As a child in the 60s, I grew up on homegrown veg – tomatoes picked straight from the vine, carrots pulled out of the soil and eaten raw, and podding peas for a snack.
About three years ago, I tired of eating tasteless veg wrapped in needless packaging, so signed up for an organic veg box courtesy of Locavore. What a joy to taste real veg again! And then I thought about growing my own.
A friend is a member of Garden Organic and in September last year we set about planning for veg growing in 2020. I bought an aluminium raised bed; I put this in a sunny spot in my back garden, placed a permeable membrane underneath, and filled it with a 400-litre mix of organic compost and coir fibre. I was gifted a smaller wooden raised bed; I also bought two bespoke potatoes containers, a 20-litre hessian grow bag and half-a-dozen plastic pots. I already had some big ceramic pots that I usually grow flowering plants in, but I re-purposed those to veg for this year.
A friend and I picked two varieties of seed potatoes and shared, as we both have small gardens. Casablanca was chosen because that’s the name of my favourite film; they were tasty, but didn’t yield a great crop, so I probably won’t grow them again. The other variety, Arran Victory, gave a good crop, with a beautiful texture and a fabulous taste. I don’t know of a more evocative taste than home grown tatties.
I was gifted an Eco Gardening Planner last Christmas so used that for recording my planting; it has a squared section and I used that for crops and dates planted – my inner, organised accountant comes out everywhere! I grew shallots, lettuce, Swiss chard, beetroot, carrots, spring onions, sorrel, sweet peppers, peas, broad beans, radishes, runner beans, strawberries, basil, cress, tomatoes, rocket, mustard, coriander, and courgettes. To keep track of everything in the beds, I used the sticks from coconut ice lollies.
One of the great gifts from my first year of veg growing has been sharing of so many different kinds. I received two fabulous tomato plants from the friend of a friend; the crop from them was superb and it was a joy to share those tomatoes with friends and neighbours. I swapped seeds, seedlings and plants with friends and family, and revelled in our shared enthusiasm for veg growing. My son, in London, has an amazing vegetable balcony and it’s been a real treat to share stories and photos.
There have been many other gifts from my first year of veg growing – going into the garden each day and talking with the plants; getting my hands into the soil and feeling that glorious connection with nature; the birds coming onto the feeders whilst I was working round the beds; slowing down; my emotional wellbeing; a sense of satisfaction and the glorious flavour of homegrown, organic veg.
Planning for next year already!!