrows for more cuts. Endive, chard, chicory and lettuce make good baby leaves. Pea shoots are also easily grown by sowing peas thickly in trays and the tender shoots gathered when about 10cm tall. If seeds are in short supply try sowing seed spices or herbs from the kitchen; caraway, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel and fenugreek.

Potted herbs from supermarkets can be re-potted and grown on, watercress can be rooted in a jar of water, then planted, and sweet potatoes planted and cuttings taken to plant outdoors later. Sweet potatoes are excellent foliage plants for patios.

Young girl watering vegetables in a raised bed (RHS / Tim Sandall)
Young girl watering vegetables in a raised bed (RHS / Tim Sandall)

For balconies and patios - tubs, troughs, windowboxes and other containers are ideal. Sacks, perforated at the base, and filled with compost will produce a crop of new potatoes. Tubs and troughs can be ornamental as well as useful – aubergines, chilli, peppers and tomatoes carry attractive fruit and, obelisks, pyramids and wigwams support climbing beans, cucumbers and squash. Tumbling and trailing plants such as bush tomatoes and strawberries sprawl from tubs, pots and even hanging baskets.

Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, said: “Our overriding charitable remit is growing gardeners, which we do through sharing expert gardening advice, amassed over 200 years, to help and encourage everyone, from beginner to professional, to garden and grow plants.

“Gardening, and getting back to nature, is we know good for our health and wellbeing, especially our mental health, and so we will do all we can to provide advice and ideas for people to keep growing, whether this be in their garden, or balcony or windowsill. We also have lots of advice on house plants and how to use your cut flowers indoors.

“Sowing seeds now, provides immense satisfaction and beauty for the future.

“Grow at Home is all about encouraging people where they can to stay home and garden.”

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