It’s April, but everything looks dead, or dying. This should not be the case. The chilli plants should not be crispy; the cacti should not be droopy; the orchids should not be stubbornly dormant. There has been sunshine, I’ve seen it, and I’ve been persistently watering and nurturing and feeding. I even played Classic FM to them – science says they like it. But alas, nothing. It seems I may have to consider starting from scratch. With this in mind, and given that it is a good time of year to be planting things, I’m going to present you with some gentle suggestions for things to grow yourself, if you feel so inclined, in this and the next few columns.
This is really incredibly easy. Get yourself a packet of mixed salad leaf seeds (usually about £1) and scatter them lightly on soil – get fine compost if you can, as it’s easier for the seedlings to grow through that – in a wide, shallow tray with holes so that water can drain out. Put the tray on something (like a bigger tray) if you don’t like having soil and water all over your window ledge. Then cover them with a little bit more soil, give them a good drink of water, and leave them to do their thing. Don’t leave them more than a couple of days without water, but don’t let them get soggy – if there’s liquid left over in the bottom tray an hour after you’ve watered them, you’re over-doing it. You might even get a crop of leaves within a fortnight if your seedlings are particularly keen.
Try to get an Italian sweet basil if you can – it’s amazing and will make everything you put it in taste like summer. The most central purveyor of seeds I’ve found in Edinburgh has been the Homebase by Dalkeith Road, but if you’re anti-conglomerate you should be able to find details of independent vendors online (or indeed order seeds to be delivered – they were practically designed to be posted). Then just follow the instructions for the salad leaves above, but use a few little round pots instead of a tray, and put 5-10 seeds in each pot, well spaced. You might need to thin them out if they grow furiously (which just means VERY GENTLY getting them out of the soil, untangling them if necessary and re-planting them in separate pots). Basil needs sunshine and regular watering, so make sure to pop it on a windowsill where you won’t forget about it. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Never soggy.
Originally published in The Student.