The Gardening Experiment

As I hit my fourth month of pregnancy in April, I felt that it was time to get in touch with nature, play the good Earth Mama and get some of my own, tasty, non-toxic veggies growing. We have a lovely South-facing garden which already had a vegetable patch from the previous owners. Unfortunately the patch is almost totally in the shade. However, I did a bit of research to find some plants that wouldn’t mind shadier conditions and found quite a few decent suggestions. So off to the Garden Centre we went.

Dressed for gardening success

 

Oh the joy that this hard boiled city girl had digging her hands in the filth and soil, chasing the creepy crawlies and pulling out weeds. I could already picture myself a few months later, lovingly tending to my little patch, picking plump beans, leafy cabbages and peppery celeriacs. I could already taste their untainted, home grown flavours.

It wasn’t long before I realised I wasn’t the only one lusting for my vegetables. The garden was quickly filled with snails and slugs, which spent way more time tending to my vegetables than I did. At first I bought some non-toxic slug-repellent. It is grit, which is supposed to keep the slugs away by creating an unpleasant surface for them to crawl over. Yeah, right. I found them happily rolling in the grit, munching my veggies away. It soon became apparent to me that this was going to be a full on war. I had to get some heavier artillery – proper poison pellets, although I tried to use them sparingly and keep them away from the veggies. This worked better, and I was soon able to harvest dozens of slug corpses while my veggies had the chance to grow.

Lovely bean pods and an evil, vicious snail.
Lovely bean pods and an evil, vicious snail.

 

I also planted herbs, salad, tomatoes and peppers in pots. These could be kept in the patio, which is filled with sun. I wrapped copper tape around the pots to keep the slugs away and this worked well. The only attacks I got, were from the walls, when the sneaky buggers parachuted into the pots straight from the walls, thus evading the copper fencing. Luckily these attacks were much less frequent than what my poor vegetable patch had to endure and I was able to save many plants by simply picking the snails off as I spotted them.

Cherry tomato success
Cherry tomato success

 

Everything was looking pretty promising. Although the patch was very shady, the vegetables were growing at a staggering speed reaching out to the sunnier end of the patch. The potatoes started sprouting quickly, the cabbages grew huge, and the beans had nice big pods. The peas were nearest to the wall and most preferred by the slugs, so they didn’t get much of a chance. I decided to accept the defeat. I took the opportunity to put most of the poison pellets near the peas, and rubbed my hands in joy when observing the slug casualties.

From left to right: potatoes, celeriacs, cabbages, broad beans and peas.

 

I started to get the first harvest in early July. The tomatoes and herbs were doing fantastically. The tomatoes ripened a few at a time, which was perfect, so I could get enough for a salad when I needed them, but I didn’t have to store them and worry that they’d go off. The tomatoes are still doing well now in September and I haven’t been buying any all summer. Success! The peppers look promising but they haven’t grown very big.

I went away on a holiday for three weeks. I gave the patch a good slug pelleting before I left, and hoped that things would work out while I was gone. There was enough rain and a bit of sun too, so all should have been well. Well it wasn’t. I found some new inhabitants upon my return. This time it was caterpillars – swarms of them – and they had turned my cabbage leaves into cabbage lace. Bitter defeat.

Cabbage lace. Spot the caterpillar family at the bottom of the picture.

 

The potatoes were starting to flower and wilt which apparently means its time to harvest them. Also the celeriacs were about to flower, which means they are no longer growing underground. The beans were also looking plump, so I took out my tools and decided to pick the fruit of my hard labour. This is what I got:

The entire harvest of my vegetable patch. All of it.

 

The potatoes had looked good but there were hardly any underground. The celeriacs were just a bunch of little roots. The cabbages were shredded by the caterpillars and peas eaten by slugs. The beans looked good in the stalks, but when picked, there weren’t that many after all.

Suddenly I feel huge respect for the farmers that provide the abundance of large, beautiful, colourful vegetables that fill the endless isles of our supermarkets. The amount I was able to produce in four months isn’t enough to provide me and my husband even one decent meal. I really hope the food crisis isn’t hitting us yet, because I am hopeless  at this with a life expectancy of about a week as soon as the Tesco down the road stops providing us. Truly an eye opener.

It makes me feel a bit better to hear that my more seasoned vegetable growing friends have had equally disappointing results this year. There has been too much rain and too little sun to really get things growing. I’m still very happy with the pot plant success, and will definitely have some more of them next year. As of the vegetable patch, I think the slug war is very hard to beat, so I’ve told my husband that if he wants another shed, I know a great place in the garden, where he can put it.

Celeriacs - epic fail
Celeriacs – epic fail

 

Peas - a total annihilation.
Peas – a total annihilation.

 

Herbs on the kitchen window sill make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

 

Bell peppers - close but no cigar
Bell peppers – promising… sort of.

 

2 Comments

  1. Raz says:

    This summer there have been more slugs and snails than I ever remember. They ate EVERYTHING. However, you should persevere because what you have harvested looks great.

    Plant some onions (from sets rather than seeds) next month, before the frost comes and they’ll put down good roots and will be ready and delicious in the spring.

    Garlic. Get a really nice bulb and plant individual cloves in the ground. They’ll grow over the winter as well and they’ll be really big by spring.

    Persevere with potatoes as well. Try radishes and maybe pumpkin too. I got some good courgettes as well. These seem to be less appealing to slugs and snails.

    Also – strawberries. I got an “evergreen” variety that fruits from April to October and they are so much tastier than supermarket strawbs.

    1. peppyliving says:

      Thanks for the tips, Raz. I didn’t know you were such a green thumb! I really wanted to plant some courgettes, but they need a lot of sun, and my patch gets very little. I did use sets rather than seeds, which were great.

      I’ll have a go at onions, garlic and radishes. Maybe should have a second attempt at celeriacs too. I might have planted them a bit too late.

      Cheers, and post some pix of your plot! 😉

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