Barnet Post

Ready, steady, grow!

Wendy Alcock, a trained horticulturist promoting food growing in Barnet and beyond, says it’s time to spring into action and sow some seeds.

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By Wendy Alcock  

Did you have the food growing bug last year? Whether you were a first-timer trying your hand at growing something green, or a keen gardener enjoying the chance to spend more time outside, the first lockdown last spring saw many growing some of our own food.

This time last year things weren’t always straightforward. With seeds in short supply and garden centres closed, it was sometimes hard to come by the things needed to get growing, but I still heard many stories of people enjoying having a go. 

As we enter March and the earth is coming alive with the joys of spring it’s time to get growing once more. But, this time will be easier now that we can use the skills, seeds and soil we gained last year. Or, if we need to stock up on supplies, we can order most items for delivery from our fabulous local garden centres. 

Whatever size space we have to grow in it’s always possible to grow some of our own food. From kitchen windowsills growing microgreens to allotments fit to feed a family, getting sowing now means in a matter of months we can be munching on more of those sumptuous salads and tasty tomatoes. Or maybe it’s time to grow something new? 

Whatever you decide to try, the basic seed sowing rules are the same. All seeds need water, air and the right temperature to germinate. Getting the temperature right for the seed type will give your plants the best start in life and mean they stand a better chance of turning into that tasty meal. Try not to sow too early or your seeds will struggle. Check your seed packet for the best environment for each plant but leaving it a little later is best as the plant can quickly catch up when days get longer and warmer. 

When you’re ready to grow, fill your container with compost, water it well, thinly sprinkle some seeds on top and cover with more compost (the rough rule of thumb is to cover with twice the depth of the seeds). All kinds of things can be used to get seeds started – think margarine tub (add some drainage holes), loo rolls sitting on a waterproof tray, or a standard small plastic pot if you’ve got some at the back of the shed. 

Then sit back and wait for the seeds to wake up. When they shoot out of the soil give seedlings as much light as you can or they will get too tall, or ‘leggy’. An indoor windowsill is best if you have space as the baby plants will stay nice and warm while they get going. Keep the compost moist and if it looks like they are running out of space carefully move them into a bigger pot. 

Depending on what plants you decide to grow it will soon be time to pot them on or plant them out. We will look at that next month leaving you plenty of time to start having a grow in the meantime!

What are you are going to try for the first time this year? What gardening topics would you like to hear about? I would love to hear from you, whether you are an experienced gardener or a first-time grower.


Wendy is a trained horticulturist who promotes growing food to growers in Barnet and beyond as @HaveAGrow on Instagram. She grows organically with protection for the soil, nature and planet at mind and believes in the permaculture ethics of earth share, fair share and people care. 

Wendy set up the community garden Incredible Edible Barnet in 2016 when she ran out of room to grow food in her back garden. With a small group of volunteers, she grows fruit, vegetables and edible flowers outside a church in New Barnet and she is available to support other people or groups wanting to set up growing spaces in the borough.

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