The Vegetable Allotment
But In A Small Garden

The Diary

The vegetable allotment in a small garden.

This page is devoted to my gardening efforts - some successful, some not so successful. Just a case of trial, error and enjoyment. It is a case of starting from scratch which makes it all the more interesting and entertaining. It was not extended past 2011 as being a small plot, this would have meant too much repetition.

This diary is mainly intended for new comers - like myself - on how to grow vegetables in a vegetable allotment in a smallish garden - but old hands may well find a useful tip or two here.

Also included will be recipes or tips designed to cope with the hopefully, resultant crop, with the save money theme kept well to the fore.

Even at the very worst, you will probably be provided with a laugh at these efforts in the vegetable allotment, in which case, it will be counted as success!

Life can sometimes be a trifle dreary – so come and join in the fun.

Let's take pleasure in growing our own food!

Also, don't forget to take a look at our other pages Gardening Tips and Garden Pests.

October, 2014

Some alterations have been made over the past couple of years. As raspberries are always more expensive to buy than strawberries, all the strawberry plants have been given away and the fruit cage now consists of just raspberry canes. Delicious is the word.

Tomato plants (just three as they crop so well) are now located in the vegetable cage. This year Alicante cropped so well with plenty to give away to friends. Only one courgette is now grown as this provides sufficient for my needs. The rest of the space is used either for onions one year and whatever takes my fancy during the next. The choice is varied as this is good for both the land and vegetables. The plot is manured every year with home made compost which helps to keep the yield of the plants high. These slight changes of plan help to maintain interest and save money.

May, 2011

What a difference sun and rain make to the garden. The Chinese broccoli has now germinated, plus the rest of the beetroot seeds. The French beans and Chinese leaves are all growing well, the broad beans are enormous, as are the onion sets and garlic. The potatoes are doing well and have been earthed up for the last time. So everything in the garden is lovely.

On the 'fruit side' the strawberries are fruiting well. The Pinova (apple) bush size tree is setting fruit and I have been told that as this is the first fruiting season to allow just one fruit per spur.

This Gardening Diary has now been active for just over two years, during which time most subjects have been covered for the space of allotment here.

Vegetable gardening is easy and very rewarding. Apart from the satisfaction of 'growing your own', there is the knowledge that the produce will taste better, be fresher and cost a whole lot less than that available in the shops.

This therefore will be the last entry to this Diary. It has been great fun reporting the 'going's on' here and I hope it has given you pleasure too - dear Reader.

Have a try for yourself and be surprised.

Do enjoy the rest of this web site as it continues to grow.

April, 2011

The remains of last year's Boltardy beetroot seeds have been sown, along with a new variety, Moulin Rouge. Also sown are the Chinese broccoli, French beans and just a few Chinese leaves. Only the Boltardy beetroot have surfaced at the moment. What is needed is a couple of long, gentle showers of rain.

So far so good - the solar mole repellents seem to be working. Two are set in the soil - one on either side of the garden. The breeding season of a mole is from February to June, which means that we are half-way through. It is a case of fingers continually crossed. Apparently there is the most activity whilst the males are seeking out a female with whom to mate.

More strawberry plant mats have been made to cope with the extra strawberry plants planted to replace the raspberry canes that were removed last autumn. The old raspberry roots continue to throw up shoots amongst the strawberry plants. Digging these out would disturb the new plants, so these shoots are being individually painted width neat SBK. Easy and lethal.

Two re-usable grow bags (dark green plastic type fabric with drainage holes) have been bought as these will accommodate more potting compost for the future tomato plants. This will make watering easier as the limited amount of compost in a standard Growbag presented a problem regarding drying out during last summer. The variety Alicante are being tried this year.

All the Marfona potatoes are shooting well out of the soil and are looking good.

March, 2011

The appearance of the sun always puts a brighter slant on everything, in particular gardening. The garlic that had not broken surface last month is now in full growth and has inspired a totally different outlook on the vegetable plot.

This year two chances are being taken. One, a totally new type vegetable is to be sown. Chinese Broccoli - Kailan Kich. I read about this in a national newspaper and decided to give it a try. A supply of seeds was found via Just Seeds on eBay. Life is full of surprises. The service was very prompt which is encouraging and I hope the seeds will perform as well as the supplier. I will be sowing them tomorrow and reporting progress.

The other chance to be taken is that I have some of the very expensive Chinese Leaves seed along with some courgette seeds left over from last year - these will be sown in the hope that they are still viable and will germinate.

The Marfona potatoes are chitting well but they will not be sown in plastic carrier bags - see photo June 2010. A similar but slightly different method is being tried. I have been saving empty compost soil bags and will be turning them inside out, making drainage holes in the bottom and planting up as before. Apparently the black on the outside of the bag makes for warmer growing conditions. I shall roll the bags down when the potatoes are first planted, increasing the height of the bag as the plants grow larger and are earthed up. We shall see! This is what this page is all about - experimenting in the vegetable allotment.

February, 2011

The Marfona seed potatoes are already set for chitting in egg boxes on the spare bed-room window. This variety has been chosen because they are good for baking. Apparently they do not mash well, so when the time comes it may be a case of mind over matter.

The following description of the Marfona potato comes straight from the horse's mouth - The Potato Council - to whom acknowledgment is given, with thanks.

Marfona has an almost ‘buttery’ flavour and a smooth waxy texture making it a very popular variety for baking. Marfona is great baked in both the microwave or the oven and is often sold in packs of 4 as a ‘baking potato’. It is 3 on the waxy / floury scale. Marfona has a white to yellow skin and light yellow flesh and is grown predominantly in England, harvested from August and available most of the year. It is available from many retail outlets. This is a Second Early variety.

January, 2011

Activity has been resumed - slightly! The Electric onion sets have done well with only two failing to grow. These will be resown from the 'spare' bulbs still in store. The garlic is not showing any signs of activity yet. Unfortunately the Broad Bean, Aquadulce have been a disaster. These will be resown within the next week.

One bin of compost has reached maturity and will be spread around the garden when the soil is a bit dryer for walking on. The the second bin will be turned into the empty one. The third bin has been started and is now half full.

All through this hard winter a supply of peanuts and fat balls have been maintained for the birds. The blue tits, long tailed tits, finches and one great spotted woodpecker have been eating me out of house and home. The robins and blackbirds who cannot cope with the hanging feeders are also catered for.

December, 2010

Due to heavy falls of snow gardening has unfortunately been cancelled. Next year will hopefully bring the garden back to more or less normal.

November, 2010

With a short break in the rain today, the garlic was planted. 12 cloves from one bulb bought in Tesco. Last of the big spenders! Also, a row and a half of Broad Bean Aquadulce were sown.

The Electric onion sets planted last month are now shooting well. It is such a pleasure to see the lovely green shoots in the dark, wet soil. Long may they thrive. Managing the vegetable allotment gives pleasure in so many ways.

Not strictly vegetable gardening but in early October a self-pollinating bush apple tree, Pinova, was planted at the far side of the garden. It arrived in a coir pot which made planting so easy. The pot will eventually rot away and being planted in this way removed the danger of any potential damage to the roots. The flavour is reputed to be between a Cox and Golden Delicious, which sounds very inviting. It is very slow to drop its leaves which makes it an even more desirable feature in the garden at this time of the year.

The tree was purchased from www.Blackmoor.co.uk. We have used these people before and never fail to be delighted and satisfied with their service.

The Raspberry canes – Autumn Bliss - have all been dug out from the fruit cage. The reason for this is that they became so invasive and were sending up shoots in amongst the strawberry plants. A few stray canes will probably shooting up during the next year, but these will be dabbed with neat SBK weed-killer. In the placed of the raspberry canes, four additional rows of strawberries have been set out. A bumper crop is anticipated in 2011.

In total 12 dustbin bags of leaves have now been swept up from the grass. It would seem there are at least another two bags lying on the grass awaiting attention. There is a tremendous benefit of having a garden almost completely surrounded by trees in the summer, but in autumn this amounts to a lot of work. The plus side of this work is that when the leaves have rotted down over the winter, as they will do, then they can be added to the compost.

October, 2010.

After having raked the vegetable allotment 'plot' to a good, even surface and reflecting on the definite advantages of a raised plot, I knew that a decision had to be taken regarding winter planting.

I think the mole seems to have departed, but bearing in mind that the breeding season is around February/March I have no wish to be over confident. So I decided to hedge my bets regarding planting vegetables to over winter and took the coward’s way (maybe sensible way) out.

I bought a packet of Electric (red) onion sets and have planted two rows. This leaves me with approximately half of the packet left. My reasoning is onion sets are more likely to survive any possible disturbance from mole invaders and I have some replacement sets should they be needed.

I also intend taking this same route with broad beans and have chosen Aquadulce which I will plant in early November as it is still reasonably mild here in the east of England and this will possibly produce soft growth.

Staying with the cautious, money saving route, I will plant some garlic bulbs bought in the supermarket. I have heard that this may possible run the risk of disease, but this is a risk I am prepared to take.

Fingers crossed that I have chosen plants more likely to withstand any possible mole activity. We shall see. The vegetable allotment and the growing business takes a lot of thought.

September, 2010.

As the end of the month comes to a close so has the best of the vegetable allotment for this first year. I picked two more courgettes this morning, the tomato plants have been stripped of fruit and all the bags of potatoes have been harvested and the crop is in store for future use. The average yield was between 3 and just over 4 lbs. per plant. Not outstanding, but around average. The green tomatoes – about a dozen – are now on the kitchen windowsill slowly ripening off. 6 bags of well rotted manure have been dug into the vegetable plot and fingers crossed, the Solar Mole Scarer seems to be working OK.

I am of two minds whether to plant some crops to over winter because the mole breeding season is February/March and I am wondering whether I shall be tempting fate. I will report my decision next month. This is called ‘thinking time’. There is a lot of thinking time going into the vegetable allotment!

I am totally delighted with everything I have grown and am really enjoying my attempts on how to grow vegetables. The only real disappointment was the carrots which were not sturdy enough to stand the mole invasion - although enough survived to provide several meals. Plus, never having grown Chinese Leaves before, the result was fantastic. I have saved a tremendous amount of money for a little outlay on seeds and some effort. Although the tomatoes were 'bought in' as young plants, these have done spectacularly well and the slight added expense of buying plants was well worth while. Definitely a worthwhile venture to be repeated next year.

August, 11th, 2010.

Today was almost a harvest day. One of the plastic carrier bags of potatoes gave up a yield of just over 4 lbs. This is the best so far with another 7 bags still to come. This was followed by 11 beetroot, the last of the carrots, 4 tomatoes, 5 courgettes (from two plants) and one head of Chinese leaves. Quite a good day for the the vegetable allotment business.

All of these will mean a lot of cooking and pickling of beetroot and using some of the recipes given in July, 2010 and August 2009 below to cope with the courgettes. Much better than shopping at the local supermarket for vegetables and so much fresher.

Regarding the Sonic Mole device, there is a lot of mole activity on the green on the other side the road, but so far so good here.

July, 2010.

A mixture of success and downright disaster this month.

First of all the good news. The strawberries have excelled themselves. This past ten days over 10 lbs. of strawberries have been picked from a total of 32 plants and the size can only be described as super-sized. It has been a case of strawberries at every meal – better than chips with everything. Possibly the good crop is down to watering with the manure water (April 2009 entry). The raspberries (Autumn Bliss) have also begun fruiting up well and don’t even make it as far as the kitchen. Picker's perks. As the crop increases there will be more than enough to eat for breakfast on top of cereal. After that - who knows?

The courgettes will be bearing their first crop in about a week (see new recipe below) and the potatoes are looking lush, so maybe this is an indication of what is to come. They will be allowed to die right down naturally before harvesting. A first picking of broad beans has been taken and enjoyed. The tomato plants are fed daily with the manure water because they are planted in Growbags and there is a limited amount of soil per plant. All side shoots are regularly removed so that the plants can concentrate their efforts into making fruit which are already setting and turning yellow. There is quite a lot of work - but good exercise - in the vegetable allotment.

Now for the bad news. After the first mole ‘attack’ and his subsequent ‘despatch’, beetroot, Chinese leaves, a few carrots, a few French beans and peas were resown. They grew very well. Two children’s large windmills were stuck into places where the mole had established his entry tunnels. The vibration is reputed to keep moles away. The answer in this case was sadly ‘No’. Another unwanted visitor has made his presence felt. This new mole has churned up some of the newly sown beetroot, Chinese leaves and carrots. The how to grow vegetables business has changed into a how to catch moles business instead.

The mole catcher is away so a new method has been tried. Apparently moles do not like the smell of Jeyes fluid. Using a small trowel and after digging down at one of the high spots of soil and locating the tunnel, on two successive days two gallons of water containing a heavy dose of Jeyes fluid. (Approximately 1:20 parts) have been poured down this tunnel. Then a band watered around the outside of raised vegetable plot with a weaker dilution of Jeyes in the hope that it might stop further encroachment of the garden.

As there has been no further mole disturbance on the raised bed after the second application of Jeyes down the tunnel, the soil has been smoothed over all the mole disturbance, settling as many of the plants as possible, and the plants gently watered in. Application of the Jeyes will continue on the soil around the plot and this weaker solution will be continued for the next week. Moles are reputed to have a very strong sense of smell and apparently do not like Jeyes. I will report progress.

I have resolved that until winter comes and the plot is clear of produce, I must just play a waiting game with Mr. Mole and his family. Enough to try the patience of a Saint let alone those of this novice gardener! Come the cold weather, war will be declared. This is a steep learning curve when it comes to how to grow vegetables. Moles were not on the agenda!

20th July, 2010 The tipping point with Mr. Mole and his antics has been reached, so a Solar-powered Sonic Spike has been installed. The Spike has a square screen at the top which captures the rays of the sun and this, in turn, transmits a sound down the spike into the soil. All highly technical. Apparently moles do not like this sound and keep well away. Progress (or lack) will be reported. This is called a how to grow vegetables business??

Recipe to help cope with a glut of courgettes. It is delicious.

COURGETTE, PEPPER AND TOMATO LASAGNE

Ingredients

For the cheese sauce:
Either 2 oz. Butter or 3 tbspns oil,
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour,
1/2 pint skimmed milk,
4 oz. Cheese, grated.
1 heaped tspn. Dijon mustard plus salt/pepper to taste.

For the lasagne
6 Dried lasagne sheets,
2 or 3 courgettes sliced,
1 red large pepper sliced,
4 large tomatoes skinned and sliced.


Pre-heat oven to 200 ° C/400 ° F. Gas 6

Heat butter or oil in small saucepan, stir in the flour. Cook for a minute or two until thickened, gradually add the milk, stirring all the time to a keep smooth constituency until it thickens and bubbles. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the grated cheese, the mustard and seasoning to taste.

Grease your chosen oven-proof dish lightly with oil. Place two sheets of lasagne in bottom of dish. Layer in half of the sliced vegetables. Pour over half of the cheese sauce. Cover with 2 sheets of lasagne, then the rest of the sliced vegetables. Place 2 more sheets of lasagne to cover the vegetables. Pour the remaining sauce over these sheets, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cook for 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread. Enjoy.

Adjust the ingredients to the size of your dish and/or family.

If the glut of produce becomes more than you can possibly cope with, try The Barter System.

June, 2010.

June is a lovely and busy month in the garden.

Three lines of beetroot seeds were re-sown after the ‘mole’ event, plus a few Chinese leaves, a few peas, carrots and French beans. Most are germinating and a good crop of beetroot seems imminent. My attempts at how to grow vegetables looks like being very profitable.

The strawberries in the fruit garden are a mass of blossom. An exceptional harvest is forecast and is already tasting wonderful. Next month, after cropping has finished, the runners will be set for replacing the existing plants next year. The raspberry canes are flowering and fruit is forming.

The ten seed potatoes in their individual plastic bags have been earthed up several times and are now full to the brim. It will be interesting to see whether this method of cultivation is a success. How to grow vegetables gets more unusual by the day!

Do take a look at the story below – Potatoes in containers - submitted by one of our guests. This story gives me hope. Please do not hesitate to pass on your experiences via our comments section below headed 'Do You Grow Vegetables?

Two courgettes grown from seed have been planted in the shrub border as there was no other available room. Both are looking healthy and will be regularly fed with manured water. See the entry for April, 2009.

The two Growbags that contain the tomato plants have been moved (dragged) to a sunnier position. Prior to planting, the bags were raised and contents shaken down to the base with a view to giving more root room to the plants. As what was the bottom of the bag is now the back of the Growbag, and is resting against the sleeper which forms the base of the fruit garden, support is not a problem. The tomato plants will need stakes as they grow taller and must have the side shoots regularly removed.

All the herbs in pots - two varieties of mint, chives and curled leaf parsley, plus Rosemary, purple sage and thyme are all thriving.

As a precaution for a possible warm, dry summer an additional water barrel has been linked to the latest one by means of a short length of plastic tubing. This ensures that any overflow from the first barrel goes into the second one instead of down the drain. If rain seems imminent all the watering cans are filled to the brim to make maximum space for any rain that is coming. These latest butts are sited close to the vegetable patch to make life easier.

Hope springs eternal and it will be exciting to see what the future holds for these efforts. Becoming inventive is part of how to manage the vegetable allotment it seems!

May, 2010

It is a case of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. A mole has been busy churning up the soil and the seeds in the vegetable plot. The broad beans appear to be the only row to have survived unscathed. The ‘mole man’ has visited to see what can be done to trap the unwanted visitor. Therefore the only thing to be done is to wait and see. All very disappointing, but still quite laughable that such a small creature can cause so much havoc.

Never mind – onwards and upwards is the only way because these things are sent to try us. Well – that’s the script! Who was it that said that maxnaging the vegetable allotment was easy?

The fruit garden is compensating with strawberries in flower and the prospect of fruit to come in a few weeks time. To encourage the bees, Stachys Lanata (Lambs Ears) has been planted in the flower border because pollination is vital for success.

Has anyone tried the nematode method of destroying unwanted garden pests? If so, could you please let me know? Several companies are offering trial packs at almost £9.00 for the ‘elimination’ of slugs. A good idea as opposed to leaving slug pellets lying around on the ground, but at the moment I am sticking with an old-fashioned beer trap. Guinness is supposed to be the favourite way of drowning. Sorry slugs, but you have got to go!

3rd May, 2010 The trap has been sprung and the mole is dead. Now a re-think is needed regarding the re-sowing of some of the lines of seeds in the vegetabale allotment. Watch this space for a report on progress in the June, 2010 contribution.

April, 2010.

Most people will have heard of the phrase about the eyes being bigger than the belly. This applies here.

I was given some broad bean seeds and 7 shallots by a knowledgeable gardening friend and this has played havoc with my previously well thought out planting plans.

So far I have planted one row of broad beans (variety Aguadulce), one of peas, (Early Onward) and one row of French beans (Tendergreen) three rows of beetroot - an addiction (Boltardy)- one row of carrots, (Chantenay Red Cored 2) with half a row of shallots and just half a row of space left for the coming crop of Chinese Leaves (Richi F.1 Hybrid) – not yet planted as I am waiting for slightly warmer weather. This space is not negotiable!

I definitely intend planting Chinese Leaves as these are so expensive to buy at £1.18 per head in Sir Terry’s supermarket (Tesco). This means there is no room for my intended parsnip crop – these having been pushed aside by the broad beans and shallots. The vegetable allotment needs elastic sides.

I have sown some Courgettes (Defender F.1 Hybrid) seeds in peat pots and am raising them on the kitchen windowsill. They are germinating already. Just one of these plants will be planted in a space reserved at the front of the shrub border and the rest given to friends. Eight tomato plants are scheduled to be bought and raised in Growbags - double the amount that were grown last year. The seed potatoes chitted (sprouted) well and have been planted one seed potato in each plastic bag as described in the month below. These are just breaking through the surface. This will be the sum total of my vegetable crop for this year.

It is a case of hope springs eternal but the anticipation ratio is high. All that is needed now is the cooperation of Mother Nature.

Yesterday morning was spent weeding and generally clearing the fruit garden, with the strawberry mats (see February, 2009 below) being placed in position. These will help to keep down weed germination.

March, 2010

Although the experiment last year of growing potatoes in large pots was successful, growing in bags is being tried this year with the aim of increasing the yield.

Not being prepared to pay £19.99 for four bags stylish green bags and potatoes, the cheaper option seemed to be strong, large, colourful plastic carrier bags with a few holes made in the rectangular base, and an investment of 10 seed potatoes at £1.25

Admitted the result is not as elegant as the green bags at £19.99 but the saving of £18.74 compensates. This is what how to manage the vegetable allotment really means. More for less.

The colourful bags are a bonus. One potato per bag is being tried to give plenty of room for (hopefully) a large yield.

Each bag was filled to a depth of around 4” with a mixture of top soil and well rotted manure. One seed potato, well chitted, (explained in the February comment) was placed in each bag and covered with around 3” potting compost, top soil or the soil that the moles had excavated. The bags have been placed behind the raised fruit garden on a piece of unused land. Moving them will be no problem because of the handy handles on the carrier bags.

Now that the worst of the cold weather seems to be over (here in the East of England) the beetroot, carrots, parsnips, French beans, peas etc. will be planted out. Follow the instructions given on the seed packets for best results.

February, 2010.

If you have a problem with wild-life in your garden - here there are rabbits, squirrels, a large flock of wood pigeons and many other really lovely birds – then it makes common sense to protect your crop. As you can see from the photograph taken in a brief period of February sunshine, a wooden frame has been erected over the plot. (See September, 2009 photograph) On two opposite sides the netting lifts up and can be placed on the roof while work is carried out on the plot. The compost that was placed on the soil in November has almost completely disappeared. The weather and the worms have done a good job.

In my opinion, if you do not cherish your worms then you do not know how to grow vegetables. Harsh statement - No. Worms are most definitely a gardener's best friends.

Heavy grade netting was used. It was secured to the wooden frame with the aid of a staple gun. Down the opening sides, brass hooks were used so that the netting could be released and the bottom of the wooden frame could be used to roll the sides up and be placed on the roof.

Yes, there is the initial outlay and effort, but at least I get to eat my produce and not the birds. That is the whole point of the vegetable allotment - feeding me.

Having, in the past, experienced my entire crop of cabbages and broccoli plants wiped out in one day by rabbits and pigeons this would seem a reasonable solution. The frame should last for many years and eradicate the cost plus disappointment and frustration of lost crops. It's called POM - Peace of Mind.

The seed potatoes - variety Rocket - have been placed in egg trays in a semi-light (but not too bright) position, rose side uppermost, so that the shoots can sprout in readiness for planting out. They are now showing slight signs of activity.

January, 2010.

A New Year and hopefully a new start on the vegetable plot. Onwards and upwards with how to grow vegetables.

It just remains for the installation of the netting to be done and then the plot will be ready for sowing seeds. The delay was caused by a considerable fall of snow which has been very slow to leave.

If you would like to install a raised bed plenty of information on this subject is to be found here. Again if you quote the code BED10 at the checkout you will get a discount and save more money.

The mole has unfortunately surfaced again around the exterior of the raised vegetable bed, and hopefully that is where he will stay. Fingers crossed.

November, 2009.

Because of the interruption caused by the mole ‘invasion’ all seed sowing has been postponed until early March. Not wanting to lose an opportunity and time, another dustbin load of compost was spread over the plot and left for the weather and worms to work on during the coming winter.

This month has also been a trifle disappointing as far as the vegetable plot is concerned without the progress that was anticipated. Fortunately someone has been found to construct the framework over the plot, and the netting has arrived. So, watch this space.

One mole-hill was found in the fruit garden which was a potential disaster. Fortunately, the mole seems to have moved to the adjoining field and is busy causing mayhem there. Long may he find sufficient worms to satisfy his needs! I do like moles, but just wish they would clear up the mess they make!

December is almost here, so wishing you a merry Christmas and looking forward to reporting progress in the New Year.

October, 2009.

The new raised bed vegetable plot has suffered a major set-back which, combined with the onset of winter, will now mean no planting until March of next year. This is all very disappointing, but then things 'happen'.

Either a lodger or new pet in the shape of a mole has taken residence! This little creature has been causing mayhem – piles of earth are all over the surface of the raised plot with a tracery of routes all round the edge. Doubtless the worms that were relocated will have been eaten, along with all the lovely worms that were in the compost sandwich. The mole must have done quite a good job in churning up the soil as compost and horse manure has been brought to the surface.

Having little or no faith in proprietary remedies for eliminating moles, another solution was used. Four cartridges from a shotgun were discharged into the soil, one from each side of the plot. Then the soil was carefully raked over so that any fresh disturbance or movement could be detected. So far, all remains quiet. This is supposed to be about how to grow vegetables!

Research (AKA a Google search) is now being carried out for a netting structure for the the plot to keep out the local wood pigeon population. A food supply for human needs must take priority.

Living in an area surrounded by many large trees means a vast amount of leaves to be collected each autumn.

Last year these were raked up and put into plastic dustbin bags along with a small amount of water. These 9 bags were tightly tied and piled up in the one secluded corner in the garden and left alone, apart from shaking them once or twice during the winter.

Come the spring, the leaves were well rotted and ended up, in layers, in the compost dustbins. A leaf-mould composter would have cost £18.95 and with doubts as to whether it would have been large enough or as effective as the black plastic bags, which provided ideal rotting conditions. How to grow vegetables is also all about how to save money.


September, 2009.

The vegetable plot

As you can see from the photograph the construction of the raised vegetable plot is now complete. It is very slightly smaller than the fruit garden. This is because four additional sleepers were needed (visible in the photo) and these were slightly shorter in length. Using sleepers makes good, comfortable seating for sowing, weeding and the usual day-dreaming.

Another advantage of raised bed gardening is if the soil in your garden is poor you can either import better soil, or work on what you have to improve it in a dedicated area. Because you will be working on a relatively smaller space, improvement is easier than working on the whole of the garden.

The soil that was imported for the vegetable bed seems very good, but even so a ‘soil sandwich’ was made. Half of the soil was barrowed into the plot, then four bags of horse manure and one dustbin of well rotted compost were spread evenly over the soil. This was covered with the remaining soil to come within 2" of the top. A very tasty sandwich for the next season of vegetables to feed on. The only thing visible at the moment is a light covering of fallen leaves from one of the neighbouring trees.

This does not stop thoughts of beetroot (more of the same), carrots, one courgette plant and some French beans looming as possibilities for the growing season next year. One thing is certain, the plot will be used to the fullest extent and day-dreams are growing well!

Herbs. Two varieties of mint are grown along with curled leaf parsley, Rosemary, purple sage, chives and thyme. These are grown in pots on either side of the kitchen door - ready when required.

COMMENT.

Hi, Just read your gardening diary I think it is great well written and very interesting almost went running out to buy some sleepers and make one myself - in fact I might just do that.
The pictures made it all come to life.
Thanks. Helen

The above COMMENT was both totally unexpected and welcomed. It is good to know that people are reading and maybe learning. Just keep the comments coming then everyone can join in.

August, 2009.

The beetroot crop

Although this first venture was a partial success it became apparent a lot needed to be learned regarding raised bed cultivation. The beetroot seeds that were sown near the strawberries had access to light and have done really well, but those at the rear between the raspberry canes have suffered through lack of light. The seeds were sown when the raspberry canes were only about 9" high, and the effect of lack of light caused by the future growth of the canes was forgotten. Point taken! How to grow vegetables is looking like a steep learning curve.

Preserving the beetroot for use throughout the season was no problem. A pressure cooker was used for cooking the beetroot in batches. All the saved old glass jars from previous purchases of beetroot made from Tesco were used. After cooling and slicing the beet into the jars, the slices were covered with a 50/50 mixture of white distilled vinegar and cold water. Lids were tightly screwed down when the jars were completely cold and the jars are now in the cupboard ready for use throughout the coming year. What a lovely thought! Obviously as beetroot was a partial success, more of the same will be needed for next year, and construction of the new 'matching' vegetable plot is imminent. Also, quite a good level of success was achieved with the one Grow-Bag and four tomato plants and this will be repeated next season.

Never having used this method of growing tomatoes before, a degree of scepticism reigned about growing tomatoes outside in the English climate! But surprise, surprise, the two Moneymaker and two Shirley tomato plants have cropped well and continue to do so. The Grow-bag was sited behind the fruit garden and has been watered every day. Personally I prefer the taste of Shirley to the Moneymaker variety. Also, Shirley has been earlier and the more prolific of the two varieties. The skins on the Moneymaker tomatoes were a trifle thick.

Also grown were five potato plants with a good yield, even though these were planted in large plastic pots. The five original seedling potatoes were bought from Morrisons for £1.00, variety Rocket, and this was a tongue in cheek experiment. Next season a different and easier method of growing will be tried.

The temptation to browse seed catalogues is being resisted at the moment, but a visual image of what will planted next season is coming into place. Possibly one courgette plant - because of restricted space and need - as this recipe is a great success for suppers.

Courgette Bake.

Adjust the ingredient quantities to suit your requirements.

Lightly oil a flat, ceramic oven-proof dish about 2ins. deep.
Then add layers of:

Sliced potatoes 1/4" thick.
Sliced red pepper.
Sliced tomatoes.
Sliced courgettes.
Sliced onions
Sprinkle chopped garlic over the ingredients - if liked.
Finish off with a layer of potatoes.
Season to taste.
Cover with either grated or thinly sliced cheese - choose a well flavoured variety.
Cook at 200° for around 40 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned and the vegetables cooked.

Serve with a side dish of peas, some sliced ham (meat eaters may appreciate this) and/or hot garlic bread. Enjoy!

July, 2009

At the end of the month, it was apparent that the 'runners' from the strawberry plants had set well and already a neighbour had 'reserved' his share. Bearing in mind the advantage of a barter system a promise was secured of a lovely shrub from him. That is what bartering is all about.

May/June, 2009

The strawberry harvest has been superb. Each day there were enough for dessert with spare to give away.

The beetroot are growing well in some places, but in others the growth is not fantastic.

April. 2009.

Before rushing ahead and creating another raised bed, common sense told me that a workable compost heap was needed, but in this garden where everything was within sight with no secluded corners, therefore a compost bin or rather bins instead of the usual compost heap were chosen.

Plastic, custom made compost bins are highly expensive to buy. A black plastic compost bin with three compartments would cost £139.47.

With this in mind the save-money-guide gardening route was taken and black plastic dustbins were chosen. These were on sale in the local ‘cheap’ plastic store at £6.99 each, so over a period of a few months three of these bins were bought - total cost £20.97. You may find you only need one, and in which case a plastic dustbin is the ideal solution to your problem.

The three bins will give continuous access to disposal space and staggered amounts of rotted compost.

The great production line that was ideal and gave the same, if not better result as an expensive container.

These bins also have an added advantage over expensive, custom made plastic compost bins, which is now explained.

Right at the base of each bin, within ½” of the bottom three small holes were drilled in the side – all in a row – about ¼” in diameter and 1” apart. Each bin was placed on bricks and beneath the drilled holes in the bin, a plastic 1 litre ice cream container was placed. These ice cream containers were to become a vital piece of garden equipment.

The bins were gradually filled with layers of vegetable waste, including peelings from the kitchen, weeds, grass cuttings and anything else that would rot down. This is gardening at its most economical. Thin layers of horse manure were put amongst all the vegetable layers, and the compost was then watered until just damp enough to encourage rotting. Don't be heavy handed when putting grass cuttings into the bin. This layer should be thin (about 1” deep, maximum) as a thick wedge will not easily rot down.

If you wish to hurry things on a little, Garotta Compost Maker can be used. Folk lore has it that years ago people used urine (human or otherwise) to damp down the plot and speed up the process. The choice is yours! On a more serious note I have heard Sulphate of Ammonia is cheaper than any proprietary compost makers.

Using some old carpet, take the lid of the dustbin as a template and cut a circle of carpet to fit in the top of the bin. Place the carpet circle on top of the compost as this will help to keep the compost warm and speed the rotting process. When it rains the water will penetrate the carpet and help keep the compost damp. In really hot weather you may well find you need to water the top of the compost. Use a plastic watering can and rose for this job.

In the event of your compost attracting any small flies, just put the dustbin lid on and this instantly solves the problem.Any excess water will drain out into the plastic ice cream container at the base.

Store this lovely brown liquid in a gallon plastic container with screw on lid. You will have a free supply of homemade liquid manure. Use this at the rate of a small cupful in two gallons of water. Guess work will do here!

In the photograph of the three dustbins, the circles of old carpet can be seen also the plastic ice cream containers beneath the bins. One bin has the lid on.

When one bin is full with one possibly standing empty, it is a good idea to fork the contents of the full bin into the empty bin. This churns and mixes up the compost, aerating it as well and so speeding up the rotting process. Good exercise as well!

With three bins in production there was frequently a surplus of the brown liquid. When this happens just tip it back into the compost. Gardening often indicates the easy route - common sense really!

Compost would seem to illustrate what 'how to grow vegetables' is about. Giving back to the soil that which is taken out.

March, 2009.

Sticking strictly to the save-money theme while gardening, beetroot which is a favourite were planted - the Boltardy variety - in rows between the strawberry and raspberry canes.

Beetroot was chosen for three reasons

1. Beetroot is very good for you.

2. The seeds are large and relatively easy for the beginner to start with.

3. This is a fast growing crop and results are rewarding.

The new strawberry mats have been optimistically placed in position around the crown of each plant. These mats are superb as they are free and save all the mess of placing straw around the plants and clearing it up at the end of the season. They have the added bonus of suppressing weed growth around the crowns of the strawberry plants.

Because of the partial success with the beetroot, this instigated the next move.

A dedicated vegetable plot.

More of this to come at a later date, but the idea is well and truly sown!

February, 2009.

Taking into consideration when constructing this raised bed and the length of the sleepers, it is important to remember all parts of the proposed bed should be accessible from any side of the bed. The new gardening plan was slowly being formed.

A raised bed does away with the space normally allocated for walking between the rows of plants. Therefore there is no compressing of the soil which does away with continual digging. This also allows for closer planting of the rows, which is a definite bonus. The fruit bed will be 7ft. 9ins square. The area was dictated by the size of the sleepers and is just about manageable regarding stretching to the middle. Stretching is good for the figure! Well - that's the theory!

The raised fruit bed was then built with the sleepers stacked two high. The soil that was needed to be brought in was very sandy and several large bags of horse manure were dug into the soil, plus a few worms which were relocated from the nearby flower border.

Being a great admirer of worms and the tremendous service they give to gardening, these were introduced to break up the manure and generally improve the soil. No garden should be without them – they are your mostly unseen task force!

Gardening is always a great adventure, and ten Autumn Bliss raspberry canes were ordered from www.Blackmoor.co.uk. This was the first time of ordering from this company, but it went perfectly. The raspberry canes were delivered in tip-top condition with full instructions on how to plant.

They were sited to the rear of the plot. This particular variety of raspberry is self-supporting, needing no staking, growing to around 3ft. high. They start bearing fruit in August and on through September and are very prolific.

January, 2010.

A New Year and hopefully a new start on the vegetable plot. Onwards and upwards with how to grow vegetables.

The snow has gone and the strong netting ordered from Harrod Horticultural is waiting to be installed. If you order netting and quote the code NETS10 at the checkout you will get a discount on your purchase. Save money here.

It just remains for the installation of the netting to be done and then the plot will be ready for sowing seeds. The delay was caused by a considerable fall of snow which has been very slow to leave.

If you would like to install a raised bed plenty of information on this subject is to be found here. Again if you quote the code BED10 at the checkout you will get a discount and save more money.

The mole has unfortunately surfaced again around the exterior of the raised vegetable bed, and hopefully that is where he will stay. Fingers crossed.

November, 2009.

Because of the interruption caused by the mole ‘invasion’ all seed sowing has been postponed until early March. Not wanting to lose an opportunity and time, another dustbin load of compost was spread over the plot and left for the weather and worms to work on during the coming winter.

This month has also been a trifle disappointing as far as the vegetable plot is concerned without the progress that was anticipated. Fortunately someone has been found to construct the framework over the plot, and the netting has arrived. So, watch this space.

One mole-hill was found in the fruit garden which was a potential disaster. Fortunately, the mole seems to have moved to the adjoining field and is busy causing mayhem there. Long may he find sufficient worms to satisfy his needs! I do like moles, but just wish they would clear up the mess they make!

December is almost here, so wishing you a merry Christmas and looking forward to reporting progress in the New Year.

Thirty two strawberry plants (runners) variety unknown, were kindly donated by a neighbour at the end of last year. These were planted in front of the raspberry canes.

The strawberry plants, had over-wintered quite happily in the nearby flower bed with the loss of only two plants. Considering the hard winter this was a good result.

For easy instructions re strawberry mats click on Tip.23

Yes, there is the initial outlay of cash in getting the bed established, but this is likely to be a once only item for several years, and the benefits are tremendous.

Of course, establishing a vegetable or fruit plot that is not raised, will be much cheaper. Usually in gardening there are several routes to take. Choose the one that best suits your requirements.

In the picture above one side of the fruit cage can be seen. Two sides are removable for easy access. This photograph was taken towards the end of the season after the veg. plot had been constructed and it can be seen in the background.

Most birds are a blessing but fruit was not being grown for their benefit. Therefore, you may also find it worth while erecting some sort of netting protection to preserve your fruit, your efforts and possibly your temper.

Yes, there is the initial outlay of cash in getting the bed established, but this is likely to be a once only item for several years, and the benefits are tremendous.

Of course, establishing a vegetable or fruit plot that is not raised, will be much cheaper. Usually in gardening there are several routes to take. Choose the one that best suits your requirements.

In the picture above, one side of the fruit cage can be seen. Two sides are removable for easy access. This photograph was taken towards the end of the season after the veg. plot had been constructed and it can be seen in the background.

January, 2009

Having moved house recently, and being confronted with a formal, ornamental square fish pond which was neither needed nor wanted because of the high maintenance problem - remembering to switch fountains on and off and cleaning filters on a regular basis - action was needed. It was dismantled and filled in.

The edge of this pond was made from railway sleepers and after the pond was filled there remained the problem of these sleepers. What to do with them? Such an item could not just be ignored. Sell them? Keep them?

Then came the genius idea of using them to make a raised bed set at the rear of the garden. This was going to be an attempt at fruit gardening. The bed would be used for growing expensive items – strawberries and raspberries being top of the list.

If you would like to leave a comment on any of the monthly items posted here,
or to tell us how you grow vegetables and fruit in your garden please leave your comments and maybe a picture here:

Do you grow vegetables?

No matter how small (or large) your garden is, please share your news and views with us.

If your veggies are grown in a container or Growbag we would love to hear about your successes or possibly failures - it happens!

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