The basket has been updated
Experimentation is one of the great joys of growing. Let me tell you, countless failed crops make that single successful cherry tomato taste a whole lot sweeter. And egging us on, there are lots of articles out there saying you can grow vegetables from all kind of things – carrot tops, onion ends, etc. While some may sprout, and you can get a few green bits from them, they might not give you a real harvest. These are my recommendations for best results…
Potatoes beginning to sprout at the bottom of your vegetable drawer? Then they are probably good for planting. Ideally, use organically grown potatoes (some non-organic potatoes are treated with chemicals that inhibit sprouting), giving them a longer shelf life. The main difference between shop-bought, eating potatoes and seed potatoes for growing, is that seed potatoes have been certified disease free; so shop-bought potatoes may run a higher risk of getting disease. But if your potatoes are sprouting already, then you may as well give it a go.
Dig your chosen patch at least 40cm down so that the earth is loosened. Alternatively, fill a large pot – an old garden bin with holes drilled in the bottom is the perfect kind of size, or a large grow bag (stood upright), or a builder bag with soil. At this point, if you are growing in regular garden earth, it’s a good idea to add some manure or homemade compost (insert compost link here – do we have a link to the compost workshop sheet?).
Place the potatoes 20 cm apart, and cover with 8-10 cm soil.
Allow the potatoes to grow to about 15cm high, and cover the shoots that come up with soil. Repeat this process once or twice more as the potatoes grow. This protects the stems from frost, encourages more potato to grow, and stops light getting to the tubers (which turns them green).
Keep potatoes well-watered to avoid scab and other diseases.
Your home grown potatoes should be ready to harvest from June-September, depending on the variety. If you begin to dig, and the potatoes are too small, simply cover them back over and wait a few weeks more.
Digging potatoes is one of the most fun jobs in the garden, like a treasure hunt! Dig well and get them all out, but be warned, no matter how well you think you’ve searched at least one will sit tight and re-emerge next spring as a rogue potato plant.
As mentioned above, I see a lot of posts on the internet saying you can grow veggies from all kinds of things, including seeds found in lemons, apples, plums, peppers etc. Sorry to burst the bubble on these videos, most varieties of shop bought veg that contain seeds are hybrids or cross pollinate easily, meaning that the seed you plant either won’t grow at all or won’t grow into anything like the fruit/veg you found the seed in.
The exception to this is tomatoes. Most tomato varieties have closed flowers which self-pollinate (and so do not cross pollinate easily). Odds are on your side with tomatoes, and I would encourage anyone to give it a go. I have grown many a successful tomato from ones I bought and liked the taste of. Ones from the farmer’s market are great, as they tend to grow heirloom varieties, grown for flavour instead of shelf life – a good indication of whether they are hybridised or not. At the farmer’s market, the seller can often tell you the variety you are buying too, so a quick google search will let you know if it is a hybrid or not.
February to April
Cut your chosen tomato in half (choose the ripest). Squeeze out the seeds, pulp and all. These seeds can be sown direct from fresh. Or if you would like to save the seed, lay them out on a piece of baking paper to dry. The proper way to save seed from tomatoes is to ferment them- check out the RHS instructions for this.
Take a soil-filled pot about 8cm wide or a growing tray with modules. Place one seed in each pot or module, pushing it down about 1.5cm and covering it with soil. Water and keep somewhere warm – a sunny windowsill is perfect.
Allow the babies tomatoes to grow, keeping them well-watered and with plenty of sunlight. If you grow in module trays, you may need to repot into something bigger to allow for growth. Harden plants off by introducing them to the outside when the weather will not drop below 8 degrees Celsius. In May, when there is no risk of frost (check the weather!) plant them out in their final position. This can be in a garden bed (50 cm apart) with plenty of added compost or manure, or plant in a large pot. Stake tomatoes up with a cane if they become leggy and pinch outside shoots as they form (video coming later in the year – subscribe to Vicky’s top tips from the garden to stay on top of weekly gardening tips).
Coriander seeds bought from the corner shop can grow coriander leaf. Not all coriander seed will sprout so it can be hit and miss. I recommend starting many to have a good chance.
All year round indoors, March-May on a sunny windowsill for planting out.
Fill pots with soil. Empty mushroom boxes work perfectly. Sprinkle on coriander seed, 1 cm apart. Cover lightly (1 cm or so) with fine soil. Water and grow. It’s that simple. You can grow coriander as a cut and come again by just taking the bigger leaves as needed. Or give it a haircut with scissors when about 5cm high and use it as a microgreen.