The Unlikely Gardener

We have had a terribly British bank holiday weekend. In true British style we planned our weekend around the atrocious weather forecast (then dutifully moaned when the forecasters were wrong and we actually had some sun). Not to be beaten, we carried on with said aforementioned plan and cleaned and tidied the house, worked on the van (more about that separately – that’s a long overdue post), and last but not least, some gardening.

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Now, Sam and I are not gardeners. We take very little pleasure out of it, with the only joy being that it all looks pretty at the end of the day. To get on and do it though, we really have to psych ourselves up.

However, not withstanding my long-held aversion to flowers and foliage, I’ve always wanted to grow my own vegetables. I have visions of being like Felicity Kendall in The Good Life, though if the last six weeks are anything to go by, I’ll probably be more like Joanna Lumley in Ab Fab. It turns out vegetable growing is actually quite hard.

Winding back six weeks, I excitedly bought a propigator to go in my potting shed. I knew that I didn’t want to grow any weird and wonderful vegetables, just wholesome vegetables that we use in our daily cooking. So I set about planting seeds to grow tomatoes, onions, peppers, chillies, peas, courgettes and aubergines.

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The peas grew really well, as did the courgettes, though the tomatoes were a little slower to take. Two weeks later we were going to Chicago for a fortnight, so I took

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the peas and courgettes (then only seedlings) out of the potting shed and planted them into my veg bed so that at least they would get some rain whilst we were away. I also decided to sow lettuce and carrots as it was the right time of year.

I will skip over the sorry tale about the remaining plants in my potting shed; a certain mother in-law neglected to water them often so they had keeled over by the time they saw my watering can again. I thought I could salvage a couple of tomato plants, but it didn’t work out.

Anyway, since we’ve been back from Chicago I’ve been monitoring the veg bed. The peas are starting to wind their way up the stakes, though I couldn’t for the life of me recognise the courgette plants from the weeds. Today I had a really good stab at de-weeding the bed – I hope the three plants that are in a line and have similar leaves are the courgettes! To be fair, the small weeds are not so much the problem, it was the whacking great 2-footers that I was amazed by. How come my vegetables don’t grow two feet but weeds can?! More worried that I had planted some weird lettuce hybrid, I consulted my parents for advice as they grow copious amounts of veg themselves. From a brilliantly blurred WhatsApp picture they confirmed the plant was in fact a weed.

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BUT THEY WERE WRONG. Today, whilst raking over my soil and making it ‘aerated’, my little fork got stuck in something at the root of the weeds. It turns out the weeds were potato plants and I had just skewered a medium-sized new potato!

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I dug around a bit more and couldn’t find anymore in that area, but then came across a few more stalks at the back with mini potatoes at the roots. I was so happy; potatoes were next on my list! I realised the potatoes couldn’t stay where they were as they would disrupt my lettuce and peas, so I’ve transplanted them into my second veg bed where I pray and hope they prosper and produce many potatoes. Fingers crossed!

I’ve also taken the opportunity this bank holiday to sow a few more lettuces, and get started again in the potting shed with more tomatoes, peppers, chillies and onions. Better luck second time round, eh? I have no more holidays planned, needless to say.

Anyway, if you want to take anything away from this post, here are a few tips (which I can by no means guarantee will work):
1. Wait for the potato plants to grow to c. 2 feet tall, flower and wilt and then your potatoes will be ready to harvest.

2. Use 6-foot canes for your peas; 3 foot ones will be overcome in no time at all and you will damage the roots forcing another cane in, even if it is in the same hole as the shorter ones.

3. Plant your carrots in rows/troughs, not individual holes. Even I can’t mistake a green carrot top for a weed.

4. Tomatoes and chillies like it hot, so get a heated propigator if you can (I don’t, so it takes much longer).

5. Get someone to water your plants if you are away for more than 3 days; and make sure it isn’t your mother in-law.

NB. I didn’t mean to write this post in such a sarcastic tone, but I am British and I am also too lazy to go back and re-write it.

Just a little snail getting his wiggle on…

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