Monday, 4 April 2011

Growing Veggies At Home For The First Time

Last year, I dabbled in the art of growing veggies at home...if you could call it that.  I bought myself a tomato plant from Homebase and I planted some spuds in a windowbox.  It was a complete success and I delighted in the juiciness of my tomatoes for as long as possible.  When the time came to dig out my potatoes, I was delighted to have a good number.  Here's a good juncture to mention that the potatoes could be considered nothing more than new potatoes, as they were extremely small.  However, they were sublime and hugely complemented the roast lamb that they accompanied.

So, after having dipped my toe in the water of vegetable gardening and realising that I quite fancied the idea, I decided that I would be brave and give it a solid chance in 2011.  I acquired a lean-to greenhouse, which is perfect for my small garden and I purchased a plethora of seeds to get me going.  Furthermore, I bought a mushroom growing kit (a story unto itself, into which I shall delve later).  Let the gardening begin.

Now, a few months down the line, I thought there might be some budding veggie growers out there who feel daunted and are not sure where to begin.  Then I began to think...perhaps I should share my experiences so far to try and help anyone who is either too scared to get going or is equally as much of a novice as myself.  The added bonus is that it is possible that a veggie growing veteran or two might encounter this blog and be able to offer some valuable advice.

So, let's get going...

The first thing that pleasantly surprised me was the array of greenhouses available.  I was always put off by the size of my garden.  It's not big by any stretch of the imagination and I was always convinced that I didn't have enough space to contemplate growing my own veggies.  However, on discovering that there are such things as lean-to greenhouses designed for smaller gardens, my excitement levels surged and so began a beautiful story.  There are also plenty of veggies out there that can be grown in containers or indoors so don't be deterred if you have a small garden.  Instead, pop into your local garden centre and see what's out there for the space that you have available.  I can guarantee you there is something for everyone in this particular hobby.  Just make sure you place it in a warm, sunny spot in your garden.

I started sowing seeds in February.  I had all sorts of wild ideas about what I wanted to grow.  I was a little thrown when I realised that I couldn't just do what I wanted to when I wanted to.  That may sound incredibly ignorant and stupid, but my knowledge of growing veggies was as limited as you could possible imagine (possibly more).  It is, therefore, important to read the back of the seed packs.  They will tell you exactly when you can sow what, whether they should be sown in seedling trays or into pots or directly to their final location, whether they need planting out and when, most importantly, we can expect to reap the fruits (or veggies as the case may be) of our labour.  I learned that Basil and Mint can be sown in February, but Parsley can only be sown in March and Rosemary has to wait until April.  Chillies too must wait till March and need to be sown indoors until after germination (when the seed starts to grow).  Carrots can be sown in February but peas should go in in March.  I planted peppers in March (as per instructions) but placed the seedling tray directly into the greenhouse.  I wish now that I had covered them in cling film and left them in the bathroom as I did with the chillies as they haven't germinated yet and I'm starting to worry, so that may a useful tip for anyone wanting to sow peppers.

Many seed packets will suggest sowing the seeds in a propagater, which is essentially a mini greenhouse that can be placed on a window sill (well, that's my definition anyway).  I don't have one so I wrap all seedling trays housing seeds  for which this is recommended in cling film and place them on the bathroom window.  My bathroom is probably the warmest room in our house, which is why I place them there but you may have a different room that you would prefer.  The chillies are doing very well and germinated as expected.  They have now been transplanted into small pots and placed in the greenhouse.  When big and strong enough, I'll transplant them into even bigger pots where they will live to bear chillies and make me very happy.

Another great thing to know about is growbags.  These are quite literally bags that you can grow things like potatoes in.  They have a little pouch at the bottom so when the time comes to dig out the potatoes, you can simply open the pouch and dig them out from below.  It's fabulous!  I've also transplanted my carrots into growbags.  This is primarily due to my lack of space.  Carrots grow down, so you need more depth than you do width for these.  By the way, carrots are a great veggie to start with because they are quite resilient and you are more likely than not to have success with them.  The same goes for peas and potatoes.

As previously mentioned, I also purchased a mushroom growing kit.  These are meant to guarantee success.  Unfortunately, the kit I bought came complete with Springtail.  Although this insect is generally more helpful than harmful, as luck would have it they seem to feed on decaying matter and mushrooms.  As a result, the growth of my mushrooms has been considerably hindered.  Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of these delights is to dry out the conditions because they thrive in moist soil.  The thing is, mushrooms require moist soil to grow.  Consequently, I am currently cutting down the amount of water I give to my mushrooms without totally drying out the soil to see if I can at least reduce the population.  If you see these in your greenhouse, don't be repulsed, alarmed or disheartened.  Like I said, they are generally more helpful than harmful.  They are an indication of good soil conditions and tend to focus the attention of things like frogs on them more than on your veggies so no harm done.  Despite my unfortunate experience, I highly recommend mushroom growing kits.  They are great fun and quite inexpensive so if (like me) you end up with an invasion and you can't resolve it, you can always just replace it at very little cost.

As I said before, my veggie growing days are in their infancy so that's about all I have to share for now.  Perhaps, this is not the most informative blog but it's only intended to be an introduction.  As I gain experience, I'll share my successes and failures to, hopefully, help out those who are equally as daunted by this this wonderful experience as I was.

It truly is a magnificent experience that brings with it an immense sense of achievement and accomplishment so don't delay, get growing today.

1 comment:

  1. Lekka one Lou. Now you can understand why I still spend time in any garden... its for the body (some rays) and for the soul. If thats not your thing, at least you can stand back, say "I did that" kick back and have a cold one! Keep it up. Cheers