‘Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.’ Robert Louis Stevenson
This blog isn’t about keeping an allotment, or growing prize-winning vegetables that win ‘best in show’. As much as I admire both such activities, they seem far-off to me, given the number of hours in the day and the age of my son.
But growing enough vegetables for my family to have fresh salad, herbs and a few extra treats just outside the kitchen door (when we have one again), seems much more attainable. I also believe having a productive garden is at the core of a true ‘family’ garden. My son is still under two and only just forming sentences, but the fact that he can say ‘seeds’ and ‘plant’ makes me immensely proud. I am determined that he will grew up knowing where his food comes from.
And so to the working part of the garden. The most important part of this is the raised beds, which I cleaned up and dug extra manure into as soon as the spring weather would allow. I also laid a layer of protective fleece over the entire bed (though I don’t seem to have taken any photos of it), to make an early start warming the soil.
I left very little in this bed, except a solitary coriander plant that appeared to defy all odds and would be good for flowers and seed later in the year. The bed was also filled with swathes of self-seeded Viola’s, which are descended from a small pack I bought 3 years ago. They have become indigenous and I gathered them up and filled four large containers with them. They do need controlling, but their little faces bring some early colour and they are useful for decorating cakes and salads in the Summer.
I must confess that I haven’t sown all my vege this year. In particular, it always seems a little pointless to sow courgette seeds, when I barely have space for two of them. Morning sickness also hit me just when I would have liked to make the most progress, so I’m afraid a few things came from the local nursery to get us started. I’m merrily back into my successional sowing now though and hope to keep it that way for the rest of the year.
The vege bed is 1m wide and 2m long. I’d be lying if said I usually made a detailed plan for planting it. Instead, I tend to add and remove things as the year progresses, trying to fit as much in as possible. Salad is usually a priority and regular sowings of lettuce, spring onions and radishes are generally involved. This year I’ve also included quite a lot of golden beetroot and some dark red Pak Choi, which is great for stir fries. I also decided to put beans in, but instead of last year’s overly prolific green beans (many of which are still in our freezer), I included a type of cassoulet bean; a total experiment. I hope it’s not one I regret, but I think it’s good to vary things a bit till you find what works best! I also always include at least one courgette plant, as it’s so useful to harvest them on a daily basis in the summer despite needing very little attention at all.
We also have a couple of little beds we use for chilli and tomato plants. They’re up against a south-facing fence, giving plenty of shelter and sunshine for these crops. We made these from two sets of old wooden palette boxes, stacked on top of each other, at no cost except for the compost and they’ve been really useful ever since. This year we also got a frame and plastic cover for one of the boxes to see if we could get an earlier tomato crop. They are definitely further ahead, but only in flower at the moment so the final results have yet to be discovered. I’ll post about them again when they’re further along.
Despite the raised bed and palette boxes I always find myself wanting space for more! At the moment I deal with this by using large plastic tubs, bought for a few pounds to carry building waste and plaster, whilst renovating our house. They now have a new purpose and I’ve stabbed them with a pair of scissors in the base for added drainage. As much as I would like to replace them with terracotta or wood at some point, they are a very practical size, low cost and have helpful handles for dragging them around the garden whilst filled with soil. This year I’ve used one for sugar snap peas and one for a cucumber plant. Unfortunately the latter was savaged by snails despite my best efforts (including using a plastic bottle as a cloche and I’m undecided as to whether to give it another go. It did enjoy the flavour of our home grown cucumbers last year though, so I’ll probably try one more time…
What always amazes with vegetables is the amount of change that just a few weeks and a bit of rain can make. Cue some incredibly wet Spring weather and spindly little plants explode into an awful lot of salad. I’ll post more about how cropping is going, but we have had plenty of salad for a while now and the Pak Choi have come in handy cooking stir fry on our bbq while we await our new kitchen. Every few weeks requites a little bit of effort to get new plants on the go, but it already feels more than worth it…