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March 09, 2009

Beating the recession with a bit of gardening

Successional sowing of cress, grown in the lid of a tupperware boxPerhaps the greatest rip-offs in our supermarkets come from salad. At the moment (admittedly out of season), 100g of rocket salad will cost you anything from £1.20 upwards, and that’s on special offer. Not only is 100g almost always too much for what you need, it’ll normally go off within 48 hours.

Spinach is another rip-off. £1.24 or so for a bag of the stuff.

Well, I reckon you can grow the stuff, nearly all year round, for perhaps just 10% of the price you’d pay in the supermarkets.

First of all, you don’t need a garden to grow your own salad. In fact, all you need is a windowsill, and some seeds. They’re normally about £1.50 for a pack that will last you at least a year, assuming normal usage. But Lidl and Aldi are getting into the budget gardening business at the moment. A pack of seeds there cost between 29p and 49p, and they don’t seem very inferior to me.

Next, you need some eggboxes or used toilet rolls (the cardboard bit, naturally). Cost = nothing.

You will need some kind of compost. I’ve tried stealing topsoil from public places before, and it just doesn’t work. A bag of the stuff can be had for about £1.99.

Micro-rocket! Great in sandwiches.Plant the seeds in the compost, itself shoved in the eggboxes or toilet rolls. Then stick them on a windowsill which gets some sun.

You’re unlikely to get huge great clumps of herbs and salads, but the smaller leaves you’ll get will be full of flavour. Rocket, spinach, chinese cabbage (like lettuce), parsley and of course that childhood classic, cress, all seem to be winners, and I’ve been harvesting them since early February.

The best thing about all of these herbs and salads is the use-by date. There isn’t one. Kept cool enough, they won’t really go off until you pull them out of the soil.

The key to growing your own salad is what the seed packets call ‘successional sowing’. Basically, a few weeks after planting your first batch, plant some more. By the time you’ve eaten your first bits you’ll then have some more ready for you.

So, salad all year round. Very little cost. And an end to 48 hour use-by dates.

And you don’t even need a garden.


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