Lockdown activities for the mind:

Growing your own veg

Healthy Living > Mental health > How to grow veg at home


Blog Article | By The Simplyhealth Team 23 April 2020

Dylan Hartley has switched The Cabbage Patch for...a cabbage patch. While you're likely to know Dylan from his time playing for England at Twickenham, he's trying his hand at something a little different while in lockdown. Growing veg.


Dylan’s been sharing some great advice on mental wellbeing recently, no more so than in his latest gardening video below. And he isn’t alone with his green-fingered passion during the coronavirus lockdown. It’s relaxing, you get a sense of achievement, and there are healthy vegetables at the end of it…you hope.


For us, gardening and growing your own veg is a no-brainer. We love it because gardening is brilliant for your health and wellbeing and isn’t limited to those with outdoor spaces. We’ve put together a list of the vegetables you can grow in your own home, saving you a bit of research time, and hopefully providing a bit of inspiration! 


Give Dylan's video a watch first to see how easy growing your own veg really is:  

The easiest way to get your 5-a-day, wherever you are


No garden? No problem. Growing vegetables isn’t just exclusive to the great outdoors. Indoor areas even have the advantage of shelter and warmth. It's the perfect place to grow an amazing range of vegetables. By growing veg indoors you'll be rewarded with some of the tastiest vegetables you've ever had, partly because you grew them yourself. We’ve got faith in you.


You’ll need some of the basics before you begin. A lot of garden centres are doing contactless deliveries, so check with your local one:


  • Compost
  • Seeds for the veg
  • Pots of varying sizes
  • Some water (and a way of dispensing that water into the pots, like a watering can, perhaps)


Always remember, if the gardening isn’t going your way, don’t throw in the trowel. Persevere and you’ll be rewarded.   

Cherry tomatoes growing on the windowsill

Tasty Tomatoes


Tumbling Tiger, Chocolate Cherry, Green Zebra. If these names ever come up in a quiz, they’re tomato varieties. You owe us that point now. In reality, there are thousands you can choose from. Luckily, there's a tomato selector guide that may help you out a bit.  


So, planting tomatoes. If you manage to get hold of some cherry tomatoes in the supermarket, you could plant the seeds from one in a bit of compost. As tomato plants love the sun, find your sunniest windowsill. Seeds can be started off in yoghurt pots and transplanted into bigger containers once they get going. Depending on the variety of tomato you may need to support the plant with a cane as it grows taller.


Before the tomatoes come little yellow flowers. Indoor tomato plants will need help with pollination, so to imitate movement caused outdoors by wind, insects and birds, gently shake the main stem or get a paintbrush and dab pollen from flower to flower. You'll be able to start twisting them delicious, sweet tomatoes off the branches in around 60 to 80 days.


Tip 1: Overwatering can cause tomatoes to burst or split, so don't overdo it.


Tip 2: Tomatoes need plenty of nutrients in the soil so you'll need to add phosphorus fertilizer now and again.




Cherry or plum tomatoes which give you plenty of small fruit and ripen fast - Red Robin, Tiny Tim, Toy Boy, Florida Petite.


How to use tomatoes


Pour them into a pot and make passata, or roast them gently among sweet potato slices until they soften and burst with beautiful sweetness.

Lettuces growing in pots

Lovely Lettuce


A fresh summer salad needs lettuce. So get growing. You can grow lettuce in small pots of soil in a bright windowsill at first, using just a light sprinkling of soil on the lettuce seeds, as they're tiny. A medium-sized plastic plant pot is also ideal to save you transplanting seedlings when they get bigger. If you use a terracotta pot, bear in mind that they tend to absorb moisture, making the soil dry out quicker. If you don't have a pot to hand you could use a plastic bag with some small holes in to let water drain and place the bag on a plate or tray to avoid making a mess!


Keep the soil damp - watering the seeds using a spray bottle is gentler than using a watering can, that way you won't uproot the delicate seedlings. Transfer the pots to a cooler location once the leaves start getting bigger. Seeds will germinate in around one to two weeks. You'll be able to harvest your lettuce after about six weeks, depending on the variety.




Cos or Romaine, butterhead or loose leaf. 


How to use lettuce


The more flavours you can put with the subtle lettuce leaf, the more interesting salads can be! How about adding things like roasted beetroot, feta, chicken, chives, mint, orange slices, or yoghurt dressings to your salad leaves to make a more substantial meal? Having time indoors means you get the chance to be extra creative with the food you have available.


Not a cold salad fan? Try seared, sautéed or braised lettuce for something a bit different. Delicious cooked with peas and onion.

Red and green chili peppers in the house

Charming Chillies


Chillies come in several different levels of heat, from pleasantly mild to 'burn your tongue off' hot! Take a look at the Scoville scale to see how your chillies rate. Chilli plants can do really well in a cooler climate like ours. You can grow chillies from seed by keeping them warm indoors. If you keep them in a warm sunny place, you'll be able to get a very good crop.


You can start seeds off in small containers, or place some seeds between damp sheets of kitchen roll and lay them flat in a flat container like a lunchbox or sealable plastic bag. It's important to keep them damp and warm at this stage so the seeds can germinate happily. When they've swelled up, in around two to five days, they're ready to plant into small pots.


Tip: Your chilli plant will probably need a good feed with phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen now and again to keep it growing well.


How to use chillies


Try adding some to bolognese for a little kick, or fry with a little tomato puree, cardamom and lemon for tasty chilli rice.

Radishes in the colander

Ravishing Radishes


Radishes aren't just red and round. There’s a bit of variety to them. You can grow white ones, ones which look like mini watermelons, oblong ones and giant ones! They don't all taste the same either - some are earthier than others. So if you’ve tried one, you haven’t tried them all.


The small round radishes we're all familiar with grow quickly in about four weeks. Simply plant the seeds and keep the soil moist. This is a fun veg for kids to grow as they are easy to look after, tend to have few pests, and grow fast. Try planting them in a tray of soil on a sunny windowsill indoors.


Tip: Make sure the tops are covered with soil as they grow to avoid drying and splitting.




With shallow roots, the Sparkler variety is great. There's also French breakfast and April cross.


How to use radishes


Try adding slices of radish to a stir-fry or make super thin slices in a food processor and fan them decoratively over a salad.


They're perfect for dipping whole in hummus too, especially the oblong radishes.

Green and runner beans growing against a wall

Gorgeous Green Beans


If you're after a vegetable that keeps on giving, French and runner beans are for you. You'll get plenty from one plant, and two plants will be ideal for a family of four. That does depend on much veg you plan to eat, of course!


Plant one seed per pot, keep it damp and on a sunny windowsill. As the bean plants grow, they'll need support and something to climb up like a wooden cane.


Tip 1: Constantly pick the beans to keep them coming back all summer long.


Tip 2: Don't let runner beans get too big. They become tough to chew. Pick them as soon as they're the right size. One day they'll be good - about 20cm or eight inches long, the next they could be a foot long!




Short on space? Try the 'Jackpot' dwarf runner bean.


How to use green beans


Add French beans or runner beans to a stir-fry for a crunchy filling meal, or have them steamed then bathed in gravy with your Sunday roast.

A batch of homegrown sprouting potatoes ready to grow

Perfect Potatoes


You don't need much space when it comes to growing potatoes. All you need is compost, a few potatoes, and something to grow them in. That could be a potato bag, compost bag with a few small holes in the sides, a sack, or a simple cardboard box. Whack some compost in there, and you've got a potato grower.


Place a few potatoes in your grower and cover them with a bit more compost. Shoots will appear, add more compost each time. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged. For more advice, Gardeners World has a simple potato-growing video to follow. 


Tip: Keep the bag of potatoes and compost in a warm, sunny place and keep the soil damp. When you've nearly reached the top of the bag with compost, let the plants flower and die back. Tip the contents out and enjoy some delicious homegrown potatoes!


How to use potatoes


Try boiled potatoes with a little butter and lots of homegrown mint. You can slice potatoes and put them in the oven, sprinkle mixed herbs over and a drizzle of groundnut, rapeseed or coconut oil.

Root of ginger being planted

Glorious Ginger


Ginger is a root often used in stir-fries and curries. It's quite hot but with a good kick of flavour. It's a bit of a favourite with in-home gardeners as it can be easy to grow. 


You can start with a fresh piece of living ginger root which will have buds on. Ginger grows horizontally under the soil, so you'll need a wide, shallow pot. Soaking your root in warm water overnight helps prepare it for planting, then you can cover it with soil. Keep it moist, and wait for shoots to start emerging in two to three weeks.


You can harvest the whole plant or just cut off what you need. Mature ginger root will be ready in around 10 to 12 months, or you can pick milder baby ginger after approximately four to six months.


How to use ginger


Chop some into your homemade curry or prawn and ginger noodles. You can even whizz it up with spices, garlic and oil to make a mouth-watering curry paste. A slice of ginger in hot water makes a subtle warming drink.

A chopping board with homegrown button mushrooms on it

Moreish Mushrooms


First up, you need to decide which type you want to grow. The easiest ones for indoors are oyster, white button, and shiitake. You'll probably need mushroom spawn (the mushrooms version of seeds), sterilised straw, some compost or if you have used coffee grounds, use them. Dylan has been sharing this insight on his social media, coffee grounds are packed with nutrients, and mushroom spawn loves them. 


You'll be able to get mushrooms in 4-5 weeks. To get to grips with the process, check out this brilliant guide from the guys at GroCycle, how to grow mushrooms from coffee grounds


How to use mushrooms


You can use mushrooms as a hearty substitute for meat, a lot of plant-based products have mushrooms as a key ingredient. Rogan mushrooms, a veggie twist on the lamb dish is an option, or simply fry some garlic with mushrooms, spinach, and a squish of lemon for a decent side. 

Feeling inspired?


Being in lockdown can have negative effects on your mental wellbeing, so it's good to keep the mind active. That's what gardening can do, which is one reason Dylan Hartley has taken it up. The food is an added bonus!


Hopefully, you're already planning which windowsill you can fit a tomato plant on. All you need is a little patience (and some light and water) while you nurture your indoor vegetables. It's fun, rewarding and tasty. And is definitely something to keep your mind active and focussed. Wellbeing is key to a healthy lifestyle, make sure you're looking after yourself at this pretty weird time. 


Have fun growing, and if you fancy sharing your journey on social, tag us on Twitter using @SimplyhealthUK. Lettuce see your attempts. Couldn't resist dropping a pun in there. 

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