Spring is finally in the air and my thought are turning to what I will grow in my little garden this year. I have a small patio that is a perfect sun trap for pots and taking inspiration from Landshare and London’s Guerrilla Gardeners, I have commandeered the flowerbed outside my flat since the council has given up tending it. This gives me a manageable amount of space to grow my own fruit, veg and herbs each summer in a attempt to cut food miles, save money and eat fresh produce that actually tastes of something!
I am fairly new to gardening after years of managing to kill anything with chlorophyll I have ever touched. About two years ago I started off slowly with a few growbags of tomatoes and pots of basil. I was delirious with excitement when half my plants survived and I was able to eat my home grown spoils. So last year buoyed with new found confidence, I grew my own baby toms and globe courgettes from seed and was beyond thrilled to have fresh fruits to gorge on throughout the summer.
I also took advantage of the credit crunch at Homebase and bought a selection of plants for 99p from their Grow Your Own range that tapped into the new trend to Dig For Victory rather than pay a fortune for Taste the Difference at any major supermarket. Less than a tenner saw me laden down with fennel, sage, rosemary, three varieties of tomato and some runner beans. The plants were good quality for the price and came with some handy instruction for this gardening novice.
I filled pots with growbags rather than plant straight into them to give everything more room to manoeuvre. I planted Gardener’s Delight and Moneymaker tomatoes in a window box and found a chair to allow my Cherriettes of Fire cherry tomatoes to tumble down. Runner beans were staked round 8 foot bamboo canes in the flowerbed and some Pink Fir Apple spuds were bedded in too. It took only a few hours to do and was strangely exciting. Would my garden grow?
Thanks to some half decent weather and some conscientious watering each evening, my little garden did me proud. Both my climbing tomatoes grew to over four feet tall and in total the 4 plants gave almost 12 kilos of sweet juicy fruit between July and November. The courgettes produced enough female plants to make them worth their while and I was eating runner beans almost every night for two months. My spuds were less successful giving only one small plateful, but they were so delicious, I hardly cared. I didn’t buy vegetables once in August and the rest of the summer months only need infrequent trips to the market to supplement my glut of produce.
My garden was so successful last year that I am feeling confident enough to expand my repertoire this year. My next door neighbour has kindly donated his half of our communal flowerbed, giving me twice as much space for growing. I aim to have two varieties of spud (Pink Fir Apples again and striking Salad Blues). I am also hoping that rainbow chard and pak choi will give me leaves all summer. I am expanding my herb selection with the hard-to-find lovage, sorrel and chervil. I am going to attempt my own gherkins for pickling and I’ll see how my mini beetroot turn out before deciding what to do with them.
I will be refining my previous experience with tomatoes, courgettes and runner beans. I might add some mangetout or sugar snap peas too. My herb garden will be re-potted and a few stragglers replaced with healthier specimens so I can continue to have fresh herbs to hand and steer clear of those measly packets or feeble plants in the supermarket. I will be trying to grow my own Thai basil since it is difficult to get round my neck of the woods.
I am hoping the weather is on my side as I need all the help I can get with my plants. But thanks to the reasonable prices of plants and seeds at Homebase and on Ebay, I’m not too worried about losing a few seedlings along the way. It’s still much better value for me and the environment than buying homogenised out of season produce from the supermarket. So what will you be planting for this summer? Are you aiming big or planning to nurture just a few pots lovingly?