Be basic in your vegetable growing

Straight from the earth, straight to the Table, nothing better

Alex is an old boy of over 80 who lives close by. Every Summer he can be seen sharing his vegetables around the Neighbours. All the usual, like Cabbage, Runner Beans, Onions and whatever.
One day I asked him if I could see the Garden. Needless to say he obliged and one late Sunday afternoon I made it up there.

I was expecting a neatly weeded square Plot with regimental rows of Veg. Far from it - there were vegetables all over the place. His garden being an old Orchard, he had simply dug 'shapes' out of the Ground away from the shade and just put a few vegetables in to grow.
I asked him if he had any secret and he replied in his broad Kentish accent, "No, I chuck the seeds in and they either grow or they don't". "Do you put any fertilizer etc. Alex"?. "No, that's for the rich people that is" !

I have to admit, he's on my wavelength and it was he who really made me go into my vegetable growing even more.

So my garden was born some 8 years ago and I'm still using the same packet of Cabbage seeds now. After all, why do Seed Suppliers give you 'Approx 750 seeds'. Blimey, you'd feed a School for a term on that!.

Sure, fertilizers are good and may well help, but they put the cost of your plants up in the long run and I don't really want perfectly shaped Parsnips, I want good wholesome food helped along with no more than a Compost composing mainly of grass cuttings, newspapers and a bit of Chicken Poo!

The secret would more seem to be in the digging. A good deep dig in late Autumn and early Spring should keep a lot of the weeds down. Saying that, my Onions seem to thrive amongst the Creeping Buttercup which after eight years of Battle, still wins the day!

I've found also that success in this kind of gardening is in sowing a succession.Sow everything a little bit early and if the first one's don't come up, the second one's may.
In 2006 I sowed and sowed Beetroot and didn't get any. In 2007 I sowed a lot and got a mountain load! Why? I don't know, but that's the mystery and joy of the Vegetable Garden.

Another fine example of oddities is Squash. There's an old stoney Bonfire next to the Barn where the cars drive past. I cleared out the weeds (much to the rats annoyance underneath), planted some Squash and boy did they like it. It was roasted Squash Soup all through the following winter.

But it isn't just the eating of the vegetables 'neat', it's about the other things you can make from them. We've made Chutneys, Relishes and Sauces from our Crops.
These have either been sold or used as bartering for vegetables etc., which I can't seem to grow.

Sweet Corn Vegetable Garden

Courgettes and Perpectual Spinach are a good bet and seem to thrive in any soil and in any condition. In fact for two people, more than about five courgette plants will end up with you looking like one! But, a good ingrediant for the Chutney.

I also try and only grow things which will store well, some in the Freezer and some in sand in cupboard drawers etc. So my garden is pretty basic with base vegetables, nothing fancy.

For me, the vegetables are not so much a hobby, but a part of self-reliance.
If you sow say 80 carrots and they all come up, the packet of seeds could have cost you as little as £1 and how much would 80 Carrots cost you in the Supermarket.
Multiplying this by the other vegetables and from 10 packs of seeds, you could be banking anything up to £300 ?!

You can see the plan of my Garden in the Veggies in April page. It's not a huge space, not a huge amount of work, but the benefits of eating your own produce are monumental!

Can there be nothing nicer than going up the garden and picking the food you're going to be eating in half an hours time?
Can there be anything nicer than opening that jar of Relish on a cold January morning and remembering the day you made it last August?

With a Veggie Patch and regular walks along roadsides, woods and fields for 'Natures Free Food', self reliance no longer becomes a dream, but a reality!

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plants
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A satisfying sight
Traditional Compost Heap
Two composts; one free from the Council, one 'home made' with appropriate Chicken 'stuff'!
Frugal Cold Frame
My unique hardening off Cold Frame (old sash windows)

The Vegetable Year
Pages written by my good friend John Harrison



Squash happily growing on an old Bonfire with sheeting as a wind break

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