Posts tagged ‘victory garden’

Garden successes and failures

Someone on SSish started this thread, and I thought I’d post it here as well so I can refer back to it more easily.

Things that have done well this year are:

cut and come again lettuces
strawberries (few and far between, but tasty)
tomatoes (so far so good)
most herbs
chillies, esp the indoor ones

Things that haven’t done so well are:

butternut squash and pumpkins – lots of flowers but no fruit, even with my hamfisted attempts to pollinate them myself
pak choi – all got slug-munched, but if I had been more assiduous with the beer traps they might have been okay
peppers – just would not grow from seed, had to buy plants (though all seem to be doing okay now)
blueberries – only one of 3 bushes flowered, but the berries on that one were yummy

I’m a bit anxious my peppers won’t ripen. Scientist Boyfriend mentioned that he saw some of those plastic mini-greenhouses in Woolworths for £5 so I might invest in some, though not unaware of the inherent contradiction of buying lots of cheap plastic things in order to free myself from the system of just buying lots of cheap plastic things. I think I also read something about needing to cut off the tops of the plants so the existing peppers can ripen, but I can’t remember where I read this or if in fact I dreamt it and it is, in fact, not true at all.

Next year: be more vigilant with slugs and research squash sex more thoroughly.


September 5, 2008 at 9:47 am 1 comment


I’m still here, but have been more than usually engaged in real life – have been doing lots of interesting things at work rather than just writing up meetings and seeing lots of uni and gap year friends, and the weather’s been lovely and amongst all that I haven’t really felt like paying too much attention to the internet, nice as it is.

I’ve been rather neglectful of my garden, however, and am now worried my potatoes have blight but I think this is unlikely to be a direct consequence of anything I have done or not done and more likely because the weather was rather damp for quite a while. We have acquired a table on which we can eat outside and most time spent in the garden is now spent drinking sauvignon blanc and eating dinner rather than digging. I’ve also managed to write, ooh, a whole page of my novel. This is progress, but only compared to what I’ve achieved in the last year.

I’ve eaten some peas and they were yummy and some new potatoes (lifted the whole crop today and they were all fine) which were quite possibly the nicest potatoes I’ve ever eaten. Two of my blueberries appear to be ripening and my bean plants are covered with mini-beans. They’re also being rather aggressive towards the peas, taking over all their stakes, as well as sending off shoots to climb the potatoes or the honeysuckle hanging over the fence from next door, and one enterprising shoot sent itself two feet into the air and, finding nothing to climb, is now climbing straight down the cane again. I’m beginning to see why the story was called ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ rather than ‘Jack and the Tomatillo’ or ‘Jack and the Pak Choi’.
I started knititng the second sock but had to unravel it and start again as it all fell off the needles and I got confused. I’ve managed to do quite a lot this week. There was an article in the Guardian about the type of people who were going to be least affected by rising inflation, and it was basically anti-social knitters who walk everywhere, but really prefer to stay at home, drink vodka and have sex rather than fly on holiday and go to the cinema.

So, that’s what I’m doing this winter then!

July 26, 2008 at 7:56 am 3 comments

Not evicted!

Well, our landlord came to inspect us yesterday. We were slightly worried what they’d make of the 5 demijohns of wine, plastic bottles full of other suspicious-looking home-brew and the sheep fleeces in the study, or whether they’d agree that ‘maintaining the character of the garden’ could accommodate the acquisition of a dalek and the depositing of wine boxes with salad in them in every available space, but Scientist Boyfriend said they were ever so impressed we were growing so much stuff and that I’d made 10 jars of jam and agreed to all our requests to tinker around with the garden and put up curtains.

So, I’m allowed to dig out the spindly-looking fern out and replace it with something. Scientist Boyfriend wants veg, I want things for bees. Or we might put some fruit bushes in, so future tenants will benefit too. We’re also allowed to put in a water butt. I wonder if this will mean we’re doomed to get no rain and thus counteract the summer-destroying effects of the garden table, or if the weather pixies will get so confused about which to avenge us for that order in the cosmos will break down…

Now I have to figure out how to turn the curtains in our cupboard into something that will fit on our window before next winter. Hmmm….

July 9, 2008 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

Sheep and strawberries, cats and peppers

When my parents moved to the country when I was about five, to live the good life at least at weekends, I was extremely excited about the prospect of the strawberry patch.

I was extremely fussy about vegetables, but summer fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, nectarines, peaches etc – were top of my list of favourite foods and reasons for being alive.* We went on holiday that first summer and I was assured that on our return the strawberries would be ready to eat.** My excitement mounted all the way home, and when we arrived we found that the sheep that were meant to live in the field behind our house had broken through the fence and happily munched their way through the entire crop.

I was absolutely devastated, and this is probably a not insignificant contributor to the fact that I became a dedicated frustrated urbanite throughout my teenage years, until I left home and realised the town wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and may also have been why my dad’s vegetable growing remained rather small-scale for many years.

This morning, I discovered nefarious goings-on afoot in my garden. Some creature (probably a cat) had dug up one of my pepper plants overnight and left it on the patio. I popped it back in the grow-bag and gave it a good water, but it might not make it. What cheek!

And a pepper as well. They’ve been causing trouble from the start. I had a germination rate of about 0.00005% and of that only one surviving seedling remains, and it’s still very much a seedling, not a plant. I managed to acquire three plants on Freecycle which are now happily, slowly growing in a sunny spot in my garden. And now, of all the plants the ruddy creature could have destroyed, it went for the least replaceable. Mr Sod, his law (again).

I suspect a villainous feline. I might post confirmed cat-hater Scientist Boyfriend on sentry duty with a water pistol.

But I realise it’s just par for the course. After all, if all I wanted was a steady supply of peppers, I could just buy them in T*sco…

*I only really liked one type of vegetable, carrots, but ate various others under duress and adored fruit. My brother ate a bigger variety of vegetables, but no fruit except apples. I can’t wait to have children…

** It strikes me now that that must have been late August, as I had my birthday while we were away that year, and I’m harvesting strawberries now. Perhaps I should allow Scientist Boyfriend to convince me to move west instead of north…

June 23, 2008 at 11:27 am 3 comments

Boyfriend vs. citrus fruits

I don’t normally buy Dorset Cereals muesli, even though they’re fab, cos M&S unsweetened is quite a bit cheaper and almost as nice, but secretly, I long to be a little bit richer (or a little bit more decadent) and eat it everyday because it is so yummy. However, Waitrose had lowered the price of some flavours and I bought some last week to save me a trip, and it had an offer to win some trendy, middle-class, Guardian-reading-type gardening tools. And I’m a bit of a sucker for offers like that, so I typed in the code on the website and didn’t win 😦 but it did have codes for discounts on various gardening websites.

The last two winters I have been eating locally as much as possible, and one thing I have learnt is that it is much easier to make the bulk of your diet local if you can rely on things like chillis, lemons, limes, garlic and ginger, none of which are particularly abundant in these climes in the depths of December, to jazz the cabbage-and-swede routine up a bit. I’ve not felt too guilty about eating the imported ones, but it did get me thinking about the possibility of growing some of these things myself, in a long-term, post-oil resilience sense.

Garlic should be fine (though I think my experiment with the stuff that sprouted in the veg rack might be doomed to failure) as in theory I can grow loads of it when I have my allotment and plait it artfully and hang it in my kitchen. I repeat, in theory. We do eat a lot of garlic.

I also recently bought a chilli plant, the particular variety (prairie fire) supposedly being good to keep as a perennial houseplant. This was inspired by some old family friends of Scientist Boyfriend who had an enormous chilli plant that was taller than me, living happily on their south-facing dining room windowsill. Mine is more modestly sized, but it does have little mini baby yellow chillis on it already. Eeeeee, so exciting! 😀 Someone from Downsizer also gave us another chilli plant (which I think produces rude-shaped chillis) which is outdoors atm as an experiment.

Ginger would need to be indoors according to my research and might not be as easy. Need greenhouse or polytunnel.

But lemons (and by extension limes)….

I went to a French cafe in London and they had a little lemon tree sitting in a pot on a cast-iron table and since that moment I’ve been obsessed with the idea of having a personal supply of lemons in my front room. It’s south-facing and quite warm and we have a little tiled spot in front of the fireplace where we could put it. However, Scientist Boyfriend is being a bit of a spoilsport and saying we don’t have room for one so he’s not going to buy me one for my birthday. Harrumph. We do have room for one by my estimate – I think he’s just worried it will block his view of the telly with its glossy, dark-green foliage.

And now this online gardening shop, where I have a 10% discount, has lemon trees for about £20. It also has an offer where you can buy a lemon tree, a bottle of gin and some tonic water, which, even though tonic water makes me violently ill,* appeals to my sense of self-sufficiency-in-the-name-of-good-living. (Sandi Toksvig was on The News Quiz only the other week bemoaning the rising price of lemons.) And they have bay trees (I also have a peculiar desire to have two bay trees either side of my front door, but people might mistake the house for an Italian restaurant). The bay trees could live outside, over which I definitively have dominion, so that’s not an issue, but….

Do I want a lemon tree enough to risk incurring the wrath of my beloved and long-suffering boyfriend?

* Had malaria, was given quinine, now a mere whiff of tonic water conjures up horrible flashbacks of being in a dingy clinic in Burkina Faso and makes me double up in agonising queasiness.

June 16, 2008 at 2:12 pm 1 comment

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Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."