Lockdown Growing – By Salma Miyan

It was week 3 of the UK Covid-19 lockdown. The 6th of April and the weather was uncharacteristically gorgeous: 11 degrees and blazing sunshine! I was sitting at the picnic table in my backyard enjoying the sunshine and wishing I had more to look at than the bare walls which some friends and I had decorated with a mandala mural a few summers ago.

Flowers are lovely, but nothing beats fresh produce which you’ve grown yourself and can just pop out to the garden for garnishes and little additions to your home-cooked favourites. So I started on my lockdown GROW-ing journey.

Lockdown Week 3:

Step 1 was clearing the yard. There was a fair amount of weeds and rubbish which my backyard had accumulated. I pulled them all up and filled a few bags of rubbish, recycling what I could, and then gave the whole yard a good, long pressure wash.

If you’ve never used a pressure washer before I highly recommend it. It’s just so satisfying watching the colour change as you blast, sometimes, decades of grime and muck away from surfaces you never knew had such a rich natural colour.

Step 2 was choosing which plants to grow. I did a fair amount of reading and research and decided that herbs were a good place to start. A lot of herbs are pretty hardy plants and will grow indoors or outdoors, in pots or in the ground.

You can buy seeds to sew, but also small plants which will grow and spread in whatever space you give them.

As the garden centres were still closed I had to shop online and at my local supermarket as part of my weekly essential shopping trip, but I managed to find a good selection of seeds and plants.

I’m lucky enough to have a spare bedroom which is south-facing and catches the sun for 5 hours a day, and has 2 lovely big windows so it’s a bit of a greenhouse! I decided to plant up the seeds and small plants in pots and let them grow on these window-ledges to start with.

Lockdown Week 4:

Whilst my herbs were making a good start in their “greenhouse-room” and the seeds were starting to germinate, I was considering how to increase the available planting space in my yard.

I found some hanging bags online which are thick plastic, tube like bags which you fill with soil and have holes all the way down for planting into. I also contacted my builder and carpenter friend, Matt, who made me a lovely wooden planter and brick built raised bed using reclaimed and recycled materials.

And I found an old trunk in the attic which I treated and painted up as another planter. I also collected some unwanted pots and planters from my dad’s garden and from a few neighbours, cleaned them up and filled them with soil ready for housing my plants.

Although the herbs were coming along nicely, I also wanted to grow some veg. During my weekly shop to my local supermarket I came across a magazine called “Grow Your Own” which came with 12 different packets of seeds for growing vegetables at home, so I picked that up and started sowing the seeds into trays and adding them to the “green-house room”.

I had tomatoes, kale, radishes, rainbow chard, broccoli, peppers and cabbage on the go now!

Lockdown Week 5:

The herbs were not big enough to plant outside in the new planters, and the vegetable seeds had germinated and grown into tiny seedlings. It was very exciting!

As well as this, my local garden centre were offering free delivery and taking orders over the telephone, so I managed to order a whole collection of bedding plants and also a HUGE amount of peat free compost!

The yard was starting to look greener by the day, and with little bursts of colour as the bedding flowers were blooming here and there. I was finding myself spending a lot more time out there and my mental health was improving.

I was also sewing scrubs for the NHS and was really enjoying being able to sew in the garden whilst enjoying the sun, the flowers and the buzzing of the bees as I worked.

Lockdown Week 6:

The plants in the “Green-house Room” were ready! Most of them were out-growing their pots now and had really nice, dense root balls which would give them the best chance of surviving once they were outside and exposed to the elements.

I filled all of the available pots and planters with peat free compost and started to decant the veg from their seeds trays and starting pots. The planters were full very quickly and the plants looked AMAZING! I was very proud!

Lockdown Week 8:

The plants continued to grow. I was enjoying spending more time in the yard and was even eating meals out there. The herbs were big enough to enjoy in my lunch-time salads and they tasted DELICIOUS!

As well as this, the bedding plants were really starting to boom! I was surrounded by a rainbow of beautiful blooms, and this was attracting all sorts of insects, bees and butterflies into my tiny garden. My 3 cheeky felines, Winnie, Mini and Oakie, were having a lovely time investigating all the smells and chasing the insects too.

Lockdown Week 11:

The yard has been completely transformed. It’s now an amazing little garden, full of colour and delicious smells. The herb garden has grown into a feast of tantalising leafy goodness, and the vegetables have grown to 3 times the size of when they were planted and some have even fruited already.

The radishes have been a delightful addition to my lunch-time salads and the courgettes are showing signs of flowering! I really can’t wait to see and taste more produce as it blooms.

It just goes to show how much you can achieve in such a small space, with a little bit of patience and energy!

Salma is a Nutritional Sciences graduate and has spent 5 years being an absolute star for MetMUnch. She is now applying her nutritional knowledge to a PhD in Healthcare Sciences.

During the lockdown she has been working on her thesis from home as well as keeping busy with transforming her brick walled backyard into a mini allotments and local wildlife haven, including for her 3 cheeky kitty-cats.

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