Absolute Beginner

I am a complete novice when it comes to growing fruit and vegetables. My last real experience was in my early teens when I grew an abundance of lettuce, courgettes and sweetcorn in my parents’ garden. Since then herbs have been the extent of my daliance with edible plants. Legumes are unfamiliar, root vegetables foreign and brassicas positively alien. This is new, unexplored territory.

I’ve recently completed an assessment at work to establish where my strengths lie. It reveals amongst other things that I am positive; strategic; a collector of knowledge, things and experiences; someone who always looks to the future. Exploration is fundamental to me, whether it’s new foods, far flung countries or unusual experiences. I am the person that sees an unknown ingredient on a restaurant menu and instead of enquiring what it is, orders it in order to find out. Rarely have I been disappointed, and this is my point. Apart from obviously dangerous pursuits, a bit of adventure rarely leads to disaster and frequently rewards in a way that maintaining the status quo cannot. Growing fruit and veg is not an extreme sport (at least not the way I intend to do it) so I reason that the outcome can only be a positive one.

Victorian school children would once have used this spot as a playground
Victorian children would once have used this spot as a playground

Earlier this year, although sadly not soon enough to give us a full growing season, we tore up an area of rotten decking and demolished a rickety shed. The deck occupied the sunniest spot in the garden, furthest away from the tall shadow of the Victorian school in which we live. It’s the only space where we could ever hope to grow fruit and vegetables, which are generally sun loving creatures. In place of these ageing features we have built a raised border, about 1m wide and 75cm deep, with broad seating on two sides, affording about eight square metres of growing space. The void was filled with some 240 sacks of sterilised, graded topsoil and 60 sacks of Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost. Quite a task, and one which took four long nights.

Various forms of lighting mean that we can enjoy the garden in the evenings
Various forms of lighting mean that we can enjoy the garden in the evenings

Ideally we’d have given the rich mix of loam, composted wool and well-rotted bracken a chance to settle, but it’s early July and there’s no time to dally. Seeds of lettuce and rocket planted last Thursday germinated within 4 days, and are joined tonight by radishes, spring onions, mustard leaves, climbing French beans and wallflowers. The only way with other vegetables, and in reality we need only a few to feed the two of us, was to start with plants from the garden centre. Within a few days courgettes, three varieties of tomato, peppers, sweetcorn, perpetual strawberries, parsley, tarragon and chives have taken hold of their futures, helped along by gentle rain. There is even room for a clutch of cosmos to provide flowers for indoors. I am already hooked, a hopeless cause, with visions of a colossal autumn harvest.

Tomatoes, peppers and strawberries occupy the sunniest, most sheltered spot
Tomatoes, peppers and strawberries occupy the sunniest, most sheltered spot

In the autumn we intend to plan further ahead, planting ‘step over’ apple trees against the low walls to give us fruit without creating shade. I am toying with the idea of a loganberry or a dwarf nectarine trained against the left-hand wall, which is sunnier and slightly higher. As with the rest of the garden the possibilities seem endless. So many options, so little time, even less space!

 

Our London Garden, vegetable garden, July 2014