Growing my Own

Aug 8, 2012 by

Blackcurrants about ready

I am almost ashamed to admit it but I only started gardening as such about three years ago.  I say ashamed because I have a degree in horticulture (in landscape design).  For years I said I hated gardening and would never, ever get the bug.  It’s a past time for old women right?  At least that was what I told myself.

When we lived in England my 3 year old son saw a woman across the road cutting her grass and said to his dad, “daddy, ladies don’t cut grass do they”?  I laugh to myself now when I think of it because I cut my grass with a kind of frenetic zeal every week.

When I lost my job I had to find something to keep me busy or I would have gone crazy, so I started tentatively growing some vegetables.  I went out and bought seeds, lots and lots of seeds and a small cheap propagator.  I had seed trays spread everywhere and when I transferred them outside, most of them died or got eaten.  I then sowed some seed directly outside and had more mixed success.  The most success I had was when I blagged some seedling plugs from a friend with a poly tunnel.  This was because she had bought good quality seed, good quality compost and had the icing on the cake – a poly tunnel.

Our weather here this summer has been a disaster and I have heard many gardeners saying they will have to admit defeat and put in a tunnel.  We have had nothing but rain and temperatures have been well below normal.  I heard the met office saying the last 4 summers have been bad but this summer has been the worst by a mile.  

Chickens can only look

I discovered the hard way that when you have poultry, as I do, that they are not compatible with seedlings or newly sown potato drills.  Now they are fenced out of a raised area.  In winter I let them in to clear out bugs and slugs and to fertilise it.  If I ever forget to close the gate they are in like a shot.

The problem with a small raised area is that it is necessary to practice crop rotation and to incorporate plenty of compost at the start of every growing season.  The compost is not a problem as I compost all my suitable household waste and chicken pooh is even better.

The chicken wire around the raised bed also doubles as support for peas and beans.  This year my peas are really, really late as you can see here to the left.  Normally this would be the stage a second crop would be at.

Each year I have differing levels of success with different species.  This year has been the year of the rhubarb, raspberry and blackcurrants.  But all the different Brassicas have done well including purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  Two years ago I had a fantastic crop of courgettes but last year and this year they have been really disappointing. My sole surviving courgette plant has finally got some flowers so I am hopeful that at least a few brave courgettes will make it.

I only “discovered” this magnificent cauliflower yesterday and got a bit of a shock when I saw it.  This is because every plant I have grown up to this has failed to form a nice cohesive head, as in the picture and instead looked like a big lacy flower, still edible, but wouldn’t win a prize in the local agricultural show.

I have read and can confirm it is true, that if you have poor soil, plant potatoes.

The soil I have had potatoes in, is now dark, crumbly and friable.  I have dug a few rows of this years crop and have now planted more salad, rocket, beetroot and purple sprouting broccoli in it. 

The best thing by a mile about growing your own is the almost smug satisfaction you get from going out and digging or picking what you want to cook for dinner.  Knowing that it is truly organic, fresh and above all tastes amazing.  And for a confirmed non-gardener like me it really is not a huge amount of work.


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