I’ve been thinking about the garden today. It’s looking pretty gloomy since the snow melted and in desperate need of some sorting around. I’ve gone back into an old album and loaded some pictures from last summer. Just to feel more cheerful about it all. As you can see – I am by no means a tidy or overtly organised gardener. I’ve also had to learn a few hard lessons about how able I am to sustain garden projects. My first year in this house with its small garden, which seemed so exciting after the flat, I planted hundreds of seedlings in excitement and most of them perished without being fruitful. Which left me feeling pretty downhearted about myself. The trick is to pick a few hardy, resilient heavy cropping plants and if possible put them into the ground (consistent pot watering is one of my biggest fails). We’re pretty successful with potatoes but I break the pot rule by usually growing them in containers of some sort…this year we had tyres, two rolled down empty compost bags (start rolled down and slowly roll up as you earth and a couple of defunct hessian shopping bags. They were mostly salad types, Charlottes, Pink Fir and a lovely red type ( no idea what they were as were a kind donation from my mother) and fed us all summer really. I do them in pots as our garden is so small and VERY slug filled and because the kids like it and are competitive – labelling bags etc and totting up the total grown, also they seem to survive the haphazard watering.
Beans are pretty successful as well, as long as I can guard them from the slugs until they’re big enough to resist a bit of nibbling. I had about a 70% fail rate last year and have been saving and baking eggshells since – I plan to bank the stuff round my tender seedlings this year! We usually do french beans as no-one really loves runner beans.
All squash seem to do well with very little input – they do go crazy and take over but I love this Bongleweed effect and think they look luscious and jungley. They also store brilliantly so glutting isn’t a problem as long as you sort out whether you’re growing winter or summer ones. I am completely inspired by my friend Erika (see my blogroll link to Real Allotments) and her growing-squash-through-carpet method and plan to have another patch this year. Courgettes are a similar winner and the more you cut the more they crop – win, win.
I’m going to do better with tomatoes and peas this year I think…. I always try to do tomatoes but they never do well…and the few pea plants that survive are always stripped of peas by a combination of pigeons and my sneaky children – if I could just get a few more to survive I could maybe cook with them…
Also fruit trees/ bushes are a brilliant investment. Regular crops for very little effort and there’s room for an apple tree, a fan trained plum and a crab apple even in my titchy patch. I’d like a quince this year. Hmmm plant day dreaming – always better now, before the bindweed has begun its menacing advance.
Even daydreaming about growing stuff is soul soothing. I don’t feel conflicted about this stuff because my garden is deeply un little woman. Following my darling hippy mums’ example I avoid rows, don’t dig or spray, compost everything and freely mix flowers with vegetables and edibles. It looks (to me) beautifully messy and abundant and is packed with wildlife…including slugs, and feeds us despite my hit and miss approach. I have the usual array of unbeautiful donated and freegled kids toys (including a battered trampoline which is the pride of Z’s heart) but I think they look fine surrounded and covered with plants – my best beans last year grew up the netting of the trampoline cage. I side with Pa Larkin who thought his junkyard the most perfect piece of England in the spring.
Going to continue my new-start-roll by washing up before bed again…not too challenging as we had toast for tea. Ha!