Growing Pains

I posted a house update back in May that included some pictures from the garden and some notes on what I’d planted – or was going to plant. Four months on and things have progressed: both out in the garden, and up in my head as I plot next years… well, plot.

Not everything has been smooth sailing. There’s been some ‘growing pains’ in getting things to germinate; early in the year I was using the bathroom windowsill as it’s the warmest in the house, but the high humidity (and perhaps my over-generous watering) was causing seeds to rot before they sprouted. I moved the seedlings to the conservatory which gave me a slightly higher germination rate, but it was dropping too cold overnight for things like sweet peppers.

Indoor temps and humidity weren’t the only problem I had with germination. I tried to sow my lettuces straight into the ground and despite planting two rows of different lettuce seeds, only 3 lettuces came up in total. One plant was destroyed before it was able to reach a few inches tall when the cats dug it up and crapped all over it, but I had good harvests from the other two plants well into the summer when they bolted in the hot sun. Although I wasn’t planning on seed-saving from my lettuces, I let them continue to grow even after bolting because my rabbits love the offcuts.

The lettuces weren’t the only plants to have cat-related problems, as they broke several other young seedlings while digging in my veg bed. I had some luck with these plastic ‘spiked’ animal deterrent ground strips from Amazon but if the cats dug vigorously next to the strip, even that wasn’t enough. I also tried using conical plant supports which did work to keep the cats off my bush tomatoes (and gave a small amount of support to the plant which is advertised as “sprawling”).

overview of veg garden with plastic cat deterrent strips and conical plant supports

Talking of my sprawling tomatoes – the ‘Latah’ bush variety I bought from Real Seeds are described as “quite untidy”, “you can’t really train them or support them in any way”. I underestimated exactly HOW untidy these tomatoes were, and the spread of the absolutely MASSIVE bushes. I would say that from tip to tip, they easily span 2m wide. I stupidly only gave them about 50-80cm diameter when planting out, but even so these bushes just keep on producing. They didn’t set fruit as early as I expected, but I sowed and planted later than I probably could have. The tomatoes they produce are a little bit softer/mushier than I would like for a salad tomato, but delicious and flavourful and great for cooking. I’ve not used any sort of tomato feed on these bushes, so the super generous fruiting is quite remarkable.

I also have three ‘Gigante Liscio’ in the ground, although have yet to harvest a ripe tomato from these. They are very large, but for the most part still very green. I’m currently trialling ripening by banana for one particularly plump specimen, because I’m impatient to taste them and concerned about dropping temperatures.

two varieties of tomato with a mixture of red (ripe) and green (unripe) tomatoes on the plant

I had yet more problems with germination with my runner beans, although once established and in the ground these have very much taken over. The weight of the plants and some bad wind (not mine, I hasten to add) brought the plant down sideways but this has done nothing to impact upon its growth! I’m now having to harvest from a horizontal position, which in a way makes it easier to find the beans. I’m considering doing this deliberately next year to see how well it works?

The only thing that has had no problems whatsoever have been my courgettes, unless you count a ridiculously large glut as a problem. Turns out three plants is definitely too much for a family of four, especially when only one of those people actually likes courgette.

young courgette plant with several baby courgettes and large courgette flower

Next year brings possibilities of new plants: I want to experiment with a little root veg. I avoided it this year as it’s cheap and available so easily from the shops, but it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten homegrown potatoes etc and I would love to do so again. I’m keen to get garlic in the ground as soon as possible as the flavour of homegrown is unbeatable (and I eat so much garlic!)

My original plan for the back garden when we moved in was 50% space for growing things and 50% lawn for the kids, but they show so little interest in playing at home now — preferring to go out with mates — that I’ve decided to selfishly take over the garden with my growing endeavours and add more raised beds where I’d planned the lawn to go. The kid’s climbing frame (which I’ve still not put together) is going to their dad’s. We’ve finally got rid of the ‘shit shed’ just visible in my last update at the top left of the garden (img) and hope to use this space for some compost bins.

All in all, a mixed year with some bad starts, but plenty of successes to build on.

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

2 comments so far

  1. Han said:

    possible recipe to convert people to courgettes (I hated them before I tried these)
    slice courgettes into coins about .5cm thick – brush with oil and bake for 5-10 minutes at 180degrees until slightly golden. Take out and top each coin with tomato puree and a generous amount of grated mozarella – return to oven until cheese is melty and browning. Courgette pizza!
    Trick is to make them not go mushy.

  2. Kirsten said:

    I so badly want to plant a garden this coming spring. Seeing your pictures makes me want to plant one all the more. We finally have the space to do it but ran out of time last spring. Those tomatoes that aren’t ripe yet are huge! Beautiful garden!


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