I should begin with a disclaimer. I’m not a gardener. Nor do I pretend to be. But I’ve got the bug and I’m not talking about the type of bug that decimates your dahlias. I’m talking about the relentless itching desire to get out into the garden to plant things, nurture saplings, or launch a new offensive against the "Stinky Bob" infesting the borders. I’m talking about that frustrated mixed feeling you get when it rains, because your plants are getting watered but you just can’t get outside to mow the grass. I’m no expert. But I’m learning, often by making some pretty stupid mistakes but more often by talking to others who already have a wealth of knowledge and a lifetime of past experience. That's what I’m calling all the mistakes I’ve made by the way: experience.
Sometimes the mistakes are pretty minor in nature and cost you at most a lost week because you sewed your cucumbers too deep into the pot or you drowned your gazanias because you planted them in a window box with no holes in the bottom. Other times the mistakes are pretty catastrophic and cost you your entire crop!
I started in June last year with a greenhouse, a few seeds, some compost, and a couple pots. The plan? Plant some vegetables and herbs in the greenhouse, maybe a few flowers, and just see how it goes. It started really well—the lettuces shot up in no time and a few reluctant shoots of parsley came through. I even managed to nurture the beginning of an apple tree from a pip. I successfully transplanted my lettuces into some window boxes I was using in place of an actual bed and my parsley took root in its new pot. So now I had 15 empty seed trays just waiting to be filled with my next idea.
Halloween is a great time for carving pumpkins. It was a bit late to plant pumpkins really but I was desperate to try and get even some small fruit for October. Hedge your bets. Plant 15 pumpkin seeds and hope at least a couple of plants come through. I must have been a green fingered wizard. Every single pumpkin seed sprouted and grew into healthy plants. They were growing quickly. "I’ll have pumpkins in no time," I foolishly convinced myself. I transferred the pumpkins into pots. All good. Why not plant some sweet peas? God, I’m good at this gardening malarkey!
The pumpkins carried on growing as the sweet peas came through. Then they carried on growing some more. I had to get them out of the greenhouse. I transplanted one outside into a freshly prepared bed. The poor plant lasted two days. It wasn’t hardened. None of them were. I managed to give a few away to make space for the rapidly growing vines but it became quickly apparent that there were too many pumpkins for the greenhouse. They were going strong and started to grow little spirally tendrils as they sprawled.
Before long the greenhouse was full. I managed to get one of the pumpkins out into the garden to make space. The rest were a tangled mess. I had nightmares about the plants coming to life and smothering me in my sleep. They had already put pay to the sweetpeas which I couldn’t reach to get out of their seed trays. The lettuces at the back of the greenhouse had started to wilt and the parsley was dead.
It was October now. The pumpkins were still growing. They had sprawled up the sides of the greenhouse, which was basically inaccessible now. There were a few flowers but after attempting to pollinate them, it quickly became apparent that they were all male flowers! I’d learned something new. Eventually, I had to just shut the door on the greenhouse and let everything in there die.
Fast forward to present day. I learned a lot from the great pumpkin fiasco of 2017. This year I have planted the pumpkins early and outside! The sweetpeas are being shy this year but they are outside and will hopefully sprout soon.
The big hitters this year to date are my radishes. I planted them in a big pot outside by refreshing the soil in one of the pumpkin pots. Within a month they have sprouted and grown to maturity. I’m told they are ready to harvest when they are about an inch in diameter so within a week I’ll hopefully be harvesting my first home grown vegetable!
Soon the greenhouse will be gone and growing plants in the open air will no doubt pose new challenges!