My gardening for the year has come to an end. I have to say that I struggled to stay interested in it beyond August. My loss of focus was partly due to having a lot of other things to work on (both craft and non-craft), but also because the courgette plants grew unruly, the leaves turned grey and the fruit stopped developing so well. It was hard to be as excited. The tomato vines started to blacken, and the purple sprout seedlings I planted out were immediately consumed by pests. No real loss as I loathe Brussels sprouts.
I captured this time lapse video that shows the progress of my little vegetable patch.
Surprisingly, the courgettes were probably the greatest success of the season. They’re really easy to incorporate into cooking and very healthy. I would definitely grow them again, though probably only one plant next time.
I learnt too late that I should have kept the tomatoes at the front of my house, where there is more sun. This meant that I harvested mostly green tomatoes, which just left me with unnecessary preserving work. However, it was just as well I did preserve them. Many of the fruits I didn’t preserve seemed to have some kind of frostbite that made them rot. If I were to grow these tomatoes again (and I have loads of seeds), one vine would definitely be sufficient.
I decided to try fried green tomatoes following Nigel Slater’s recipe. They were all right.
I ate them with garlic mayo, which meant making mayonnaise for the first time. I was surprised by how easy it was.
Lessons from my gardening attempts this year:
- Don’t buy plants or seeds from the pound shop
- Seriously, don’t!
- Physalis is easy to grow in London, but I’m not hugely fond of the fruit
- Keeping herbs alive in the kitchen is hard if you live alone and like going on holiday
I’m not sure yet whether I’ll plant anything next year. Even though it was definitely worthwhile this year, you need plenty of time to use the vegetables once you have managed to grow them. Spare time really is at a premium for me at present.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to grow tomatoes given that they’re meant to be tricky, and I have a poor gardening track record. However, this is my harvest from two plants.
I decided to take all of them off the vine even though most are still green. It’s starting to get too cold and the vines are dying, which is affecting the fruit. With the experience I now have, I think I would get a lot more ripe tomatoes if I grew them again.
I decided to make some green tomato chutney with the slightly dodgier tomatoes. I followed Nigel Slater’s recipe, doubled. I didn’t have many jars left after my courgette jam exploits so had to make do with an odd selection. I ended up with seven jars of varying sizes- most of them quite large.
I also made a simple salad inspired by my recent holiday to Greece. The tomato is combined with nectarine and ricotta with a basil dressing. It’s a bit like a twist on a tricolore. I also grew the basil. The plant was a bit of a casualty of the holiday, so I had to use it all up quickly.
Recipe from The Silver Island Cookbook.
I finally got something other than courgettes out of my garden since I pulled my carrots and beetroot. It’s weird growing root vegetables as you basically have no idea what’s lurking under the ground.
For some reason only one of my beetroot grew to a decent size. I’m not too upset because I’m not that crazy about beetroot anyway. Turns out that I grew a lot of vegetables that I’m not too fond of. The fact is, I used to eat vegetables because they were good for me and not for pleasure. I have to say, though, growing my own has given me a new appreciation for veg.
Anyway, the small yield scuppered my plan of making chutney so I just roasted the beetroot in the oven. This was my first experience with raw beetroot. I followed Jamie Oliver’s recommendation of eating it warm on toast with horseradish. It was okay, but not sure I would make it again.
I was very pleased with my purple carrots because my dad’s girlfriend, who is a gardener, said that carrots are notoriously difficult to grow. I wanted to enjoy them in their raw form so I made some red pepper hummus with which to eat them. I followed this recipe, which produced by far the best hummus I’ve ever made, rivalling store bought. Hummus is one of the few things that I’ve found very difficult to improve by making from scratch.
I increased all of the amounts by 50% due to the ingredients I had on hand, so I now have an enormous quantity of hummus to consume. Fortunately it’s really good with the carrots.
The courgette glut continues. Here I am having harvested my biggest marrow yet, which weighed in at over two kilos.
Do you see the symbolism?
I’m hoping to get something other than courgettes out of the garden soon. I have a lot of fruit on my tomato plants, but it’s all still green. I think my carrots and beetroot are nearly ready too.
I made another traybake thing, this time based on this recipe from the BBC Food website. I used a whole pack of my favourite caramelised onion sausages for the stuffing and it was awesome. I think this might be my favourite courgette recipe so far.
I feel like this is a pretty flexible recipe. For the filling I used
- 6 caramelised onion sausages
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- Breadcrumbs made from two slices of bread
- 50g extra mature cheddar
Doesn’t look too bad once it’s tarted up on a salad, does it?
So far, my garden seems to be doing pretty well. That’s in spite of some weird weather that included powerful wind and rain that killed some of my young plants. They currently seem to be enjoying the blazing sunshine.
I’ve planted out almost all of my seedlings. After being stressed that I didn’t pick the best tomatoes to plant out, they seem to be growing pretty well. I have several good seedlings left and I feel bad throwing them away, but I also don’t really have a use for them. Meant to email colleagues offering them but forgot.
My two physalis plants are looking pretty strong so far too.
I’ve had some strawberry drama. After discovering an aphid infestation soon after planting out, I sprayed the plants with some stuff I found in the cupboard, which actually killed one or two of them. I’ve also had some other seedlings die off. Maybe I waited too long to plant them out and the sun is too harsh on them? On the positive side, I was so happy to notice the first fruit growing!
My veg patch is coming on wonderfully too. I made a GIF showing the how it’s changed over the past two months.
I have some courgettes starting to grow. I really find it crazy to think that all of this came from a single seed. Nature, right?
My carrots and beetroot are looking good too. Think I will plant some new beetroot seeds in the gaps left in the row to give me a longer yield.
The main task left is to stay on top of the weeding. My neighbour has a big flowering bush on the fence right next to my veg patch, which has dropped loads of seeds onto it. On the plus side, I discovered some jasmine right next to it in my own garden. Jasmine is one of my favourite smells, so it makes being out in my little sunny garden even more pleasurable.
I’m glad that after quite a heavy initial investment of time to prepare the garden, it’s down to routine maintenance that doesn’t take too long. I feel like I have a lot on my plate at the moment, so I’m glad the garden can be relegated to the back burner. It’s clearly still there though- a doodle in a team meeting turned into this.
Dabbling in indoor gardening during the winter whetted my appetite for a larger project. I soon found myself asking my landlady if I could tear up her garden, hoarding compost and ordering seeds online. I even bought a gardening-themed necklace.
Here are a few of the seedlings taking over my house.
- Various seedlings in my mini greenhouse
- Tomatoes and Brussels sprouts
A mistake I made when I tried to grow pumpkins was not preparing the soil. To be fair to the me of two years ago, the only tool I had was a hand trowel. However, it was ludicrously optimistic to think that I could just chuck the plants into the ground and be rewarded with an abundance of fruit.
This time, I spent a lot of time digging out my vegetable patch. I picked stones and I yanked roots. I dug in organic matter and two types of compost.
I realised the other day that I have only become interested in gardening since beginning intensive psychoanalysis. Something that I especially like about psychodynamic theory is its links to literature, and use of association and metaphor. I could hardly think of a more apt metaphor for analysis than taking the time to transform rough earth into something that can bear fruit.
I’ve written before about how my psychological state can be seen in my creative pursuits, a very obvious example of art imitating life. When I tried gardening before, I was unsuccessful due to a lack of preparation. I didn’t have all of the tools and equipment that I needed to turn my sandy London dirt into a garden that allowed my seedlings to thrive.
Two years on, I find myself researching and making plans to give myself the best chance at success. I took the time to observe my garden to put the vegetables in the best spot. Could this represent..growth?
Mini update as I’m so pleasantly surprised by how well my pumpkin plants are doing. Eagle-eyed readers of my Watermelon Elephant post may have noticed that the photoshoot took place in my pumpkin patch. Watermellie was a project for the HPKCHC, for a challenge with a loose garden theme. I believe that watermelons and pumpkins are from similar families, so I thought it would be cute to tell a silly story about her emerging from one of my pumpkin flowers. I was doing some weeding today and that prompted me to write a separate post.
Here’s a reminder of how the plants first looked when I transferred them to the garden.
So fragile! A few weeks later, on 16th July, they looked like this.
I weeded afterward I took the pic, don’t worry!
Flowers soon started to appear.
Some of which hatched elephants.
And here is how my plants looked on 3rd August.
Looks like I planted them a bit close together. Oops. But look at my babies!
Also, the plant that I thought was dead totally was a Jesus plant as it’s now flourishing. I think pumpkins must be pretty hardy as I nearly killed another plant through overzealous weeding and that recovered too.