We are living through uncertain times with worrying scenes of panic buying and empty shelves. And we may be faced with the uncertain and restriction on what we can do and buy for the next four months or much longer.
But the good news is that if you have garden, a balcony or just a windowsill, there are crops you can grow to help you step towards being more self-sufficient. And if you have to self-isolate, you will have plenty of time to get growing.
There is a surprising range of plants you can sow and harvest in 60 days. I’m sure cress springs to mind, but on the list are micro-salads, baby veg, radish and even French beans. And if you have a bit of space in the garden and are feeling more adventurous, you could buy a hen house and a trio of chickens and be self sufficient in eggs in just a few weeks. Imagine a couple of poached eggs or omelette with salad leaves, radish and spring onions. Who needs supermarkets!
Here are 8 easy-to-grow crops to sow and harvest in 2 months
1. Cress Don’t underestimate cress. Not only is it easy to grow, but it’s bit of a superveg! It’s rich in vitamin C that will help you build immunity against respiratory disease. Cress grows fast and will be ready to cut in just 20 days or so. And once cut it will regrow. You just need a container such as an old plastic food container lined with some kitchen roll. Simply water the paper and sprinkle the seeds. Job done. Don’t let the seeds dry out so pop in a clear plastic bag or cover with a lid to reduce evaporation. Leave in a sunny place and start cutting when the plants are 6-8 cm tall.
2. Microveg or microleaves are very cheffie and quite difficult to buy. Microveg, as the name suggests, are small shoots that are packed with flavour and nutrients. They are ready to cut in 20 days or so, just like the cress. And like the cress they regrow so expect at least 2 or 3 cuts. The great thing about these speedy veg is that you don’t need a greenhouse or polytunnel, a sunny windowsill or balcony are perfect. You need a tray or container that is at least 3 cm deep filled with a peatfree seed compost. Water the compost and sprinkle the seed on the surface and then cover with a thin layer of compost. Place a sunny windowsill and watch them grow! Once the plants are about 12 cm in height you can start harvesting. Don’t forget to sow more trays so you a have a continuous supply of microveg.
You can buy a readymade mix, often labelled speedy veg, or you can raid your seed box and use up all the packets left over from last year. The choice is huge so grow a mix to get a wide variety of flavours. Think about herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander, amaranth, carrots, chard, spinach, rocket, pakchoi, mustard and mizuna. You can also sow a tray of pea seeds for pea shoots.
Lettuce I like to sow a variety of lettuce so I can pick a mix that will rival any salad bag you can buy in the supermarket. I sow the lettuce seeds in a small pot and then transfer the seedlings to a larger pot or container. If you are sowing in March or April there is a risk of slugs, so its best to grow in a container on the balcony or patio. Remember to keep sowing a few seeds each week so you get a continual supply of fresh lettuce leaves.
Radish Fast growing and easy to grow, radish is an essential for the container or veg bed. It can be sown directly in the soil as soon as the soil starts to warm up in April. Thirty days later and you will be harvesting these colourful peppery roots to enhance your salad. Don’t let them grow too large as they tend to get woody.
Spring onions Add a bit of tang to your salad leaves with spring onions. They can be sown in pots or in the veg bed from March and harvested 2 months later.
French beans Try dwarf French bean ‘Speedy’. These can be grown in a container on a sunny balcony as well as in a veg bed. French beans are frost- sensitive so they need to be started under cover and transplanted when the risk of frost has passed. But if you sow in early May and plant out 4 weeks later, the first beans could be appearing by the end of June! They will continue to crop heavily for up to 6 weeks.
Baby veg Carrots, beets and turnips are absolutely delicious when harvested young. Again, choose the faster growing varieties and sow outside from April. After 6 weeks the roots should be large enough to harvest.
Spinach There are some fast-growing varieties such as Matador that you can harvest as baby leaves as well as leave to grow on to a larger plant. Spinach is an easy crop to grow. I sow the seeds in a small pot and then transfer to a container or veg bed. If you can sow the seeds in early April, you could take the first baby leaves by mid May.
Kale This superplant is packed with nutrients. It can be included in a microveg mix or sown separately in a container or veg bed and allowed to get a little larger. It’s frost hardy so you can get sowing straight away. Some varieties mature faster than others, so try Red Russian or Nero di Toscana which will have young leaves ready to harvest in 30 days.