Daria and her boyfriend Kit, who live in an apartment in a townhouse on Southgate Road, decided to try their hand at growing their own vegetables during lockdown.
Not having a garden didn’t hold them back and the couple have transformed the windowsills of their apartment into their very own allotment.
“With some extra time during lockdown, we decided to green up our windowsills,” Daria explained.
We wanted to grow something ourselves that we could eat.”
“You’d be surprised how much you can grow in a windowsill garden. We’ve got strawberries, aubergines, courgettes, green beans, and three types of peppers – padron, chilli and lemon drop. We’ve grown everything from seed and this is the first time we’ve tried anything like this.
“We’ve had plenty of green beans so have shared those with our neighbours and received lots of IOUs back. Lots of people have started growing their own produce so I’m excited to see what we get in return.
“We moved into the apartment in October 2019 and haven’t really had chance to exchange more than a ‘hi’ with our neighbours. Dropping some vegetables round was a great conversation starter and we’ve talked much more now. Lockdown has really brought out the sense of community in the area.”
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing with the couple’s foray into gardening. “It’s been trial and error, lots of error! Especially with the war against the aphids. After an infestation of aphids attacked the plants, Kit purchased some ladybirds to try and get rid of them. Our little ladybird soldiers had very limited success,” Daria added.
Kit, 30, runs his own carbon offsetting business, called Thrust Carbon. Daria, 29, works as a Service Designer for an educational company, a role she started just three days before lockdown began and both have been working from home.
Daria and Kit’s neighbours, 35-year-old Adam and his partner Carrie, who also live in an apartment in the building, have also tried their hand at gardening and found it a great way to relax and unwind.
“We started growing fruit and vegetables on a whim!” Adam explained. “Shortly after we moved into our flat a couple of years ago, my partner Carrie brought home some tomato plants from N1 Garden Centre. To our surprise they did really well, and I found myself bitten by the gardening bug. The paved area out the front of our building wasn’t really being used for anything, so since then I've slowly been claiming it for the garden.
“This year, lockdown has allowed us to be more ambitious, so we’ve been growing tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, peas and beans, along with some salad leaves and herbs. We’ve also got quite a few ornamental plants.
“We’ve never had a flat with a garden or any outdoor space at all, so this was quite new to us. I’ve done a bit of research along the way, mainly to get ideas and to troubleshoot when things go wrong! YouTube has been a great resource for this - there’s a fantastic array of gardeners sharing their knowledge there. It makes for very gentle viewing, and has been a good antidote for current events.”
Adam, a software designer, moved to De Beauvoir with Carrie in 2018. The couple have been working from home throughout lockdown.
“We’ve both been extremely fortunate to have been able to work from home throughout. Whilst our makeshift home office leaves much to be desired, it’s nice to be able to look out at our garden as we work.
“We have been talking to our neighbours more too, I think as we’re all in a similar position working from home, and I can often be found pottering about in the front yard!”
I’ve found gardening to be really rewarding and therapeutic, especially during lockdown. I’m very grateful for it.”
And there are even more green-fingered residents in the building. 28-year-old Chris, a machine learning engineer, was inspired by a friend of his to take up gardening and now has over 70 plants in his apartment.
“I have been gardening for quite some time now, about three years,” Chris explained. “My friend really likes plants and I thought I would never be able to care for them like he does until he got me three plants. I loved them so much and, since then, I’ve got more and more - I have about 70 plants in the flat now! I really like the ones with red and violet in their leaves. They add so much of my favourite colour to the space.
“I didn’t really learn how to garden, it was more trial and error, observing the plants and seeing how they react when I water them too much or too little. My current flat has east and west facing large windows, so the light conditions are perfect, and I really like when the sun hits in the afternoon, the colourful leaves with all this light are so beautiful to look at.”
During lockdown, Chris has found more time to focus on his gardening. “One thing I learned during the lockdown is to propagate my plants. The umbrella plant got so big and it fell at some point on the Coleus. Lots of branches from the coleus broke, so I put them in water and they grew roots so quickly. I did not know it was as simple as that! I then discovered I can do the same with many of the other plants and there are plenty of small tradescantia and prayer plants in the flat now.
“Having plants around and caring about them has been crucial to my mental health, and makes me take healthier decisions. It really makes a difference in my life to have a clean and beautiful living space with greenery.”
Chris and his flatmate have lived in De Beauvoir Town for two years. Both have been working from home since the lockdown came into place.
I am so grateful I live in such a beautiful neighbourhood. It has really helped to be able to walk around once a day and breathe a little. I also got to know my neighbours a little more, all of us are involved in all sorts of gardening, it is impressive!
"And it was certainly really nice to have all the plants in the flat, especially given we had to spend a long time indoors.
It feels great to spend the morning reading with all the plants around.”
Chris added: “I have been living in De Beauvoir for the past two years and I love it. It is very easy to get to, and so quiet and beautiful, but super close to all my favourite places for going out and meeting friends. I sometimes think this neighbourhood was created for me to live in it without compromising on other aspects of what I enjoy in life.”
To read more about how the residents of De Beauvoir have been surviving and thriving during lockdown, read our previous blogs: