Last Monday evening I wandered out into the garden to shoo off a pigeon that was wandering around in my leek bed. On my way back inside I noticed the first flowers were appearing on my courgettes, and I did a little happy dance. Then, because this is the 21st century, I took a photo and posted it on twitter.
One of the responses to that photo was the suggestion that – if I protected my courgettes with fleece – I could get an earlier harvest. Helpful advice, and a testament to the willingness of gardeners everywhere to share their advice and expertise. But, in my case, it completely misses the point.
I’m not competitive. I’m not aiming for the earliest crops of the year. Nor, despite the fact that I am amazed and thrilled that some of my onions are massive this year, am I aiming for monsters I could put on the show bench. I’m not even aiming to be self-sufficient in veg for any months of the year – the garden isn’t large enough for that. I would need an allotment to have a hope of being our main source of veg, and I don’t have the time and energy needed to keep one up at the moment. Nor do we have the storage space we’d need to preserve the harvest. Instead we support farmers by buying an organic veg box (and we’re getting really good at eating our way through it before the next one arrives).
Last year was a tricky one in the garden. My green fingers were itchy, but there was very little point in doing anything until the paving was finished. I really wanted to grow some courgettes/squash though, so I sowed some seeds and put the resulting plants in containers. When the first raised beds were finished I rushed to transplant the squash – but the plants were dry and the weather was hot and they didn’t all survive such rough treatment.
A couple of them did, and one in particular came to be called The Triffid. The Triffid kept us in courgettes (variety Rugosa fruilana) all summer. Ryan doesn’t particularly like courgettes normally, but he liked these. And Triffid scrambled over the patio. As the autumn wore on without a frost it looked set to make it to the trellis, up over the garage block and out into the world. But it didn’t quite get the chance.
Triffid made us happy (and I’ve just found the last of the courgettes in tomato sauce I froze, so we need to eat those now!) and so we wanted to have another Triffid this year. I sowed a lot of different Cucurbits, and struggled with many of them – I snapped the fragile stems of some young plants, others succumbed to a mystery ailment when they should have been too old for damping off. The Shark’s Fin melon I planted outside died (and those things are supposed to be indestructible!). As did all 3 varieties of achocha.
I’m still struggling to establish a Georgia Candy Rooster winter squash, but I think a second sowing of Shark’s Fin Melon has yielded a viable plant. There are two Triffids, one of which visibly grows overnight. So, in due course, there will be courgettes and we will be happy about that. And we will be happy when Triffid sets off across the patio in an attempt at world domination.
In any given year there will be successes and failures in the garden, and the only reason I keep on gardening is because it brings me joy. And sometimes that’s because I can serve up homegrown veg; sometimes it’s simply because the local blackbirds have brought their fledgling into to the garden to feed.
This weekend I harvested the rest of the over-wintered onions, which had been drying out on the surface of one of the raised beds. After topping up the bed I replanted it with the purple sprouting broccoli – which is looking a bit moth eaten at the moment. In an attempt to ward off the cabbage whites I have sunk a few herbs pots in the gaps – garden mint, lemon balm, buddleja mint and pennyroyal. It may also help to keep the pots cooler; they’re small and hard to keep watered in this weather.
I also potted up my two gooseberries, which were a garden centre bargain a few weeks ago – £5 each for Hinnomaki Red and Yellow, and they had fruit on when I brought them home! They too were suffering in the dry weather, so hopefully now they’ll give a good harvest next year.
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.