20 Sep 2016

The Spoils of Summer

This year I really wanted to try and learn how to grow more organic fruit and vegetables.  My dreams of self-sufficiency have been playing on my mind even more, but I've never had the opportunity to try and learn how to make them a reality.

As I've mentioned in posts before, our tiny garden does not lend itself to growing produce.  It has two large sycamore trees at the end, as well as being northeast facing and very damp (a slug and snail paradise).  Squirrels live in the trees and like to come and dig things up, along with some naughty neighbourhood cats who thought my raised bed would make a fantastic toilet over the winter.

My family recently moved not so far away and their garden is perfect for growing all sorts of things.  They like to grow a small amount of veggies, but really just wanted me to do most of it for them.  The perfect fruit and veggie relationship; I get to learn and they get to eat!

I still managed to grow a few things in my own garden, namely mesclun mix salad, rhubarb, strawberries and gooseberries, however the majority was grown over at my parent's house.

I had varying successes and still have a lot to learn.  Together we managed to grow a great crop of peas and tomatoes, cucumbers, some rainbow beets and Swiss chard.  Failures included pumpkins, radishes, sprouts and runner beans.

I learned that a garden like theirs, which backs onto woodland, is home to a lot of critters and critters like to mess up veg gardens.  I found a sprout seedling dug up and dumped a few feet away, which was clearly the work of a pesky squirrel.  I tried hard to protect the plants, but I evidently have to try much harder next year!  Another thing I learned was not to plant out the seedlings too soon.  As I want to keep all my growing organic, the older the plant, the more chance it has of surviving the loss of a leaf or two to a slug.  I'm also going to be scouring Pinterest for as many organic ways to protect the plants from pests as I can.
The main thing I learned is that planning is absolutely everything.  This autumn I will be preparing all of the spaces needed to plant things out come the spring and I'll be reading all I can to prepare myself.

Some of my favourite books I've read and which have really helped are the RHS Step-By-Step Veg Patch and The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler.  The Edible Garden is my definite favourite as I love the focus on permaculture, which is a planting system that enables the plants to grow in the way nature intended, rather than in neat evenly spaced rows, which often have the need for pesticides.  Also for the plants themselves to be self-sufficient. I actually have a few of Alys' books, including this one on foraging and I totally recommend all of them.
I still can't get over quite how much better homegrown tastes compared to shop-bought.  There is something exceptionally cathartic about the physical act of going and picking food for a meal too.  I found that I've gained a greater respect for the time and energy that goes into each individual plant.

Despite the failures of this year, the successes definitely have me excited to see what I can achieve in 2017.  I have so much yet to learn, but am excited to do so.  If you have any books or tips that you'd recommend, I'd love to hear about them.  

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1 comment

  1. I love Alys! She had a short series about 4 years ago that really inspired me if you haven't seen it I'd definitely recommend giving it a watch!

    My boyfriend and I had a very similar experience when we came back from Italy last month! We definitely felt like we'd gone up an adult level and totally felt like we could accomplish anything together!

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