We love eating lots of fresh veg and salad, so this year we’re growing our own. As you can imagine, I’m very excited. Having grown up in a village where having a vegetable patch is the norm, I was determined that I would do this myself when I left home – it’s just on a slightly smaller scale than dad’s vegetable patch, as we have a MUCH smaller garden to work with. Whereas he’s got access to plenty of flat ground to grow beans, peas, rhubarb, raspberries, enough strawberries to make jam and a greenhouse bursting with peppers and tomatoes, we’re limited to a VegTrug, with a more modest offering of garlic (a happy accident when a couple of spare cloves started to sprout in my cupboard!) carrots, beets, radishes and salad leaves.
However, despite the limited offering, I’m determined to make it work. The veg I’ve chosen is all relatively easy to manage, and doesn’t take up a lot of room – so everything fits in the VegTrug quite comfortably, with some space to grow. We’re also looking at getting a small greenhouse to grow chillies and peppers, but no news on that just yet!
I suppose at this point, I should probably explain what the VegTrug actually is. Effectively, it’s a wooden planter on legs, which comes in a variety of sizes, and arrives flat-packed ready to assemble where you want it. It seemed to be relatively easy to put together for anyone familiar with DIY (I directed the project from a safe distance from the power tools) and Chris had it all together in an afternoon, ready to fill with soil. As it turns out, it takes quite a bit of compost soil – we used a combination of the compost the previous owner had helpfully created in the garden, and topped up with bagged stuff from the local garden centre.
As the VegTrug is on legs, this should hopefully help with keeping some of the minibeasts out, and will definitely help with maintaining the veg without having to bend or kneel down too far to reach them. The base of the bit which holds the soil and plants is slanted down towards the middle, which means I’ve had to be a bit organised with the planting. The middle section is the deepest – perfect for root veggies like carrots, and the edges are much shallower, so I’ve stuck to salad leaves and rocket here, which won’t need quite so much root depth.
I’ve staggered the growth of the beets and carrots, with 2 sowings, so hopefully there will be veg ready at different times and we won’t have a glut to use up quickly, but I can always make some freezer portions of carrot soup and pickled beets if we have a few too many! I’m used to planning exactly what we’re going to eat for the week and only buying those items, so I’m treating this as a case of planning the other way around. I’ll be researching plenty of beet and carrot recipes in preparation!
As for the salad, I love eating salads in the summer, as a side or a main meal, and am very excited to have fresh leaves and radishes available whenever I want them – just pick, wash and eat! While I wait for them to grow, I’m sticking to my growing salad boxes from the supermarket on the kitchen windowsill. These are a great idea, and an easy way to keep salad fresh all week, but they do take a while to re-grow after I have decimated them for a salad dinner…
As you can see, my sprouts don’t look up to much at the moment, although even at this small size, they’re still a little early. This is actually thanks to my over-enthusiasm on the project, and insistence to plant them indoors in March. Don’t do it. Enter snow, and panicked waiting for the weather to warm up enough to plant them out before they became too big for the seed trays, and the whole thing became far more stressful than it needed to be. Take my dad’s advice, and wait for mid to late April before planting carrots, beets and salad straight outside. Even without the weather issues, separating and planting them out from the trays was just so fiddly to do! Not something I intend to repeat next year. But, lesson learnt. They’re all now happily planted outside, benefiting from the recent rainy weather, and the first warming rays of sun. And breathe.
I’ve also labelled them all up with little pegs because I like to be neat and organised. To my dismay, I realised halfway through that I’d bought plastic ones, but as I’ll be reusing them next year it’s not so bad. For people with good consciences, I’d recommend wooden lolly sticks, or cheap wooden spoons if you’re planting with kids and are in need of something bigger to write on!
Now, all I can do is wait. There aren’t any weeds to pull out yet, and the rain is doing my watering for me (which is great, as currently I don’t own a watering can!). When it’s a bit warmer, we’ll sort out a greenhouse, and there are some asparagus seeds to be planted in pots in a shady spot. But until I’ve purchased the greenhouse and pots, and got permission from the chief garden planner (Chris) as to where I can put them (that he’s not about to dig up) that’s also on hold. For now, I’ll just stick to watering my kitchen herbs, the growing salads, and finding myself a decent watering can!