I do love to look back on how my veggies have gone each year (well, I did in 2020 at least).
I love growing veggies. I’ll never forget the first year that I grew 5 courgette plants in a sun blessed garden and a friend gave me 8 tomato plants. Himself is only just coming back round to considering courgettes acceptable on his plate after 3 months of me sneaking them into almost every meal.
The rhubarb we had in that house grew its roots under the oil tank and lifted the slabs it was seated on. We moved swiftly on, grateful our buyers didn’t seem concerned.
Since we moved here we’ve had less luck. The garden is North facing and there’s only a small vegetable patch. I’ve tried growing tomatoes in pots and got lots of green ones that never ripen – new strategy this year has been much more successful. My butternut squash have failed every year. The courgettes have done OK and I’ve discovered that cucumbers work surprisingly well.
This year’s vegetables
So this year I planned ahead! I bought seeds in February and early March and planted them in early April. I moved my office around and put the seed trays on the windowsill with cling film to keep them warm. Last year’s porch approach had fried some seedlings so I went for the middle ground.
Small boy helped me to sow the seeds and we successfully germinated tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn, and yellow courgettes. We also planted the obligatory sunflowers and a pot of wildflowers. Once the courgettes and cucumbers were getting too big for the windowsill I moved them into the porch (taking care to water them properly) and gave them time outside during the day. Unfortunately, I forgot them one night and one of the cucumbers got frosted.
But all the preparation and initial success all went down the drain when we had rather a stormy May. Of the ground level plants I put outside at the beginning of the month, within a week they were all absolutely ruined except one, which swiftly went downhill too
Luckily, there were a couple of cucumbers that I hadn’t planted out yet and I’d kept all the tomatoes on my windowsill too when I planted out the rest of the veg. So all was not lost – just my beloved courgettes. However, I still had the packet of seeds, so I started over. This time they sprouted really quickly so were ready to go out only a little behind schedule. I really need a greenhouse. After the disaster, small boy and I decided to have a go a peas as well – turns out they’re really easy. I bought some sweet peas from garden centre too – they were great and so pretty, only when I cut and brought some in the house small boy sneezed solidly for two days so after that they stayed in the garden.
I decided to try a different trick with the tomatoes this year and planted them into growbags – one at the front of the house and one at the back, to see where they were happiest and got the most sun. When we returned from our summer holiday, the one at the front was much less green and leafy than the one at the back – so the joy of the growbag let me drag them round the back to the patio where they were much happier.
By the end of July, the census was:
- Two courgette plants, producing fruit already.
- Two cucumber plants, fruiting already.
- Six tomatoes in growbag and feeling very happy.
- A spreading strawberry plant feeding the local blackbird population, again.
- Several sunflowers – including in a hanging basket, presumably planted by a bird with a plot.
- Five sweetcorn plants in my front bed, tall and looking happy.
- Two raspberry plants (cheapies from Tesco) bearing a few little berries.
- One blueberry plant, not even flowering.
- One blackberry stem, doing nothing.
- A pot of 8-10 pea plants, happily producing pods for small boy to raid before I managed to get them into the kitchen for cooking.
- Some beautiful sweet peas flowering.
- An oregano plant getting out of hand but keeping the local bees very happy.
By late September, the courgettes are all but finished. We’ve had a pretty good run of decent courgettes with only a very few shrivelling away.
The cucumber plants were super-productive. When we went on holiday, there were 18 small ones growing and my neighbour who looked after them was planning to use them to make gerkins (pickles). I’ve lost count of how many have passed through the kitchen and into the kids’ lunchboxes, but it’s been a lot.
The tomatoes are still just about bearing fruit too, we’ve had loads and loads of them – I went with cherry tomatoes this year as the boys like them best. There are plenty of green ones on the plants that I hope will ripen before we get a frost – if not I’ll seal them up with a ripe banana to sort that out.
The sweetcorn have been a bit of a failure – I think maybe they didn’t pollinate properly or I harvested too early or they didn’t get enough water. The cobs had formed but with very few kernels developed and juicy.
Using the veggies
I always torture himself and the boys by putting courgette in everything. This year we’ve had it in quiche, bolognese, a gnocchi tuna bake, fried with garlic many times, and I made courgette fritters (which always come out a bit too soggy, unfortunately). The peas (that I managed to harvest before small boy are them) I just boiled on their own or added to risotto. Tomatoes have gone in lunchboxes, salads, been roasted with garlic as a side, and just been eaten right off the plant.
Here are the courgette fritters and peas, served with hunters chicken, (supermarket) baby corn and broccoli. Yum!
I didn’t throw away the sweetcorn cobs either, I strung them together and hung them from a tree in the garden, hopefully the birds will enjoy the few juicy kernels.
How about you?
Has your veggie growing been as varied as ours this year? What have you done with your home-grown produce?