The 24-year-old Shepherd’s Bush native had moved to a flat in Battersea with a small balcony, but had never grown anything before. He picked up a packet of spring onion seeds and hasn’t looked back since.
East Londoner Theo Charnley was having a similar epiphany 100 miles away. “In lockdown I went to Birmingham to stay with my girlfriend’s parents,” says the 29-year-old, who worked in sales for Deliveroo.
“I started planting vegetable seeds for the first time and was amazed by the way that it made me feel positive about the future at a time when it felt like the world was falling apart around me.”
But as their enthusiasm for growing vegetables grew, both Theo and Sam felt the information wasn’t out there to help their fellow millennials and Gen Z-ers.
“Gardening is a really fun, easy experience and that’s not the vibe I get from gardening companies; it’s quite cultish and I can’t connect with it,” says Sam.
Theo agrees: “The whole gardening industry just feels outdated, ripe for disruption; it’s very flowery and targeted at an older demographic. We thought there was lots of room for something a bit different.”
So they set up gardening companies for young urban people who don’t know how to garden and might find traditional garden media a bit fusty. Sam launched Pot Gang, while Theo’s brainchild, along with co-founder Jess Joy, is Water Daily.
They join Claire Ransom’s similarly catchily named Lazy Flora in the growing world of subscription plant services aimed at total beginners — basically seed or plant kits that are delivered to your doorstep.
They provide all you need so you don’t have to visit several websites or go to garden centres, which is not always easy if you don’t have a car. They even provide the compost to grow your plants in.
Both Theo and Sam have resigned from their day jobs to concentrate on their green-fingered dreams. Theo’s family owns a garden centre so his aunt has been a fount of knowledge.
As for Sam: “My ambition is to create the biggest gang of reformed plant killers in the world. I’m a bit of a beginner too which in a way is good because I can relate to them. I work out through a few different sources what the best advice is — and I ask my Nan!”
Top of the crops: the best veg subscriptions for urban gardeners
Best for: Eco-conscious total beginners with minimal space.
What you get: One of four starter kits containing three packets of seeds, wooden labels, coir pots and coir growing medium and a 24/7 hotline. We like the Simply Supherb starter kit of Thai basil, coriander and parsley. For those with no outside space, there’s the microgreen kit Herbs for Starters.
What it costs: £25
What we love: Biodegradable pots and packaging, peat-free growing medium and simple instructions that you scan from a QR code to read on your phone. Cute wooden markers and a tray so your seedlings don’t drip on your windowsill, plus a coir brick you can mix up in a bucket to make your compost.
Best for: Total beginners who want to be part of a community and have a bit of a laugh with it.
What you get: A box on the first weekend of each month containing three packs of seasonal seed, pots and a bag of compost, plus a Potline number for any cucumber conundrums and salad woes.
At the moment the pots are plastic but Sam is looking into more sustainable alternatives.
What it costs: £20 a month.
What we love: The fun graphics and friendly, community feel. There are different characters for each of the seeds and how-to videos on TikTok.
Best for: Time-poor beginners with a balcony or small garden
What you get: The Edible Plant Subscription brings you 16 vegetable plug plants a month, ready to pot up, and peat-free compost to grow them in. The plants come in plastic clam-shells, though these are recyclable.
What it costs: £35
What we love: Because these are plants, not seeds, you get a head start and save time.
All the plants are chosen to grow well in containers and you’ll get a mix, from tomatoes to pak choi, so you have an instant varied vegetable garden.
Make sure you’ll be in when they get there, since mine were dry when they arrived (though soon perked up after watering).