Nobody remembers the funny old man who exchanged the five beans for Jack’s mother’s cow but I feel a bit like him.

In exchange for spare (magic, naturally) seeds that I’ve been delivering around the borough, I’ve had a couple of generous cow-like swaps.

The first was from a kind man called Kostas in Hackney Downs who left two elasticated exercise straps (and some disinfectant, which I didn’t ingest in spite of recent advice) on my doorstep, and last week I was offered a free online yoga class!

Both are very much what I need in the absence of the community hall classes I was going to every week not long ago. So these gifts have helped with my move online.

We’re all trying to transfer our lives and work to the virtual world and find help for our interests and tasks – in my case, whittling, repairing rubber gloves, making face masks and embroidering ivy leaves.

For those of us used to being outside – and who feel that any time spent on a computer is wasted time – the online world weighs heavily. But there are some good activities and ideas out there so I thought I’d make a note of some of those that are particularly inspiring – and useful.

The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland is asking us to identify the wild flowers in our gardens and balconies in their wild flower hunt. They also have a plant ID section.

For those growing veg in small spaces, Vertical Veg has some great advice, and Rita from Hackney City Farm is also an expert in growing in small spaces – follow her on Instagram.

Hackney Herbal is making regular videos mostly focusing on herbs but also general advice on how to grow from seed – and beyond. They are very good!

The venerable Gardeners’ Question Time on Radio 4 has had a surge of interest so is adapting their content to new growers. Last week they gave their advice on how to open a seed packet. Surprisingly good! This week they’ve been talking about home composting and have some useful advice.

Outdoor Classroom is putting ideas for children on Instagram – from Florence Nightingale to dragons.

Identifying wildlife can be a joyful activity. Watching an insect do its thing can only increase happiness. Buglife helps you discover insects.

I stumbled across this bird ID site. You can listen to each bird’s song by clicking on the picture.

For plants, one of the most useful websites is Plants for a Future, which has a 7,000-page database of plants and their uses – for medicine, colour, food, carbon sequestration and more. Naturehood is based in Oxford but has a national reach. It gives lots of ideas for how to green up your garden.

Rewild My Street also gives good ideas for what to do in your neighbourhood to make it more nature-friendly.

Imby is an app which helps people bring nature into the urban environment -whatever level of experience you have. They can tailor advice to you personally.    

Little Green Space has a great Twitter feed with lots of actions, ideas and advice for helping nature.

Our own Ecoactive, based in Homerton, has plenty of ideas for children.

There are some good gardening podcasts, too – Roots and All, hosted by Sarah Wilson, hears from a different gardener or designer each episode. Her ethos is underpinned by vegan gardening.

I always learn something from Garden Organic’s monthly podcast with Chris Collins.

Cordwainers Grow is doing a weekly Grow (on) Your Own question time at 4.30pm every Tuesday, so you’re very welcome to join us if you have any queries about growing veg, herbs, fruit – even flowers!

Finally, we (E5 Postcode Gardener/Cordwainers Grow) are getting outside (virtually) next Sunday to look at some inspiring growing spaces including John Little’s pioneering brownfield garden in Essex, take a ‘weed walk’ in Homerton with botanist Emily Leguil, identify plants growing in the glyphosate-free area, tour Hackney City Farm, the Kingsland Basin, and Rita from the farm shows us around her balcony!

Email for details.

Kate Poland is an award-winning community gardener. She was chosen to be the UK’s first ever postcode gardener in E5 as part of Friends of the Earth’s 10xGreener project. For more information, head to and