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7th August 2020

Venturing into veggie growing

Dr Honey Smith

What a strange few months it has been, when Covid-19 caused a shortage of white flour, of all things… clearly we all had the same thought about returning to some of the simple pleasures in life; freshly baked scones topped with homemade jam and cream fresh from the cow… well, perhaps not quite, but certainly plenty of people had their first foray into personal food production this year, and for many that meant vegetable and fruit growing. Not to be outdone, I joined in with enthusiasm but zero skill.

I had actually bought a raised bed before the pandemic, with a further triumph of hope over expectation after years of miserably pathetic attempts at vegetable growing. The slugs got more out of my 3 pumpkins last year than our family did. I hoped that a raised bed would help me with a fresh, weed-free plot, where my vegetables could flourish without having to compete with years of well established “wildflowers”.

There were a few early hitches and my husband James was amused and bored in equal measure with my reports of my failures – ungerminated cornichon seeds, mysteriously pulled up parsley (we never solved that mystery) and tiny pumpkin seedlings demolished by an over-enthusiastic bush-trimming gardener…

I’m not the most patient of individuals, and waiting for life to emerge from my raised bed produced daily complaints of my failure as a gardener, which doubtless would have driven James into shoving my head into a bag of (peat free) compost if eventually brave little seedlings had not appeared to dispel my laments. A badger had had a good rootle through my carefully geometric seed lines prior to their germination, to produce a rather more avant-garde mixture of coriander, spinach and carrots in a Jackson Pollock-like arrangement, but at this point I didn’t care – I was cock-a-hoop at the fact that I had grown anything at all.

Then comes the joyful part – watching these new creations grow and flourish on a daily basis. I made quite a few mistakes – the lettuces were planted so close together (and not thinned out sufficiently) that they became exceedingly elongated and caused much hilarity. I forgot that I was supposed to bank up the potatoes as they grew, to prompt more tuber production, so that the harvest so far has consisted of, literally, a child’s handful of new (euphemism for tiny) potatoes.

But the joy of eating our own lettuce, beetroot, courgettes, coriander and spinach fresh from the ground (and knowing that no chemicals were involved in their production) has been immense and I am already planning the next season of growing. I suspect by this time James will have stuffed a couple of (organic) socks in his ears.