If you think that gardening is purely for middle aged people with more land than you could dream of, then Alice Vincent wants to change your mind.
A journalist with a sideline in dropping newsletters – and, now, her first book, How To Grow Stuff – she's devoted herself to mastering the delicate art of nurturing herbs, flowers and veg from four storeys up in her Camberwell flat.
As well as helping you do away with the plastic wrappers that encase basil, courgettes and rocket leaves, nurturing plants is a way to soothe frazzled nerves.
"You can't keep your phone in your hands when they're covered in soil," says Alice. "You don't check your email, you don't update Twitter. It's so absorbing that you'll go out for a five minute job and still be there three hours later."
Here's how to get involved.
1 | Start with herbs
"I got started growing herbs on my kitchen windowsill when I was a student," says Alice. "But I began in earnest when I moved into a flat with a balcony in London. "When you buy herbs in the supermarket they don't taste of much and they turn to mush really quickly."
2 | Try DIY salad
"Pea shoots are delicious, but they're about £2 a bag if you buy them," says Alice. They're perfect for small spaces as all you need is a container that's 6-9cm deep, which a few holes punched through at the bottom for some of the water to drain out. Fill this with compost and soak dried peas in water for 25 hours, before sowing in your box. Cover with a fine layer of compost, water, and wait. You need to keep the compost slightly damp at all times, and, in about four weeks, you'll have a crop you can chop off and add to salads, pastas or whatever. "Fresh rocket also tastes sensational, when you eat it quickly after you chop it," adds Alice. "That's my desert island leaf."
3 | Think about your pots
"A lot of the time, we buy plants and herbs in these cute little pots, with no holes at the bottom. Doing this is essentially giving your plant trench foot. A great place to get seeds and plants are community gardening projects –plus, you'll get advice from the people there on how to care for them."
4 | Be clever with light
"Most gardening stuff is set up for people with, erm, gardens," says Alice. "Seed packets will have 200 seeds in them – if you're planting in balcony space, you're going to want 20, max. A lot of containers will be too big, so you'll need to improvise with leftover food containers, etc. You also need to think about light. You can grow herbs and flowers on a south-facing windowsill, but that much sun may be too much for a succulent."
5 | Don't go too heavy on the Pinterest
"You will kill things. It's okay," says Alice. And, just like looking at an Amaro-filtered aspirational yogi with their feet flat down in downward dog makes you want to give up before you've begun, so looking at the work of master botanists on Instagram can make you feel dispirited. "This is not an instant gratificaton thing," Alice adds. "It's taken me three years to develop my skills and you need patience to wait for things to grow," Think of the scene as an antidote to the digital age.
Alice Vincent writes about gardening for The Telegraph and is the author of How To Grow Stuff (out now, Ebury, RRP £12.99)