With no end to lockdown in sight, it’s no wonder there has been a surge of interest in starting a garden, whether in part of your plot or an empty shoebox.

Our friends at the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust set out three easy steps to get you growing, even if you have little more than seeds and compost to hand…

1. Choose what to plant

Watching things grow can give us something to look forward to and pleasure in the process. Planning itself is a great activity with lots of plant pictures online to help you choose. If you buy seeds instead of seedlings, you’ll have more varieties to choose from. These should be easy to find online, as is compost.

Nasturtium seeds

When choosing seeds, buy what grows best at this time of year

Check what’s best to plant at this time of year and start with things that are easy to grow: marigolds, nasturtiums and zinnias are brightly coloured and fun for children. Though magically beautiful, ignore tricky Himalayan blue poppies and opt for the less fussy ladybird variety instead.

Orange nasturtium

Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seed, even if you only have a pot or window box

Beans, cucumbers, radish, salad leaves and tomatoes are all reliable for beginners: they germinate easily and you will soon be enjoying the fruits of your labours.

2. Prepare your containers

If you’re short of pots, don’t worry; you can cut down on waste by re-using materials you already have.¬† Plenty of packaging can easily be repurposed to start off your seedlings.

The flat side of egg boxes is ideal for sowing fine seed: bigger seeds, such as zinnias, could be started off in the individual compartments.

Yoghurt pots are ideal for developing plants which have been pricked out for growing on.

If you want a project to interest children, have a go at making paper pots out of old newspaper. Print which doesn’t come off on your hands is most likely to be a modern eco friendly type. Alternatively brown wrapping paper works well.

Square origami pots can be time consuming, but absorbing to make. Round pots can be made quickly and are just as effective if placed in a tray for support like the shoe box below.

You don’t need an expensive wooden kit, just a cylinder to wrap paper around. In this simple video, Annie from Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust shows you how…

Another option is to collect toilet rolls and make a mini greenhouse out of an old tub or box.

Fill the tubes with a mix of compost (and perlite if available). Plant larger seeds or beans just below the surface.

Keep damp but don’t overwater. Only put the lid on at night or when its cool, so your beans don’t boil in their skins!

Plastic tubs being used as a mini greenhouse

Simple cardboard tubes are a great option if you have no pots available

3. Tend your plants as they grow


Salad in a small container

Cut and come again lettuce will give you a good supply, even in the smallest container

If you’ve planted seeds inside, you’ll need to transplant them out when they are big enough. A simple trough or pot is plenty big enough to support strawberries or salads.

If you have space, try making your own planter out of decking boards, timber gravel boards or garden sleepers.

Larger plants such as beans and tomatoes will need canes or garden twine to support them. If space is at a premium, you can still make wigwams in pots, which can work in even the smallest garden or balcony.


Don’t forget to keep your plants well watered and weeded, and watch for any late frost.¬†Once you’ve got started, you’ll find you’ll soon be planning ahead for next year!

The RHS has plenty more ideas for growing at home.

Shop topsoil, bark & compost


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