Southampton goes to seed!

ImageGardens, allotments or simple containers are all great for growing your own fruit and veg, says Tricia Worby, who picked up her seeds at the recent Southampton Seed Swap.

It's that time of year again when thoughts turn to plans for the year ahead in the garden and there is no better way to focus your thoughts than on planning what plants you will grow from seed.  As concern over intensive farming grows, more and more people are now turning to growing their own veg and herbs for the kitchen. 

Even if you don't have a large garden (or any garden at all for that matter!) this need not stop you. Many plants can be successfully grown in containers (tomatoes, especially the trailing varieties which don't need staking), courgette/marrows and lettuce can all be successfully grown in growbags where they will reward you with pounds of delicious succulent fruit with minimal care (just remember to water - a good soaking of the compost is much better than spraying the surface).

Witts Hill Allotments
Witts Hill Allotments

Local allotments are also a thriving resource and a national treasure.  There are 23 allotment sites in the Southampton area and sure to be one near you - check the map here.  In the Bitterne / Bitterne Park area there are popular allotments at Witts Hill and Athelstan Road. Each site has a manager and certain basic facilities such as water, recycling, etc.  Anyone who lives within one mile of the city boundary is eligible to apply for these allotments. The cost depends on location and size with a typical 10 rod allotment costing Ł33 per year. You should be able to make up the cost easily with all the veg you will grow and you will have the benefit of keeping fit in the process.

So once you've got your plot how to go about selecting varieties? Recently I was lucky enough to go to a wonderful event called the Southampton Seed Swap which happens each year where you are encouraged to take a packet of seeds and pick up one in return. This is a travelling event organised by October books in Portswood, that goes round the country picking up donated seeds from individuals and organisations (see this link) I had heard of events happening in Brighton but this is only the third time it has happened in Southampton and this year it was in my local area. I took along some seeds I had harvested the previous year from my garden and was able to swap them for some amazing veg seeds (you can just buy the seeds for a nominal sum if you haven't got any to swap).  There were lots of Heritage Seeds from Garden Organic (see their website here) who aim to conserve and make available vegetable varieties that are not otherwise easily found.  So I got some lovely sounding varieties such as Dwarf French Bean ‘Magpie’ and Tomato ‘Fakel’ which I can't wait to sow. It is organisations like these two that really act as a wonderful counterpoint to the agribusiness/ corporatisation of our world and I believe we should do everything we can to encourage this sort of community action.


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One of the things I most often get asked about is whether to compost and how - my answer is if you only have a small garden you are unlikely to get the amount of waste matter that you will need to produce a good heap (which needs a certain critical mass to generate heat). Much better then to recycle your waste in the green bags and let the local authority produce the stuff, which you can then buy in when you need it at a considerably reduced price (about Ł2.50 per bag from your local refuse tip). It's called Pro-Gro and it's wonderful stuff.  However, if you can, then do, but be aware that it takes time and you need to devote space to having a bin which may not look that attractive - site away from the house out of sight if you can.

Don't forget it's the right time of year for planting trees and shrubs too - I will be busy in the next couple of months advising on species and helping to plant up new/neglected gardens.  

Happy gardening till next time.

Tricia Worby,
Holistic gardens 07973 417312


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