How One Couple Grew a Vegetable Garden from the Bottom of Their Fridge

At the beginning of March 2020, Neil Tyler had never so much as picked up a trowel or planted a seed in his life. A retired electrical engineer who had spent many years in rented accommodation in the Middle East and West Indies, the pleasures of gardening had entirely passed him by. Then came lockdown.

Along with his wife Caroline, being confined to their newly acquired home by the sea in Worthing, West Sussex, forced a long, hard look at their neglected back garden. Like many up and down the country, Neil and Caroline thought they’d try their hand at growing food. Just one thing was stopping them: they couldn’t get hold of any seeds.

Little did they know, but the answer was lying in the bottom of their fridge.

From a few old tomatoes, potatoes and a couple of withered peppers, they are now enjoying the fruits of their labours. Tomato plants abound, of unknown variety but all looking lush, what look like jalapeno peppers (who knows?) are growing in abundance and from just three or four unpromising looking old spuds they have so far enjoyed ‘enough potatoes for two meals for a family of 8’ with more on the way.

But how does a novice know how to begin with this unpromising selection?  Enter Youtube, where Neil found this great little video from India showing how to grow tons of new plants from slices of tomato.

Peppers could probably grow in the same way, though Neil germinated his seeds on kitchen paper, keeping them very warm and moist and being very patient (they can take two weeks or more to germinate).

The potatoes were already chitting, so he placed those sprouted sides up into some Haxnicks potato bags, and they have been amazed by the results.

But Neil didn’t stop there. From one small supermarket pot of basil, he has a flourishing collection of basil plants in and outside the house, including one which he is allowing to flower so he can collect the seeds. He grew them from cuttings - snipping off the tops of the stems just to where there’s a joint to the next leaves - and popping them into pots of compost. 

Elsewhere in the garden, a stick of celery, on the turn after a stopover in the vegetable drawer, has been put in a pot of compost ‘to see what happens’. It’s growing. OK, it’s not going to win any prizes down at the allotment, but it’s going to be tasty, and it cost nothing.

Neil and Caroline are hooked, and this is just a start. Other supermarket or fridge plants they’d like to try next year are lemon grass (plant the stems direct into soil, bulbous end down), watercress (throw directly into a pond with rippling water, or grow in pots with the base in water), lamb’s lettuce (they come with little roots, just put them into pots), and spring onions (put into a glass of water until they root, the stems will keep growing, or keep them longer and the bulbs will become fatter). I’m sure there are more – let us know and send pictures, we’d love to share them.

If you are looking for seeds, Nutley's are excited to announce that they are expanding their seed range and this will be available in September!


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