By Robin Trimingham
As we enter another week of sheltering in place, my heart goes out to everyone on this island who is suffering. Whether you are suffering the loss of employment, the camaraderie of friends, the visits of relatives, the gloom of isolation or the struggle to find meals to feed yourself — know that you are not alone.
If you find yourself having a “weak moment” (and trust me, we all have them) remember that you are strong enough, resourceful enough, brave enough and resilient enough to get through this and that, regardless of your personal struggles, there is also most likely someone within your half mile radius who is finding it even harder to cope than you are.
Make yourself a warm beverage, give yourself a neck or foot massage to settle your nerves and let some of the tension go.
Having recovered a little, give some serious thought to starting a vegetable garden.
The idea of planting a “victory garden” was first popularised by the American agricultural scientist George Washington Carver as a morale booster during the First World War. Not only will this give you something to do, you will also be able to enjoy fresh organic vegetables for your efforts.
As daunting as this may sound if you have never been much of a gardener, don’t have much topsoil or presently live in an apartment, it is really very easy and there are countless free YouTube videos available on growing vegetables in containers, empty plastic water bottles and all sorts of raised beds.
What follows are a few basic directions to get you started growing tomato plants from a grocery store tomato. The plants in today’s photo are three-week-old cherry tomato seedlings that were propagated using this method.
The supplies you will need include soil, water, some sort of small containers to plant in (a shallow casserole dish, empty egg carton or yoghurt cups work very well), a small knife, and something to dig with (an old spoon will work just fine if you don’t have a garden trowel).
• Take a fresh tomato from the store (any variety will work but I have had the best results with cherry tomatoes and plum tomatoes). Slice off the top and the bottom, and then slice the remainder of the tomato into ¼-inch thick round discs.
• Poke a few drainage holes into the bottom of each of your containers using the tip of a knife.
• Fill each container about ¾ full of soil and moisten the soil with water, but not soaking wet.
• Place one tomato disc flat on the surface of each small container or about two inches apart if using a casserole (if using small containers and large tomatoes, you can cut the discs into quarters so that they fit).
• Cover each tomato disc with about a ¼ inch of soil and pat the soil down gently. Add a tiny bit more water if the soil seems dry.
• Place your containers on a sunny window ledge, or in a sheltered sunny spot outside. Check each morning to see if you need to add a little water (avoid letting the soil get soggy or too dry).
• Green shoots should start to appear in about 7-10 days.
• Once green shoots appear, continue to grow in place until the plants are about 4-6 inches high before transplanting into larger, deeper containers.
These same basic supplies can also be used to propagate the seeds of store-bought green peppers, cucumbers, melons, pumpkin, and squash. The only difference being that it is necessary to remove all the pulp from the seeds and then rinse and dry them before planting.
I suggest watching a couple of videos online for tips specific to each vegetable that you are interested in growing, as each requires different amounts of water, soil, and space in order to grow to maturity.
Also, when selecting your videos, look for ones where the person is providing tips for growing vegetables in a climate similar to Bermuda.
As always, this article is just a sample of one way to get started. There are as many tips and tricks to gardening as there are gardeners. If you have helpful tips to share, please feel free to add them to the comments below — we will get through this together.