Banbury Community Action Group

Grow Your Own

The gardening bug“Growing your own is a fun, satisfying, rewarding, educational, healthy and an entertaining distraction in these uncertain times”.That is SO true.Grounded, with a duty to stay home, and what have many of us found the time to do? Garden. The evidence for this? Online searches for “how to grow” and “how to plant” have increased by more than 5,000% since the beginning of March, and sites selling vegetable seed have been working 24/7 to try to keep up with demand. If giving home-grown veg a go appeals to you, we hope you will enjoy this Banbury CAG home-grow special!
Banbury Community GardenThank you to those who live within walking distance of our wonderful canal-side garden, for tending it through these lock-down months. Once the restrictions are lifted, we are looking forward to having it back at the heart of community-gardening once again. Until such time, here are some thoughts, ideas, links, to spark, rekindle, fuel, a love of gardening, for all the benefits that it can bring. Remind yourself of some of them!Why gardening is so good for youShould you be out in your garden, sowing seeds, potting up or lifting and dividing plants, we would appreciate it if you could bear this in mind: when restrictions are lifted, the Garden would love to hold a plant swap / sale/donation (as it has done in the past), and contributions will be most welcome….Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
The Lock-down gardenerMany of us in the area are fortunate enough to have a space we can use for outdoor living and for growing things. A yard, perhaps, or a garden: and even in the town, plenty of those gardens are spacious, with loads of room for growing lots of plants and veg.What do you need in order to get a cornucopia of produce from your plot? First and foremost, you need time, which is one key reason why there has been such a surge of interest in gardening over the last weeks. Second, energy helps: foresight would have been useful, too, given the current restrictions. Worry not, though! You can still enjoy the sense of achievement of eating something you have grown at home, with just a little time and patience.
The WindowsillBringing you ideas, why not start with four windowsill wonders for the ‘rooted-to-the-kitchen would-be grow-your-owner’…CressSee for yourself what comes from tiny seeds. This one is an old-time favourite holiday activity for sure, but that makes it no less satisfying to snip a tasty, home-grown, vitamin-packed garnish. If you’re ambitious, kitchen paper cress is just the first step on your journey.How to grow cress for grown-upsSprouted chickpeasWith these clear instructions, you can be proud that you have grown something very nutritious, and serve the sprouted peas raw or cooked. Take care to remove any that have become slimy, as they are growing bacteria.Sprouting chickpeasMintProve to yourself that you can root a cutting. You’ll need some growing mint: that might mean buying a herb pot from the supermarket, but at something around £1.25, surely this is still a cheap experimentGrowing mint from cuttingsWatercressTo do a similar thing with watercress, you’ll first need to buy a bag of watercress from the salads section of the supermarket, then choose a couple of healthy looking pieces and put them in a glass of clean water – super simple. Keep the water fresh, and watch the roots grow.
The yardBanbury is renowned for its beautiful floral displays in troughs and baskets adorning the town. It’s not just ornamentals that flourish in pots, though – fruit and veg can, too. There are several secrets to success:  Choose something that will grow well in these conditions. Not every vegetable likes such a confined space, and there’s a range of seed varieties for each type of vegetable with some more suited to small spaces than others.Some crops actually do better in containers than in many garden beds: potatoes in a tub (minimum 40 cm diameter, 40 cm high; go for something around 80 litre capacity) are less likely to get diseases or to be attacked by slugs and, unless you are going for quantity, are lighter work grown this way. Carrots love a deep, well-drained container. Lettuce, rocket, spring onions and radish do well, too, with radish seedlings less likely to be wiped out by hungry flea-beetles. And there are plenty of other options.Use the right sized container, and one ideally made out of a heat-retaining material (metal is not so good).Start with a good planting medium to fill the pots. Potting compost can be expensive, but it’s far better for the planet to make sure that whatever you buy is peat-free. Going peat-freeGrowbags are hugely popular but they tend to be a bit mean on compost – planting in 20cm deep plastic ring pots (be creative..) sunk into the bags, will help.Heap on the tlc through the growing season: watering morning and evening, but not overwatering; feeding; removing any weeds threatening to take over; and keeping an eye out for invaders (slugs, snails, greenfly…).  Feed can be slow-release granules added when you pot-up, or as a liquid feed. The recipe for comfrey liquid feed given below is not to be recommended for a yard: it stinks.Some veg like to live in shade, but a sunny spot increases the choice of things that will grow well. There’s lots of information online – try, for example, these two links:10 best veg to grow in containersBest 11 vegetables to grow in pots & containersA herb garden is always something to be proud of – just remember if you’re planting a selection of herbs together in a pot, to give each plant enough space.Photo by Cathy VanHeest on Unsplash
Must haveWhatever your plot – container or full-size allotment – if you do decide to get growing, it’s a wise thing to invest in a propagator, either heated or a simple unheated propagator that just needs an indoor windowsill. It doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy in any way, it will get your seeds underway when the temperature plummets in April/May, just when you want to sow beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and sweetcorn.As an alternative, let professionals do the work of getting them going, and you plant when the season is right. Here’s a list of local nurseries you could try as a start: please let us know of ones we have missed off. Do check their websites first, as their opening hours may be different to usual, and some are offering a click and collect or delivery service only just now.Quarry Nurseries, Hornton, OX15 6DFHillier Garden Centre, Compton Road, BanburyBarn Farm Plants, Upper Wardington, OX17 1SNFarnborough Garden Centre, Farnborough, Southam Road, OX17 1ELCotefield Nurseries, Oxford Road, Bodicote, OX15 4AQBunkers Hill Plant Nursery, 1–2 Bunkers Hill, Nr. Kidlington, OX5 3BAFor seeds and plants, there are also the DIY stores and supermarkets, and, of course, an endless range of online options.Whatever you grow, consider this: your windowbox, pots, or garden, is your personal little patch of the world to look after. In total there are some 15 million gardens in England. If all were kept chemical-free, it would greatly improve the environment for all of us, our pets, and the wildlife around us.  Organic growing is essential for a healthy and sustainable world.Garden Organic
Very keen?Bridge Street GardenWatch out for details of the Bridge Street Garden reopening and sign up to lend a hand and join in.Bridge Street GardenBanbury Town Council Community Garden, People’s ParkEmbedded within the much-loved People’s Park, is the Town Council’s Community Garden. It is currently undergoing redevelopment, but once this is complete, and once sociable activities are again back on the cards, this will offer a wonderful opportunity for those who want to garden with others and as part of a community group.Banbury People’s ParkTo meet with like-minded fellow Banburyans, investigate Banbury Horticultural Society. The Society, which has recently celebrated its 70th anniversary, meets – once we’re allowed to – monthly at St Hugh’s Church Hall, Ruskin Road (O16 9HU), for a programme of speakers, garden trips and socials.Banbury Horticultural SocietyVery Serious?Banbury Town Council has six allotment sites within the town. Grange Road (south side) and Sinclair Avenue (north side) are directly managed by the Town Council. The other four sites: Easington (south of town), Woodgreen Avenue and Dover Avenue (west side), and Spital Farm (east side), are managed by Allotment Holder Associations. See the link below for the first step towards many hours of enjoyment, fresh produce, new friends and acquaintances, and improved health.  Just a note of caution – an allotment can lead to MANY hours of enjoyment….Banbury allotments
Look to the future! Make your own comfrey teaIf you do get an allotment or your garden is VERY big, you’ll be wanting to make some comfrey tea. Not for yourself, mind, but as a powerful tonic for your plants. Comfrey tea is an ideal substitute for commercial tomato feed, especially if fortified with a teaspoon of Epsom salts per 5 litres to provide magnesium.   First, buy – or acquire from a fellow gardener – your comfrey plants, and plant in the autumn. Jump forward a couple of years to when your plants are well established, then go industrial scale. Find a place as far away from your, and from anyone else’s, living space as possible, because this one smells BAD. Roughly chop 6 kg comfrey leaves, and stuff them into legs from old pair of tights, and knot the tops. Submerge and weigh down the tight bags, in 100 litres water in a barrel or butt with a tap. Cover and leave in the warm for a fortnight – maybe a month if it’s cold. Hold your nose, draw off the liquid from the tap and use to give your growing veg a boost like no other.Happy gardening!