Saturday 11 November 2017

So what are you going to grow on your vegetable garden Roger…

Now that you say you are going to stop growing them?

Growing hardy annuals 
April sown hardy annuals
I have taken my bat home! As a no dig gardener I cannot claim to have stopped using my spade. Too many times have my best vegetables gone uneaten. Too often has my plaintiff expectant appeal “would you like leeks and greens tonight dear?” been witheringly rejected and I have been later served up with some fancy exotic concoction. I cannot add up the times that I have been unfavourably compared to Tesco. How often have I been reprimanded for not producing ephemeral things like basil, coriander and salad leaves to order?
And why are my best vegetables ready when we are not there? I am sulking!

I must confess that the decision has been eased by the knowledge that lovely fresh vegetables are sold in the village as farm-gate sales. Not a fancy trendy farm shop that is a supermarket in disguise. Just homegrown stuff or more often fresh vegetables from the wholesale market. No silly stuff about buying ‘organic’.
For years I have opted to buy their big bags of firm ripe onions. We just love them and Brenda gets through massive quantities all year round. Their ‘dirty’ huge red carrots are a joy to behold. Bought in from a farmer whose main market is ‘processing’ they are unblemished, firm, juicy and delicious. Why should I grow cauliflower and cabbage when not only are their’s cleaner they are so very cheap? I will miss my own sprouts - especially what I call sprout sprouts at the end of the season in late winter.

Well perhaps I exaggerate.
Ungraded I pick out the big ones
I will miss this
......and especially these
I won't miss these
Of course I will continue to grow tomatoes. Nothing can compare with your own. Brenda will continue to freeze them and make delicious soups and sauces to delect us for the rest of the year. 

I stumbled on Big Boy this year as wonderful marmande-type Albenga had sold out. It was absolutely superb
And modern pencil french beans are so effortless, long cropping, high yielding, fresh, tender and tasty. Two successional sowings supply us most of the Summer. I will continue to grow the perennial vegetables asparagus and rhubarb.

Ironically I grew wonderful carrots ‘Norwich’ bought from Mole seeds for the first time last year. (I have recently discovered how to properly use environmesh and let the plants push the material high rather than me support it). 
This year we have grown carrots again which do so well on our sandy soil. Unfortunately I mislaid my large packet of ‘Norwich’ and had to satisfy myself with a couple of very small packets from the rather pathetic range at the garden centre. They have grown very well, are clean, high yielding, shapely and carrot fly free, but unusually lack flavour. They took their first carrot delivery of this year’s crop at the ‘farm shop in July …. and the rest of my own stayed in the ground!

The environmesh remained for a while as a stroud
I will miss my super-sweet sweet corn. But not more scrabbling around to lift misshapen new potatoes.

What to do with my vegetable plot?

This post is not really about not growing vegetables. It is what to do instead and to show you some pictures of my haphazard annuals flung down in a strop. Pity I did not ask Peter to take better pictures than these of my own....

My direct sown mesembryanthemum would have preferred a sunnier summer
These will seed themselves and come back every year
Salvia horminum was much admired on my open day

Escholtzia can be very persistent but that's alright by me
My parsley self sows every year and joined the party
I will be collecting seed to scatter in Lyndi's field
I will grow more 'everlasting' annuals next year
My vegetable garden is highly fertile after years of recycling of all the organic matter it has created (other than what is eaten). It is not as organic black as my previous vegetable garden on clay. Clay soil responds so much better to my minimum cultivation. Never-the-less my soil has a very acceptable structure.
What’s more after nye on ten years of adding my home made charcoal the surface is open, porous and in ideal condition for broadcasting of seed.
Might I add absence of cultivation bringing weed seed to the surface and years of preventing weeds seeding  - occasionally  failing -  gives scattered flower seed a clear weed free run.

I 'throwed' at the edge of the farm field but only a few 'growed'
I ought to mention that when I took my life changing decision that I did have a stock of large packets of annual flower seed bought previously from Mole Seeds. They had been bought for a project involving direct sowing on the margin of the farm field which surrounds my garden. You might conclude that as I have not mentioned this before that it was something of a failure.

One reason for my farm field edge failure was that my sandy soil often gets dry at the surface when so often the weather turns dry in late April and throughout May. My hardy annual seeds were sown at the very end of April. The difference between my present success and previous failure was the nearness of my hosepipe and a few light waterings with finger-over-the-end squirts simulating rain. In April the ground was still well charged with water and only the surface was dry. Only two or three five-minute waterings were needed to get the seed going.
After my flamboyant haste to scatter the seed over half of my 150 square metre veg garden some gaps became apparent. I was able to fill them with several spadefuls of seedlings moved from more densely sown patches. These clumps were well watered in. (Seedlings planted in clumps grow out a long way to find their own space)
Despite my claim for absence of weed seed this is not quite true. I did a little hand weeding and when they were very small I hoed out a few weeds on a dry windy day. I routinely glyphosate spray round my whole garden so any weeds at the margin or in a few larger gaps got a squirt.
Fifteen generous Mole seed half packets have this year fought it out and have provided more than four months of colour. Unfortunately by November the nasturtiums had taken over  - but the first frost has now taken them!

So what shall I do next year?
Probably something very similar to this one. It has looked at times really attractive and the riot of colour was admired on my open day. There is a fantastic range of hardy annuals available and there are many more I can grow and no doubt many of this years plants have seeded. I will report further next year.

My new space will give me extra room for propagation 

Relevant links
My previous vegetable garden was also unorthodox

I take every opportunity to promote Mole seeds

Link and relink to my pieces about charcoal

We ate some Big Boys from a commercial source last week. They tasted nice but not as good as my own. Tasty Toms


  1. I don't think my wife has stopped laughing since I showed her your first paragraph. My moan EXACTLY!!

    Peter W

  2. Have you sown some annuals in autumn for an early ‘crop’? It worked we for me last year. We grow climbing French beans which take less space. The beans are easier to pick, don’t trail in the dirt and are less damaged by slugs.

    1. Not as such Sue, but I have several hardy annuals in my garden such as love in a mist, Nemophila 'Penny Black' and limnanthes which sow themselves and overwinter as seedlings and young plants. No doubt some of the new annuals will sow themselves such as the calendula and escholtzia - and too much nasturtium will be a weed.
      I have already scattered seed from some of the annuals in my project in Lyndi's field

      As to the beans the rot set in when Brenda announced a few years ago she did not like runner beans and preferred french beans - and I think I agree with her but love both - and her!
      I have grown and blogged about runner bean Polestar and wonderful climbing french bean Cobra in my greenhouse. I think climbing beans are useful for awkward places and runner beans are very attractive in amongst flowers but am not sure about extending overall productivity of an area of ground - although i would imagine you have blogged about this.
      As it is some of my normal french beans are wasted. I know I could freeze them but I fear I would be scolded for interfering in the kitchen - as would the blanched beans

    2. What every vegetable grower needs is a four-legged herbivore. I still remember, the day our goat died after 15 years, wondering what to do with the vegetable peelings from dinner. We have sheep now who come in to lamb in one half of our polytunnel. The other half supplies kale and purple sprouting in great abundance but no female with sucking lambs will ever turn it down.

    3. My brussel sprout hauls used to go over the fence to Cathi's soay sheep and later on to her rheas. They will miss them

  3. Note to Brian Skeys - I deleted your test comment and it took the real one out - please try again - Roger

    1. Brian is still having trouble so I am copying him in
      Brian Skeys has left a new comment on your post "So what are you going to grow on your vegetable ga...":

      It worked this time! I stopped growing vegetables for similar reasons to you. I now grow tulips and then Dahlias in the raised beds.

    2. Good idea Brian.I have thought of cut flowers but we are not really geared up to using them - too many house plants!


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