Summer (HA!) is coming to an end and my vegetable patch is looking rather bare, mostly because I tore everything out in a fit of rage on Tuesday evening but also because the majority of summer crops have been harvested or have passed their best. Still growing are blueberries (more on them next week), raspberries, leeks, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and, quite unbelievably considering I must have eaten over thirty already, courgettes. Will begin my winter planting soon.
Tunesia from All Things Barkley asked me recently to post on how I started my raised vegetable patch as she’d like to create one herself but doesn’t know where to start. Frankly, I’d be a total fraud if I started to dish out gardening advice. This was my first year of gardening and my plan from the very beginning was to dive into growing food with total abandon and learn from all my mistakes. It worked a treat! I’ve had enough successes to keep me motivated and glowing with green-fingered pride, and plenty of mistakes to remind me that I am a total amatuer and have a lot to learn.
I did promise Tunesia that I’d explain how I started and so here it is. The raised bed, itself, I made last Autumn out of mini-border fences from B&Q. They are all higglety-pigglety and have lots of thick posts holding them up but they are doing the job! Had I known that railway sleepers are fairly easy to get hold of I’d have used them instead. The soil (which must be “graded” – don’t know what that means) I ordered from a local landscaping company and they filled the bed for me. Over the winter I piled manure (obtained from friend with a horse) on top and left it until spring at which point I dug it all over and began to plant.
Quite simply, I planted what I wanted to eat. Followed Delia’s Kitchen Garden’s advice on what to do and when (though I added a month on to all her spring/summer dates as it’s colder up here).
As I said, I’ve learnt a lot. The following are just ten of my many many discoveries.
1) There’s only so much sorrel one can eat. Do not plant a huge row of it.
2) If you plant seeds at the same time they are ALL ready to be harvested at the same time. Plant seeds a week or so apart (in particular rocket and other salad leaves).
3) Not only are courgettes are easy to grow, they also turn into marrows. Who knew?! Sow in a pot, plant out under a cloche and remove cloche when warm weather is here to stay. Three plants were ample for my small household.
4) Brussels Sprouts need room to grow as do cabbage plants. Plant much further apart next year.
5) DO NOT PLANT SO MANY BLOODY SWEET PEAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
6) Pea plants get pretty big too. And grow really tall. Plant further apart and support really really really well.
7) There are lots of different kinds of basil. The one I grew was tough and mild tasting. Wish I could remember its name as I want to avoid it.
8) Carrot flies are not a myth. Thin out and pick carrots in the evening when it is cool or risk having your entire crop ruined. Sob.
9) No matter how brown and dry your mint looks, it isn’t dead!
10) The rate of illiteracy amongst creepy crawlies is shocking.