If you remember, I began our journey to self-sufficiency back in March at the beginning of the covid-19 lockdown (Growing Our Own Food – Making a Start). A lot of growing has happened since then, so I thought that it was time for an update.
We are still struggling with a lack of suitable growing spaces for all of our veggies, mainly because I keep growing more, so little by little our small walled garden is being taken over by veg patches.
I started by making a bed in the corner, covering the grass over with a thick layer of seaweed for a couple of weeks and then putting a thick layer of compost on top. Ideally, the seaweed should have had a lot longer to do it’s job of suppressing the weeds and breaking down to enrich the soil. We needed it quickly, so I had to cross my fingers and start planting out my sprouting broccoli, rainbow chard, beetroot and turnips.
I quickly realised that I didn’t have nearly enough space, so I dug up a section of turf along one side of the garden and made another narrow bed. This was planted up with more broccoli and chard. This time I opted for putting down a layer of compost and then mulching with seaweed around the seedlings.
I don’t know if there are just less slugs up here, but so far we have had very little damage to our plants and I am sure that it is thanks to the seaweed. I had heard that it could be used to deter slugs and snails, which was a big factor in my decision to use it and I have not been disappointed.
Back in May, we had a cold snap (Snow in May) and although I am sure that it slowed up the growing process considerably, all of our plants survived. A couple of weeks later, I added yet another narrow bed, this time across the front of our garden.
It’s been a difficult balancing act, because we actually use our little walled garden a lot, for play and lunchtime picnics, even crafting on sunny days. So I didn’t want to take away too much, of what was already a very small space.
We actually have room for growing more than enough veg for our large family, but the rest of the land needs considerable work to make it veg ready. Very boggy through autumn and winter, most of it is covered with trees. It is very uneven, which I am sure is because it has at times been used as a midden or dumping ground for it’s previous owners and simply covered over. In places we find old bottles etc, sticking up out of the ground.
We also have to consider the wild rabbits who have several burrows on our land and who I am sure would enjoy some freshly grown veg, so fences will have to be put in place to help protect our crops next year.
So although we will be starting work on all of this to make space for large outside beds and clearing a space for our polytunnel, for this year we will have to make do with the little bit of usable space that we have.
I have to say that I am really glad that I wasn’t put off by our lack of preparation, because I am learning so much, which I am sure will make next year more productive. It has also given us a clearer idea of what we need as an ideal growing space.
Not only that, but we are actually growing food.
It’s slow and sometimes I feel like it will be Christmas before any of it is ready to eat, but I have to learn some patience. Our salad crops have been doing really well and provided a welcome boost to our fresh food. It means that we don’t have to survive on just tinned and frozen veg for the last week in our three week shopping cycle.
The cut and come again salad leaves that we planted in March are past their best now, as we have used them a lot, but a new batch is already to take it’s place. I am also planting some more beetroot, broccoli and peas, just for their leaves – to add a bit more variation to our salads.
I think that is one of the most important things that I have learned so far, to always have something started and ready to take place of older crops as they finish.
Without a doubt, the thing that I have been most excited about, is my tomatoes. Started with a pack of free seeds (I can’t even remember the variety, although it’s some kind of cherry tomato) and grown indoors in what is now our growing room, they are full of flowers, which are now turning into fruit.
I was concerned that I didn’t have large enough pots for them, at the moment they are growing in old food containers and a pair of my 2 year olds outgrown wellies. They seem unconcerned and if it has restricted their growth at all, it’s probably a good thing, because I don’t have room for them to get any bigger!
They have been enjoying the nettle fertiliser that I made a few weeks ago although I only give it to them on days when the wind dies down, so that I can put them outside for a few hours (it’s rather smelly!).
I started a lot of chard, as it’s something that we all like and we have been using it as a cut and come again crop to go into stir-fries. We even harvested a few of our still tiny spring onions (they just won’t grow!) and despite their minuscule size, they were very nice and added some flavour.
It’s not all success, as I said the spring onions haven’t been thriving and my aubergines and basil look very healthy, but are growing so slowly that I am not sure that we will ever get to eat them. My cucumbers never germinated, although that’s probably just as well, because I really don’t have room for them.
My lack of experience has probably had a part to play here, although I think that a lack of really warm days might have had something to do with it as well. I should catch up on some reading, but I have been so busy doing, that I just can’t find the time at the moment. I will try to read lots of growing books over the winter, ready for next year.
For now, I am happy that we are all getting something out of our growing adventure. Not just food, but enjoyment and an enrichment to our lives.