Monday, 27 September 2021

My Year in the Veg Garden

It's Autumn, the nights are drawing in, the leaves are falling and Strictly is back...

Time flies, it will soon be a year since moving to my new house in the leafy suburbs with a garden. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to give an account of my efforts towards self sufficiency in the garden.

The first job was to install a water butt to collect rainwater for the Summer months. My house is on a water meter and I don't like the idea of paying for watering the garden when I can collect gallons of rain water for free. Luckily, the local water company United Utilities had an offer for a half-price 100L container and also a garden compost bin both made from recycled plastic. It was a simple job to connect to the downpipe of the garage and the container was full within the first week.

The next project was to construct a raised bed to grow some of the root veg that needs plenty of deep soil for best results. I bought a few lengths of pressure treated timber from a local supplier in their sale. This was cut into lengths approx. 2m x 1m...roughly coffin shaped! I then chose a sunny aspect in the corner of the garden and removed the turf from the the lawn and was pleased to see lots of earthworms which is a good sign of soil fertility. My family made good use of the turf to repair patches of their lawn dug up by their dog.


The raised bed was constructed and put in place in early Spring. I then filled the bed with a mix of well-rotted manure, soil and peat-free compost and allowed it to settle for a month or so to remove any air pockets.

I ordered my veg seeds from an old friend Cathy from my days in Devon who runs Tamar Organics. Beetroot, Leeks, Runner Beans, Various Salads, Parsnips, Cougette and Chilli Peppers would be a good start.

Sowing

I have a conservatory to the back of the house and this was an ideal place to sow the leeks, courgette seeds and beans. This started in March and April and I used some old cardboard egg boxes and the middle of toilet rolls (thanks weenie) filled with a mix of soil and peat-free compost. It was really good to see the new shoots poking through after a couple of weeks.

The parsnips and beetroot are best planted out in the garden as they don't like being disturbed. The Spring had a few unseasonal cold snaps in April, also very dry but after a slow start they seemed to get going with some heavy rain and then warm sun in late May. I also put up a wigwam of canes in the border for the beans and transplanted them as well as sowing some spares directly at the base of the canes. The salad was sown throughout May and June in the flower borders.

July turned out to be hot, sunny and dry with temperatures reaching 29C so I was out most evenings watering from the rain harvested earlier in the year. When the water butt was full I siphoned some off into a spare empty wheelie bin which holds a further 200L...unfortunately, with no tap, it was a bit of a problem transferring it to my watering can when half empty!

I think climate change will put a lot of pressure on our precious water supply in the coming years so it seems like a good idea to try to conserve the plentiful amount of rain water and conserve mains water for drinking.

Harvest

For the past few months I have enjoyed lots of organic, fresh veg...at times far too much coming at once so family and neighbours have enjoyed the surplus. The runner beans have been prolific throughout August and September, the beetroot is delicious...simply boiled whole and then eaten still warm with a slice of thick wholemeal bread and hummus. The leeks and parsnips are to be enjoyed later in the year.

Runner Beans, Courgette, Beetroots & Jalapenos

The chilli peppers were grown indoors on a sunny window sill but needed to be put out each day so the flowers would pollinate. In the end, just one plant produced around 30 peppers...not quite as hot as I like for jalapenos but still very acceptable. Some of the surplus was made into jars of chutney by my daughter and was very tasty!

I also have a mature apple tree in the garden which has provided fruit over the past month or so (windfall) with more to come in the Autumn. I had a go at apple pie and also apple and blackberry crumble...certainly room for improvement but passable with lots of custard.


Benefits

Of course, there are lots of environmental benefits to growing veg apart from the cost savings. It cuts down on food miles, much of the green beans sold in the supermarket is flown in from the likes of Kenya. Likewise with salads which are transported many road miles for cleaning and packaging in plastic before distribution to the stores. How much simpler to walk to the end of the garden!

The flowering plants such as runner beans are great for bees and pollinating insects

Jalapeno chutney...delicious!

Also there's the sense of achievement in the whole journey of nurturing the lifecycle of the various vegetables from seed to plate over the season and then composting the plant. Finally, there is the benefits to mental health from just getting your hands dirty and working with the soil and its amazing just how much produce can come from a single small seed. This is not just any old courgette, nor is it a M&S courgette but its MY courgette!

Next Year

So, a good start and already thinking about what to try next year. I like radish so they are on the list, maybe also some celery, peas and different types of beans and maybe some spinach which I hear is fairly easy and also outdoor tomatoes. I will also have a go at preserving some of the produce and also making some chutneys.

If there are any veg gardeners reading, let me know what has worked for you...leave a comment below.

And to finish...from John Keats "To Autumn" seems appropriate:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
 To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
 For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

3 comments:

  1. Very impressive, love all the colourful veg! I too have been thinking about what to do next year - same or different, maybe a bit of both! Not everything I tried was successful, still learning as I go along, including that during dry spells, plants need a lot of watering!

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    1. Thanks weenie...I guess you will be starting from scratch again after your pending house move.

      Yes we seem to be getting longer spells of dry sunny weather followed by long spells of wind and rain. I heard it was to do with the weakening of the jet stream as a result of climate change with the polar regions warming twice as fast compared to the rest of the world.

      I think water shortages could become a big problem in the future so it makes sense to conserve rain water for the garden.

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    2. Yes, I've been using a water butt as I too am on a water meter. And yes, I'll be sort of starting from scratch with my new place!

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