Sep 14, 2011

The First Year is complete

12 months ago we decided to use our veg patch for its intended purpose. 365 days later and we have managed to harvest a multitude of vegetables and salad crops from its earthly delights. A lot of time and effort has been spent along with the initial outlay of finances but the bug of growing your own has certainly taken hold.

So what have I learnt in the last 12 months? I’ve learnt that I can certainly grow my own to a successful level. Many will tell you that growing your own is easy and that anyone can do it and to an extent yes that is true, but there’s something far deeper than just growing vegetables when it comes to “grow your own”. The many factors to take in and understand become second nature. The weather takes on a whole new meaning, often days of dry weather that would normally cheer you up take on a different meaning when it comes to growing your own food. You realise you need the rain and you start to smile when it does rain when you’re stuck at work. The acidity level of the soil needs to be acquired so you can attain which crops will have the most success in which bed. You have to know which types of crop grows well next to one and other and then when the season ends, know which crop type should follow the last, and then there is the war that goes on between the pests and the predators of the insect world. A fascinating sub-subject that I could go on about for hours but that would be digressing somewhat.

It’s not all been plain sailing though and mistakes have often been made over the past 12 months. My biggest mistake surely has to be not covering up the Brussels Sprout’s with netting. They became home to colonies of various insects and still are. I’ve not dug them out though as I want to see exactly what happens right until the end. I’m fully expecting them to not produced any Sprout’s but will happily taste one if it does to see just how destructive an insect can be. Other mistakes I hope to learn from are planting way too much. I was fully aware of the amount I would harvest if all the plants were successful but I accounted for a percentage of failure due to my lack of knowledge and practice. Suffice to say if one plant worked, then they all did. This has been a great lesson though as it now means I could only grow one plant and if it fails I know it wouldn’t make any difference if I had planted 10, it was just destined to fail. One such plant that failed miserably has been the Little Gem Lettuces. Not one seed germinated no matter how I tried to grow them. I tried pots indoors, pots in the greenhouse, and even direct in the ground. I’m pretty sure I won’t be trying that variety next year.

Other failures have occurred purely because of the weather. The normal onions only returned 60% of what was planted with almost every one of them bolting. Learning this was down to the weather has helped forge my plan for next year with my buying more overwintering onions and less summer ones as I had a 100% return rate of them even though last winter was one of the worst ones on record. I’ve ordered 100 sets this time as opposed to 30 and will plant them out over the next couple of weeks depending on when they arrive through the post. At £7 delivered that works out at 7p per Onion and so if I was to work out costs and savings then I would be really happy at those returns. The last failure is one that may or may not be a failure. The Parsnips which I sowed in empty toilet roll tubes went in to the ground and shot right up in to lush growth above ground. Since then though they have died back somewhat and without digging one up and seeing, I have no idea how they are getting on underground. I’m in no rush though so will leave them be for now especially as they say Parsnips need a frost before they should be lifted.

The success stories this year have been plentiful. The biggest success has to be the tomatoes in the greenhouse. Hundreds if not 1000+ of cherry toms have grown from our 8 plants. Only right at the end this month have I lapsed in my watering and feeding leading to the odd one splitting. The remainder have been enjoyed by the family all summer long and with only half of the top trusses left to go through, will see no green ones left standing. A £2 outlay for two packets has given us god knows how many it would be to buy from the supermarket. This though is a slight false economy as we would never buy that many cherry tomatoes if we were not growing our own. This is one of the main reasons why I decided not to keep a chart of the money side of things as we would be eating far more than what we would normally do across the board. Instead we just enjoy the harvest.

So Summer has now gone and Autumn is well and truly here. Christmas adverts are on the radio and we even have Christmas presents building up in our bedroom so time never stops and whilst the veg patch is winding down there are still vegetables growing on. The sweet peppers are still coming along. New flowers appearing on the plants which give way to the small peppers. The night time temps are dropping though so I’m certain a frost will check their growth and end any future peppers. The last of the runner beans will need picking. Only a handful is left so I shall cut off the plants at ground level and leave the roots in to rot down ready for next year. The cabbages will need lifting out soon as they have outgrown their stay and whilst they finally took, have been far too late in the season for us to enjoy. The Leeks are still growing nicely and the carrots in the old potato bag are looking nice too. The new veg has started to appear aswell so I have a lot to do this month and not a lot of time to do it with the sun setting as I arrive home from work. I was washing off the sun shade paint from the greenhouse tonight and because light was so poor didn’t see the edge of the glass which has scratched me. Might have to wake up earlier and tackle these jobs!

Other jobs that will need doing include covering the new veg with fleece and/or the small polytunnels I have kept. Bubblewrap the greenhouse for insulation, and finally hoe the new weeds that are still growing on. It never stops J Thanks for reading.