Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cogitations in the veg

Or maybe that should be vegetating in the vegetable plot. Or any verb that indicates nothing much is happening. You see, that is pretty much the state of play in my vegetable plot this year.

My vegetable plot takes up about a quarter of the garden, the quarter the furthest from the house, and has also to house the garden shed, a mini-greenhouse, the compost bin, a pear tree (but no partridge) and two plum trees. Which doesn't leave an awful lot of space for the vegetables. Especially when you bear in mind that there are also a gooseberry bush, a blackcurrant bush, four rhubarb crowns and numerous rampant raspberry canes.

As well as the aforesaid fruit, I do try to grow a few vegetables from seeds (or sets) sown annually. I generally sow runner beans, French beans, peas, parsnips, onions and garlic. I start the runner beans in the greenhouse and plant them out once they are about a foot tall, provided the weather is right, but the rest are sown direct into the ground. I do try to sow peas on at least two occasions in the hope that the crop can be harvested over a longer period but somehow the second sowing nearly always catches up with the first and my hopes are dashed. Parsnips are a bit of a challenge for me as over much of the garden we have no more than nine inches of soil - insufficient to grow good, stout parsnips - and what we do have is stony, leading to the parsnips splitting. Nevertheless, both the Old Bat and I are fond of roast parsnips and those grown in the garden are much more tender and have more flavour than any bought in a supermarket. My method with them is to use a dibber (a length of old broom handle, about eight inches long and sharpened to a blunt point at one end) to make a hole which I fill with compost. The parsnip seeds are sown on top of the compost and, with luck and a fair wind, the parsnip grows down the stone-free hole. That's the general idea, but generally it don't work. I find that a good 50% of the seeds fail to germinate and the 50% that do are gathered in about half a dozen clumps of three or four. I try to thin these clumps out very carefully and replant the thinned-out seedlings. Occasionally one of them actually grows into something resembling a miniature parsnip. I counted the successful-looking plants the other day. I know one shouldn't count chickens before they hatch and the same applies to parsnips - not the hatching, obviously, but the should not be counted before they are lifted. With luck we might get four. Or maybe five.

I did imply right at the top of this post that things have not gone too well on the vegetable front this year. I did manage to pick a few sticks of rhubarb from one crown - the one that was underneath a metal wastepaper basket to force it. The others have done absolutely nothing.

Most of the garlic failed to grow and all I lifted was three small bulbs.

I forgot to buy the onion sets at the right time and when I did remember all I could get were some shrivelled up things that I should never have bothered buying let alone planting. None of them have done anything.

The first sowing of peas went well. Those that weren't eaten by the slugs. But I reckon I lost only about 20% and the remainder produced lots of lovely long pods that filled with fat peas. But they were over in a week - and the second sowing just didn't germinate.

I should have been picking runner beans at least two weeks ago, but I have yet to pick the first. There are a reasonable number of flowers, and some mini beans that should grow well, but they are all very late. Same goes for the French beans.

The blackcurrants did very well - at least something has! - but the gooseberry crop was a bit disappointing. More than a bit, in fact. And the plums... I got half a dozen off one tree. Those on the second are not yet ready. The funny thing (funny?) is that a lot of the fruit is rope on one side but not on the other. I suspect that by the time the second side is ready to pick, the first will have gone over.

All in all, I don't know why I bothered this year. Apart from the disappointment that all my hard work has produced such dismal results, it would have been a lot cheaper just to go to Asda!


#1Nana said...

You are ambitious in the garden. I have only a few green pepper plants, five tomato plants, and a few cucumbers. I've got a lot of peppers, but they are very small this year. So far I've only harvested three red tomatoes, but there are a lot of green ones and we should have tomatoes through the middle of October. The cucumbers are also small...but very tasty! I agree that it would probably be easier and cheaper to just buy vegetables at the grocery.

Brighton Pensioner said...

One of my fellow Lions grows a lot of tomatoes and he has given me so many this week that the Old Bat is making roast tomato soup with them. Great for a winter lunch.