Tuesday, 23 February 2010

going to seed

It's been snowing all day, yet again, but I am in denial. I am not listening. I am reading seed catalogues. One day it may be spring again, and chez Hinsliff there is - no really, there is! - going to be a veg patch.
It's not going to be the kitchen garden of my fantasies (brick walls, box hedges, mysterious absence of slugs and snails, me wafting about in river cottage-fashion picking homegrown peaches, etc). And I'm resigned to the fact that most of it will obviously die.
But hey, growing vegetables is the big downshifting cliche. I can't not have a go.
What I want is edible stuff that is idiotproof, quick-growing, of interest to toddlers (we may struggle to inspire a passion for gardening by way of courgettes) and can be grown in pots on a patio - we're househunting, and I don't want to have to leave it all behind if we move. Can just see my husband's face when I tell him we need to cram rows upon rows of snail-ravaged stumps into the removal van.
Ideally I'd also like to grow stuff that's expensive to buy in supermarkets, although (see the Great Potato Debacle of last year), in my experience growing your own tends to involve spending a small fortune on materials in order to produce one weedy runt that would be rejected by Lidl.
So far I'm thinking salad leaves, especially rocket; tomatoes (haven't got a greenhouse, but have a sunny back wall); blueberries (my one sad, nonfruiting bush is going to get a mate, even though it's supposedly selfpollinating). Have done Chinese mustard leaves before which were good, so would like to have a go at pak choi or some sort of vaguely stirfryable greenery.
I'd quite like some sort of bean - I grew borlotti beans last year, which were fantastically poncey and very pretty but I had no idea what to cook with them: maybe broad beans this year?
And I'd quite like raspberries, which will allegedly grow in pots, although I'm not sure how well. But as you can tell, I am mostly clueless. Does anyone out there have green fingers?


  1. I have had *huge* success with blueberries in a pot. There were at least forty last year - enough for one hungry toddler to demolish in about five seconds flat... But I loved doing it, so I say go for it on the blueberries. Tomatoes, I can confirm, go mad for a sunny back wall. In fact I planted them in a pot about four years ago and they've moved themselves to the sunny back wall and won't go away, so if you want a jar of chutney... Can't help on anything else. In fact my River Cottage esque vegetable garden to be is, I imagine, going to be a source of much irritation and many blogposts in the months/years to come...May be looking for some tips myself.

  2. I bought a red pepper plant in Tesco last summer reduced to £2 because it was looking v sad. It grew in its pot with minimal attention from me (the odd watering, and the rest of the time it relied on the rain) and fruited heavily. This was on a Scottish patio. If you think you might not be leaving till autumn you could maybe plant raspberry canes, get a crop from them in late summer then take the canes with you when they die down again after fruiting. I am no gardener so it may be that canes don't fruit the first year or something though. Harvesting raspberries is great fun for the wee ones too.

  3. Sounds like I have about as much experience in the garden as you Gaby and last summer I attempted the same thing. I can say on great authority that tomatoes don't like the climate in Yorkshire, but seems like a sunny spot where you are may do the trick. Potatoes were easy but I got impatient waiting to dig them up!

    I found strawberries were super-easy, and multiplied like rabbits. We got a great tip from our elderly neighbours who were president and lady president of the local allotment society to stick the little legs that sprout from the strawberry plants in the soil and another plant will grow in it's place - and it worked!

    Another little tip to save money is go to your local car boot sales when the weather starts to get better. We found that keen gardeners and members of the local allotment society were on hand to sell the tiny veg that had begun to grow for a few pennies and they can offer great advice on how to plant them and to try and keep them alive. I got some broad beans, strawberries and lettuce plants that I could quickly transfer into my garden when the weather was warm enough and saved me germinating them around the house [which the husband soon got sick of!].

    The strawberry plants in the window box moved with us a month ago, and the rest, well I'll just have to start again in the spring.


  4. My partner does the garden. I hate it, things take too long to grow, months sometimes. Potatoes were fab last year, not enough of em mind. Green beans were really stringy so he might try another variety. Raspberries do well every year against a sunny wall, but they only last a week or so. Tomatoes good. Trying broccoli this year as a green veg the kids will eat. And broad beans. A small niggle: why does nigel slater's veg patch always look so flippin tidy? And he always has fifteen varieties of fresh herbs sprouting away beautifully, no pests etc. He must have a gardener.

  5. Or buy them in pots in Waitrose so they're camera ready!?...

  6. Scarlet flowered climbing beans are really easy to grow and attract butterflies and ladybirds. Just stick a cane in the pot for them to climb around. Radishes are the tops for fast, easy hassle-free gardening - but then you have to eat them! Parsley! Unstoppable. Mint is good too, and basil, to put in your tomato salad with your tomatoes!! Just shove the herbs in a container and may the best one win!

  7. The experience of honest toil ,other than chatting, may be improving .I have sometimes thought that a garden is good image of a Conservative .You spend generations evolving and refining, and then along come the socialists to plough it all up and plant uniform rows of appalling agri product . Its not just the horror of the result it’s the wanton destruction of what there was.
    Perhaps one day, on discovering that the soil and local conditions resist your modish internationalist master plan , you will throw your towel to the ground and murmur ..” I have been wrong …. God forgive me”
    On the day of this epiphany I shall solemnly recite the words of Andrew Marvell who died in 1678.

    What a wondrous life is this I lead
    Ripe apples drop about my head
    The luscious clusters of the vine
    About my mouth do crush their wine
    The nectarines and curious peach
    Into my hands themselves do reach
    Stumbling on melons as I pass
    Ensnared with Flowers I fall on grass

    ..and you will admit, through painful sobs of contrition, that there was indeed a mediaeval warm period.

    Make it so

  8. I found a great book called the half hour allotment which is about maximising returns on effort so growing stuff that makes sense

    We're trying carrots and two different types of peas this year plus potatoes and hopefully sweetcorn ... plus I now have an electric fence to increase my chances of getting some rather than just feeding the nunjacks and rabbits

  9. Gardening is one of the best fringe benefits of dropping the big corporate job. We have numerous fruit trees on our lot. I grow all sorts of veggies year round here in California. I'd suggest you go to the local nursery and ask them about what grows well in your area. The easiest thing to do is grow things in pots. You don't have to amend or work the soil. However, one of my favorite things to do is go out and dig in the dirt!

  10. thanks for all of these - wish i had enough room fo fruit trees biotechdiva! we had a plum and an apple in our london garden and i miss them.
    those who grow tomatoes, what variety do you grow? i had a go last year but they were a bit disappointing -not very sweet (think they maybe didnt get enough sun)

  11. I've worked in horticulture for *cough*ahem* years, so this is home turf. Even though you are moving, there are some things that simply don't work in pots, namely root vegetables. They need more root space. But don't let moving put you off - you can go for quick things or simply pull them as young plants (check the price of baby carrots in the supermarket - you get more value for money pulling them small and sowing a second later crop). Carrots are relatively easy if your soil is well dug before sowing. Radishes are quick to grow. I'd recommend mizuna as a very quick leaf (ready to harvest in only two or three weeks after sowing and fine in a large pot). All of these are child friendly. Courgettes are actually child friendly too, as you need to start them off with one seed per pot on a warm windowsill - so a good gardening activity for a toddler on a damp day at the kitchen table (with suitable floor covering in place!). If you do grow things in pots outdoors, invest in an irrigation kit with a timer - nothing worse than going away for a day or two and coming back to a dried out disaster.

  12. I may try again this year but fear my hand of death will kill everything as usual. Good luck with the growing stuff, Nigel Slater would be very proud of you ;-)

    MD x

  13. 處順境須謹慎,處逆境要忍耐。........................................

  14. Can't remember the tomato variety, but remembered we did also have success with beetroot. One thing I do like doing related to the garden is reading about it and I bought my partner a subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine for his birthday, which we've really enjoyed and found useful. We all read it, including the kids, and it's full of ideas, seed offers etc. including a new section following the life of a raised bed through the year, which is about our size of plot. Can highly recommend.