17 April 2010

budget window ledge lettuce - Part 1

As an elevated agriculturist, space is always tight, so using up any ledge, gap, nook or cranny that things will grow in is a must.

This week, whilst pondering washing the dishes and getting dazzled by the glare off the window, it became clear (unlike the window) that what the ledge needed was some salad.

Now growing salad leaves has to be one of the simplest and most rewarding crops that flat dwellers can grow, all it asks is a bit of dirt, a bit of light, a bit of water and a little tiny bit of TLC. In return you can pick leaves as you need them and avoid spending out £1.50 a time on the deep chilled offerings from Tesco.

With the budget/beginner theme in mind, I've tried to keep this as cheap and simple as possible. For those under the age of 18 and the terminally clumsy, you may want to get an adult to help you. Here's what you will need to join in:

  1. Tins or pots with removable lids that can be used as drip trays. I've used some rather handy Clipper Teas Promotional tins.
  2. A grow bag - this is the cheapest way to buy compost/soil, approx £1.50 for a 33litre bag.
  3. Some seeds - I've decided to grow three varieties (cos/delight/dynamite) which will cost you about £2 a pack, but these will generally last for 2-3 years or could be shared out with your green fingered chums.
  4. A skewer to put some drain holes in the tins/pots.
  5. A chopping board (safety first).
  6. Your hands - for compost scooping and drilling.
  7. Some water - no need for Perrier, tap will do.
Now your ready to go!

Clipper are rather good at promotional freebies, unfortunately (or fortunately) I drink a lot of tea, so didn't have much need for 4 tea caddies - fear not however, they have a use! With easy to remove lids that can act as a drip tray and a good solid construction, they are ideal for window sill growing.

  1. Start off by removing the lid from your chosen container, I had to carefully pry the catches open, and then smooth them back into shape (no cut fingers ta).

  2. Flip the container over on the chopping board, grab your skewer and firmly ease it through the base, ideally you want 6-8 holes depending on the size of your container.

  3. Repeat until you've done all your containers.

  4. Time to get dirty. Give the growbag a bit of a shake to get all the compost at one end, then cut open the other - the great thing about growing in old tins/tubs is that they can be used as a scoop.

  5. Once all your containers are full, you will need to draw a drill down the middle of them, I used a dibber, but you can just use your finger, you want to go about as deep as the first joint (13mm for the pedants out there).

  6. Sprinkle some seeds down each drill - Although it is tempting to just do it from the packet, you will have much more control if you put the quantity you need in your hand and go from there. I've gone massively OTT, but they will need to be thinned as they sprout so don't panic if you do the same.

  7. If you have used different varieties (and you care) now is a good time to label your containers, I've used some seed markers made from reclaimed oak scraps, but old lolly sticks are a great free alternative.

  8. Do the washing up.

  9. With the dishes done, you can now put your containers in the sink and give them a water. I used a wine glass, pouring about 1/2 a glass into each. Once your done, the lids can go back on the bases to catch any drips.

  10. Stick them on the window sill and see what happens - if they look to be drying out in a day or so add a little more water, but don't be tempted to flood them - too much is just as bad as too little.

    Here ends lesson one. If you have found this useful, please leave a comment, tell your friends or even have a grow yourself!


  1. Very useful Chris. Being new to the whole vegetable growing malarky I thought that I'd try planting some rocket and spinach in a seed tray but as they've come up I'm worried that the trays are too shallow and there isn't enough space for the roots as the rocket plants are starting to fall over on themselves. Looks like your Clipper tins are a much better idea!

  2. You will probably need to transpant them into something a bit deeper to be honest. When I removed the roots from last years lettuce crops they were about 15cm deep and the plants were pretty sturdy. Just be careful not to damage the delicate young toots when moving them!

  3. Unfortunately I didn't get to them in time and now I have a lot of dead rocket and spinach seedlings! I've got deeper pots for the windowsill ready and raring to go though so fingers crossed next time I'll have more luck. Thanks for the advice!