GROWING VEGETABLES

I am excited ! The time is almost upon me. Whilst there is no discernible change in the weather and the sun still drops behind the Moor at a ludicrously early hour, there are signs of life in my garden. Tiny little green shoots are starting to poke their way out of the mulch that was lovingly applied in the autumn. Spring can’t be far away. I know. Don’t laugh at me. I know that any pretence that spring might be on its was before May is just a cruel hoax on nature’s part designed with the sole intention of dashing my hopes. Still, I love to be excited about things and the change of the season is my favourite as long as we are heading up to summer and not the other way.

The focus for my excitement at the moment is my vegetable plot. Although it is the trendiest thing you could possibly do at the moment, I am going to try and grow some veg for us to savour and feel smug about. I had a go last year. I knew next to nothing about gardening. I have spent the last decade having children and so pottering about in my garden was the last thing on my mind. When we moved into the house in 1996 it had a carefully nutured garden. We proceeded to ignore it for the next four years and when we emerged from the pre-school fug, a lot of the plants had given up from lack of attention. I tried to rectify the problems( although not very hard to be fair) but decided that the mountain was too high to be scaled. We had a brief dalliance with a gardener and then I had two more children and there really wasn’t anything to be done by then.

Then we had the extension built and suddenly I had a whole new front garden with almost nothing in it. So I spent this time last year reading and planning and then as the days warmed I spent time and a fair bit of cash in garden centres choosing things that I liked and thought might grow.I was reasonably successful and managed to get things to flower all the way through to the first frosts. ( My winter garden still needs some work.)

As well flowers I thought it might be fun to grow some vegetables. I had a new bit of bed in the back garden and once my hens had gone to live with their mates on the Chevin ( more of that another time) I had a perfect spot to have a go. But where to start? Books on the subject are a bit scary because they seem to presuppose some level of knowledge which I just didn’t have so, rather than be intimidated and consequently put off, I decided to buy some seeds and plant them in the soil. How wrong could it go?

After some consideration I decided to grow things that I had an outside chance of the children eating or that I liked. So I planted peas, french beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts. I followed the planting guidelines on the packets and waited to see what happened. It didn’t take long to see some action. The carrots came first then the peas and pretty soon they were all off. It was really exciting. So I watered and fed and then put twigs in to stop them falling over when they got too tall. I picked caterpillars off in the summer and trapped slugs with coffee granules and pretty soon it was August and the peas, beans and broccoli were all ready. At the same time. Lesson number one. Stagger your planting. I spent a very busy weekend harvesting, blanching and freezing but when it was done I had enough veg to keep us going for a least a month and possibly more. Then as the autumn came the carrots and sprouts were ready. Some of the carrots were a bit on the weedy side but they tasted delicious. A few were comedy shapes and some of my sprouts had been a meal for someone before they hit our plates but I just peeled the outer layers off and they were fine. And that was it. No magic. No secret gardeners’ tips passed down the generations. Just a bit of hard work and lots of water.

So this year I am going to try a bit harder. I shall plant some stuff early in seed trays and transplant. I shall stagger my sowing to extend my growing period so I can harvest for longer and I have added some new things to the list. Onions , garlic and potatoes. I am itching to get going but it’s too soon I think. I shall just have to keep watching those little green shoots for a little bit longer.

What do you think? I'd love to know...