Life on the inside: What to grow during this unexpected gardening leave

Shutdown feels like a mini-retirement, so perhaps it is time to start playing the role.

Trowels at the ready, here are 10 easy-to-grow and difficult-to-kill plants you can cultivate on your allotment, garden or even a window ledge.

– Mint

This hardy herb should be considered a shutdown essential purely to keep the nation in mojitos as the fine weather continues and cocktail bars become a distant memory.

It is good confidence builder, but handle with care as it will happily take over the garden if left to itself – it also grows well in a pot.

– Lavender

Beloved of butterflies, lavender seeds can be sown in indoor trays between February and June and planted outdoors or in a large pot once the seedlings are hardy enough.


Compost and seedling trays are tricky to come by these days, but empty loo rolls placed on a plate and stuffed with garden soil can be an alternative – they can even be stuck straight in the ground with the seedling still inside.

– Marigolds

Seeds for these bright orange, edible flowers can be found in supermarkets and are a good one for children because they germinate in just a few days and bloom in about eight weeks.

They need to be sown straight into the ground and need well-drained soil in full sun if possible and thinned out as they start to sprout.


Once your marigolds begin to flower, the petals can make an eye-catching addition to salads.

– Potatoes

The nation’s favourite, potatoes will grow pretty much anywhere in about three months and are also a great way for preparing uncut ground for a fussier crop next year.


Plant your seed potatoes about 12cm (5in) deep and 22cm (9in) apart from about now to mid May, make a mound, and keep adding earth (“earthing up”) as they sprout so only the top few centimetres are showing.

You can also use cooking potatoes that have started to sprout eyes – although experts warn they will not be certified free of viruses.

– Carrots

A little trickier than the humble spud, carrots can be planted in rows from seed straight into the ground.

They like sunny, sandy soil and the seedlings will need to be thinned out, but if all goes to plan you should be chowing down on your own carrots about 12 weeks after planting.

– Courgettes

Often found on a supermarket seed rack, if you get it right you get a huge crop for your money that can go in a million savoury dishes or turned into hipster courgette bread.

If you are a first-timer, start your seeds off in pots and make sure you acclimatise them to the outside world slowly at first by placing the seedlings outside in the daytime and bringing in at night.

About two weeks before planting outdoors in early June, prepare the beds by digging trenches or pockets to a spade’s depth and filling with compost (if you can get it) and planting your seedlings well apart.

– Lettuce

Another good one for the container gardener, fill a wooden or plastic box with compost, sow the seeds to the required depths and keep them moist.


Once the seedlings have started to sprout, thin them out so the strongest plants have space to grow, then pull off a few leaves for salads as and when you need them.

– Christmas cactus

A simple house plant to care for, if treated right you can coax your Christmas cactus into blooming over the festive period and bring a splash of colour to your window ledge.

Christmas cactus
Christmas cactus

To propagate, leave clipped segments in a cool, dry place for a couple of days before planting them a couple of centimetres in new soil – you can even stick cuttings in an envelope and post to a relative in need of some new greenery.

– Spider plant

The stripy spider plant grows like wildfire and likes a bit of space – it works well in indoor hanging pots or a shelf where its leaves can dangle freely.

They are also great for cheapskates because they reproduce asexually, with little miniature spider plants growing off the main plant.

Spider plant
Spider plant

Plonk the new plants in a pretty jar filled with soil, make a string handle and you have a thoughtful, bohemian and, importantly, free gift for a loved one.

– Weeds

For centuries gardeners have battled to keep weeds out of the garden, but with insect levels decimated by climate change and habitat loss, it is time to rethink our attitudes.

Wild flowers
Wild flowers

Environmentalists have persuaded councils up and down the country to relax their cutting regime on verges to turn them into “wildlife corridors” – so if you are a little lazy in the garden, tell people you are saving the bees.