IDEA 5: Grow Something

Updated: Apr 4

Helen and Mary in Custom Folkestone's Locavore Garden last year

The last thing I want is for this little series to become one of those aspirational things that makes people feel bad for not achieving enough, so for full disclosure I want you to know that:

a. I did not pickle that beetroot or make chutney specially for this blog, I made them months ago and am reviving them to give some ideas and inspiration and to make me look good.

b. I have never made Bokashi compost until 2 weeks ago and I got all the info off the internet.

c. I am about to preach to you about gardening, having had pretty limited success myself except when I had Custom's garden guru Gini by my side. However, I am genuinely mesmerised by the way the earth generates food for us and I am determined to develop the level of focus needed to create a proper garden. So in that spirit...

The joy of growing is in the eating - a salad made only from Locavore Garden produce

You might have a garden, a yard or a little patch of land, maybe a balcony or even just a windowsill, whatever it is I recommend growing something from scratch. Ideally grow something really easy that isn't going to disappoint you - unless you are already an expert. The point is to take something as tiny and inanimate as a seed, put it into a nourishing environment and watch as it transforms into something extraordinary. For every herb or vegetable you grow from scratch, you'll think completely differently about it when next you see it in a shop. Even cress in a jam jar on a bit of cotton wool will do - in a way it's the best, you can see the whole amazing process unobscured by soil. In fact you could probably get away with telling your friends you've started a hydroponic food growing system. They're in lockdown too, they'll never know.

I'm going whole hog. I've started planning a forest garden. Our new studio has amazing countryside around it and a small sliver of it is attached to the property. Joyfully, there is no fence or other physical boundary between that sliver and the woodland and stream beyond. This garden is an idea that has been brewing for a while. The artist Jorge Menna Barreto talked at our Mouthing Symposium at Custom Folkestone last year about agro-forestry in Brazil and it sparked in me a season of reading and learning about interdependent growing environments. Have a look at this video which explains the whys and wherefores of the forest garden concept very neatly. My little garden will be a very miniature version of this, but my hours trawling the internet assure me that you can even make a forest garden in pots on a balcony, so I'm going for it. If like me, you are taking this enforced gardening leave a little too seriously, then I really recommend this brilliant website which is where most of my current planting ideas have come from: Plants for a Future.

This is where I've got to so far. Tomorrow I'm going to a bit of investigative digging - until the last few days, the ground has been far too wet to work with, but I'm going to start germinating seeds on window ledges this week and I'm hopeful that by the time my first batch of bokashi is ready, I'll be able to dig it in to start enriching the soil!