I went out to the veggie patches this morning. It’s a nice zone, reallyt, basically adapted from what was there already.
When we moved in, the garden was an expanse of grass. We had no idea what was under it. We assumed it was just a huge blank meadow waiting to be mowed.
When we DID mow it, we found paths and walls and things that looked like they used to be flower beds.
Next door said the two large, walled rectangles surrounded by paths, positioned in sort of an ‘L’ shape with a flat concrete section in between, used to be where the generator was before the house was on mains electricity.
I looked at them and saw the perfect spot for a veggie patch – self contained and easily manageable (or so I thought) sizes.
Hubs bought me a (second hand, disintegrating) greenhouse. It was half the size of what I expected my greenhouse would be, & made of corrugated plastic stuff instead of glass panels. Which is a good thing since it all but collapsed the first winter it was up.
(He’s since re-inforced it with a wooden frame of sorts from some leftover joists from another project.)
Along the side of one of the beds, between that and the path, was what looked like it might have been a flower bed…maybe to disguise or beautify the generators?
I got him to build a frame along the back of this long, narrow bed, and last year planted fruit bushes and vines….grapes, kiwifruit, loganberries, tayberries, raspberries and gooseberries, with the intention of trailing the growing plants up around the frame to create an edible wall along the path.
The first year I did anything with them, in 2017, before the fruit frame was put up, I managed a few carrots and a couple of small onions, and a handful of potatoes. The one broccoli plant I tried failed completely…mainly because of an abundance of slugs – on the plus side, I realised how much of a battle I’d have against slugs!
In 2018, there was the whole miscarriage thing, with two hospital admissions, in March and October; which meant that in between I really didn’t have any interest in putting in any effort in the garden; so apart from the greenhouse being reinforced, and the fruit frame built (and therefore me planting the fruit bushes against it…); not much was done on my part last year.
Which brings us to this year, 2019.
The fruit I had planted last year, I had checked on occasionally. It was a 6-pack of ‘crumble mix’ fruit plants from a supermarket I think… rhubarb, goosberries, raspberries, tayberries and loganberries, and blackberries I think; although when I got home I realised the 6th one was missing from the pack so I only ended up with the first 5. I also bought a grape plant and a kiwi plant at reduced price, so I didn’t really expect them to survive.
All were planted along the frame; grapes at the top for the vine to grow up and over the side of the greenhouse; kiwifruit next, then the tayberries and loganberries (I’m still having trouble distinguishing which is which, despite having picked and eaten quite a few this summer already!) then a space where I had wanted to put strawberries in raised beds (still haven’t got around to that one yet), and gooseberries at the end.
I think I planted them a little late, but they seemed to settle in and grow a little before the weather turned and winter set in. Apart from the kiwi; which didn’t seem to want to be there at all. Ah well, I hadn’t expected much from it anyway. The grape vine, however, grew really well, and although I had no fruit of it, it reached the top of the frame and along the side of the greenhouse.
Of course, they all died off over the winter as expected. Earlier this year, I went out to tidy up and check on the area and was overjoyed to see they all, including the kiwifruit plant, seemed to be springing back in to life. That, in addition to having a huge bowl of carrot seeds I’d harvested from the original planting of carrots (It seeds bi-annually, so I’d left the strongest looking plant from 2017, and harvested a few large heads of seeds in 2018, and dried them and kept them in over winter, sewed them in trays in the house at the beginning of this year) seemed to have spurred me on…so this year, I took the plunge and bought a few more seeds to plant along side the carrot seedlings; and the pumpkin seeds I’d saved from last Halloween. I spent a couple of weekends re-weeding the original veggie patch; and the second one that hadn’t been cleared or planted yet. The pumpkin seedlings went in the ‘new’ patch; along with the rhubarb from the ‘crumble pack’ from the year before, which had been in a large pit from the year before.
The veggie patch had a cloche in one corner, that I’d rescued and anchored down with some sand bags hanging over the frame in each corner (I’d almost given up on it last year as it kept being blown around the garden in high-winds!). Inside the cloche this year are 2 honeydew melon plants…again, seeds harvested from a shop-bought melon so being grown to seedligns as an experiment; and 2 capsicum (sweet-pepper) plants, similarly, grown from seeds of shop-bought produce.
In front of the cloche are potatoes (grown from shop-bought potatos left to go to seed), cauliflowers, and turnips.
In the other full half of that veggie patch are beetroot, savoy cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrots and garlic.
They all seemed to take off initially, 15 pumpkin seedlings, which grew and grew and have been flowering almost constantly since June. They’re apparently quite thirsty plants so when we had a lot of hot, sunny weather I was watering them every evening; now we’ve had a lot of rain recently I haven’t bothered and they seem to be fighting for space now & weaker ones are failing. I did get a snippet of advice about thinning them out but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered!! And to be perfectly honest, it’s been pretty much the same with the veggie patch…I went through a short period of despondency. I looked at the amount of weeds that were surrounding the veggies, and the hints of slugs having returned after I’d dilligently slug-pelleted and organically hand-picked and removed them, and felt like I just couldn’t face the constant battle. So the patches were left for a few weeks. In the meantime
Yesterday, just out of interest, I tugged out a few weeds from the edge; and cleared a few slugs by hand.
There were far fewer slugs than I thought there’d be; and the weeds came out a lot easier than I thought they would…so I continued. And then I pulled up a couple of turnips, just to see if it had ‘worked’ (I’ve never been a turnip fan so it was more of an experiement to see if I could grow them than growing them to be eaten!) and there they were; 4-5 suitably sized turnips (I had to look that up, I wasn’t sure what an average size for a turnip was supposed to be!!)
I moved down to the end of the patch and cleared some weeds around the beetroot; and noticed the tops of the root veggies showing at the base of the stalks looked quite impressive in size, so chose a few of those to pull up too; and ended up with a harvest that quite impressed me!
I ended up googling what to do with beetroot leaves and stalks, as it felt wrong to ditch them (I don’t actually like beetroot all that much, shop-bought pickled stuff; only planted them because the seeds came as part of the pack and hoped they’d distract the slugs if they were along the edge, before they got to things I actually wanted!!). I found that they were safe to eat and found this video on a way to cook them with lemon juice and garlic (also dug up from the veggie patch 😉 ) . I gave it a go and that was my dinner last night…not bad, actually!
This morning I had another forage around, pulled out a few more weeds, realised the few broccoli and cabbage plants I have aren’t actually as bad as they first looked with the slug bites in them, and I might end up with something from them.
I know I could (and have) look up expert instructions on all of the things that might be wrong (weeds, slugs, too many pumkin plants overcrowding…and many more!) but I feel like I’m learning more from making my own mistakes – each year I’m producing a little more; and remembering more from what went wrong previously.
When the despondency hit last year, I’d pretty much given up, this year when I started the weeding I found a few more (small) carrots, onions and potatoes that had survived from the year before; and this year, just harvesting *something* edible, and standing back and looking at it and realising that it’s more than the year before, and the year before that, I realise that despite the mess and the chaos and the holey leaves, and my veggie patch not looking like the perfectly arranged and organised allotments I walk the dog past every day; I’ve managed to grow stuff, and increased the edible amount every year.
Today I pulled this carrot out when getting on with the majority of the weeding.
This carrot might look a bit dodgy to you, but it’s already bigger, and straighter (believe it or not!) than what I got from the original 2017 lot (and the leftovers I found earlier this year); and this is not even the largest one from this crop… it is from the seeds I saved from last year, meaning it’s a second-generation carrot from my garden, and already stronger and healthier than my first attempt.
In watering and checking the fruit and veg, when training the fruit bushes to grow up and around the frame, I’ve picked a good few handfuls of berries, and washed and eaten them. I’ve had no fruit from the grapes or kiwis yet but they’re already stronger plants than they were last year; so I’m ever hopeful.
I like to think of myself as an experimental gardner; much like when I’m cooking, really, once you know a few basic things, get out there and give it a go, don’t be afraid of things going wrong, and learn from the mistakes.
I’m ever hopeful that from the remaining beetroot, turnips, and garlic, and from the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, melons, capsicums, potatoes, onions, tomatoes in the greenhouse, chilli and lemon plants in the greenhouse (that might be adopted as house-plants), and the baby pumpkins, I should get more produce, at least enough to ecourage me to step it up and be better next year!
n.b. on a side note, no, the children aren’t that interested in trying the turnips and beetroot! 2 of them have tried the berries and are impressed; and have shared the carrots in the past. But on the plus side, even if I produce enough for me; that’s one less person eating in to the rest of the monthly food bill!