An enthusiastic amateurs tale of lockdown gardening
This monthly article is all about what our family has started growing since the pandemic started – we will cover the veg patch in the garden, small allotment in the village and trough of herbs. We’re certainly not experts but we do have a passion for growing, and are happy to share our experiences (and plants) – good and bad.
During the first lockdown, my children and I dug a veg patch at the end of our garden and were persuaded to take the last allotment in the village (its scruffy state was making the other allotments look bad). We have access to a large pile of ‘black gold’, years old horse manure that your spade goes through like butter. So, many, many barrowful’s later we had enriched the soil and were ready to go.
Last year was a reasonable success and armed with some ‘self-help’ vegetable books we were primed for this season.
With the weather remaining cold and the threat of frost only just passing, in May, all our village gardeners were behind where we would normally be at this time of the year. The word is that, even at the end of May, it’s still too early to plant out.
Cold frames were bursting with amongst other things, courgettes, tomatoes, sweet peas, corn and sprouting broccoli.
So far we have gifted 14 courgettes (as well as 54 sunflowers!) and have received strawberries and purple sprouting broccoli from other generous villagers.
The recent June sunshine has, at last, allowed everything to be planted out. Last week we were in bobble hats, this week we need sun cream!
Garden veg patch and cold frames
Having had much success with sugar snap peas (variety Sugar Snap), we have now dedicated one third of our garden veg patch to grow more this year. We have sturdy supports for them and planted the first row on 16th May. We will plant additional rows every 10 days and this succession planting will ensure we can pick them all through the summer.
Our rhubarb, Timperley Early, has really established itself and we’re running out of recipes to use it up. Some will end up in a box on our garden wall – free for other villagers to take and use.
We now have a home-made cold frame, which was created using an old pallet and some heavy duty polythene. It’s currently full of other crops at the moment, but it will be given over to tumbling tomatoes come better weather. After much research we have gone for Tomato ‘Red Profusion’ as it appears to be one of the best basket and container varieties available.
We also bought an additional wooden cold frame from Aldi, which was an absolute bargain and has now sold out. We Danish oiled it when we first got it to try and preserve it. Our sunflowers for the village competition are currently residing in it.
During lockdown we planted a range of raspberries, some we bought, some we were gifted. Unfortunately, we didn’t make a note of which were summer and which were Autumn varieties and therefore we haven’t known which to cut back to the ground. As we’re in doubt we’ve left them all.
Instead of the beetroot, carrots and parsnips we grew last year, this year we have been given a tray of strawberry plants. I have been reliably informed that they shouldn’t go in until well into June and so we will wait.
Having weeded thoroughly six weeks ago, we walked up the allotment this weekend, only to be faced with more pesky weeds that now need digging up. I should have been checking it more regularly as a spot of hoeing would have done the trick if I’d caught them early enough.
After growing a profusion of green beans last year and having such a glut that some inexcusably went to waste, this year we are going to use our A-frame structures to grow sweet peas. We have gone for Horizon Mixed Flower seeds, this variety was selected as we will be cutting them and they are heavily scented with a much longer flowering season than some over mixes available.
After a slow start our two gooseberry plants and also the currants are now doing well.
We plan to plant out our sweetcorn (currently in cold frame) soon, following the tradition pattern of planting in a matrix 30cm apart. However, we may have sown our seeds too early and the roots systems have got disturbed. They’re not looking too great. We may have to resort to planting out directly into the soil.
We have a fennel which didn’t quite manage to get to its full 5’ height last year, but it’s doing well with prolific feathery blueish green foliage.
We bought a large cast iron trough from eBay a few years ago and my daughter has planted it up into a herb garden. We have a range of plants including, three types of thyme, sage, flat leaved parsley, chives, curry plant, oregano, dill and a red flowered sage (whose name we can’t remember). We also have a variety of mint and lemon balm in pots. We have ongoing problems with thyme, it just doesn’t want to grow, it always looks like it’s struggling – suggestion please?! Having added the parsley last year it has now taken over and we have to keep removing it in clumps.
Indoors we have planted coriander and basil, both going well, although the coriander is ever so leggy. Our chili plants grown from seed are now ready to be potted on and if they deliver what was on the seed pack, they should be perfect for a good patio display.
Thank you for reading and come back soon for an update.