We started our vegetable growing adventure in Orkney back in March, at the beginning of the covid-19 lockdown. At the time I didn’t really expect to have much success. Having only moved to the island in November 2019, we hadn’t yet had a chance to get a polytunnel up and our only indoor growing space was a little mudroom area at the front of the house. This tiny space also had to double as our storeroom for groceries. Added to that, we didn’t have anything to grow them in and during the initial stage of lockdown we only had 3 bags of compost.
I am so glad that I decided to give it a go with the little that we had. I have learned so much and for the past couple of months we have eaten something that we have grown everyday. You can see more about those early days in Growing Our Own Food – Making a Start
My favourite thing to grow so far has been tomatoes. From a free packet of seed and some old plastic containers (plastic fruit punnets, bottles, large margarine tubs etc), we have grown 11 plants on the windowsill. Each one has so far produced around 20 tomatoes and still more are coming. I am amazed at how well they have done, given their limited growing space. Then in May, we were given some Green Zebra tomato seed from Vital seeds
We started them off in some tetrapak milk cartons on the kitchen windowsill and they grew so quickly, that they were soon catching up the Maskotka that had been planted a couple of months before. They have since been planted into some plastic storage tubs, that we had left from moving up to Orkney. It was clear that they were going to be enormous. The tubs are on the floor of our tiny growing room and they have nearly made it to the ceiling! Flowers started to bloom last week, so we hope to have tomatoes from them very soon.
A lot of this year has been about learning, so that I am ready to make a real go of the polytunnel next year. With that in mind, I have just started another 4 green zebra seeds, to see how late in the season I can grow tomatoes indoors. Planted a week ago, the seedlings are already up, so we will wait and see how they perform.
Our other main crops have been leafy veg. We have started batches of cut and come again salad leaves regularly over the past few months (again in our little growing room) and they have provided us with a welcome supply of fresh greens. I planted rainbow chard, beetroot, turnips and broccoli out in our walled garden at the front of our house. We ate some of the broccoli leaves when the plants were young, but they quickly became too tough to be much use. They have also taken ages to grow and used up a lot of our small space, so I’m not sure that I would bother with them next year.
The chard has been used as a cut and come again for stir-fries and soups and we have only had a small amount of pest damage. I have been really impressed with the turnips, which as well as the root providing some welcome crunch to stir-fries, has a mass of leaves that are very tasty and stay tender enough to use, even on a mature plant.
We are yet to pull our rainbow beetroot, although I think that it will only be another week or two until they are ready. I have harvested a couple of leaves form each plant for the last couple of months to use in salads etc and the leaves keep coming, so they have definitely earned their place in next years garden as a double cropper. I also have some younger plants started, so we will see if they manage to mature before the end of the season.
Later additions to our garden, have been Pak Choi and peas. The Pak Choi grew incredibly quickly. It has definitely been the quickest from seed to plate. We have used it raw and cooked and it has been equally delicious both ways. I have ordered more seed to grow in the autumn, as my mind has started to turn to green goodness for the colder part of the year.
We started the peas rather late, but they are growing well and are now in flower. I was very sad to lose a few plants this week, due to 50 MPH winds that battered our poor garden. Fortunately everything else survived and we still have a good number of pea plants left. I would probably grow these in the polytunnel next year and start them much earlier.
I know that people often say that it’s not worth growing peas, but I think it’s worth it to get some fresh peas from their pods and they have the added bonus of beautiful flowers.
I have just started three varieties of kale and some spinach to grow over autumn and I have ordered some Tatsoi seeds as well. I’m going to keep as many as I can indoors, for as long as I can, to give them a good head start. Hopefully August will see the arrival of our polytunnel, so a lot of clearing work needs to be done over the next couple of weeks.
I am looking forward to a very productive growing year in 2021 (fingers crossed!).