Greengrocers

A wee draft from August that I found lurking, unpublished

A hundred years ago, pre-kids, I used to garden a lot.  With only a baby Maxi Minx to hinder me, I indulged in a lot of container fruit and veg growing.  The arrival of Midi and Mini seriously slowed me down (though we smugly weaned Mini on a home-grown carrot), and I didn’t think we’d done much this year until I actually reflected on how much we’d eaten from the garden.

Mini’s expression is due to her being photographed wearing odd crocs; nothing to do with only enough peas for 2 people

Over the years The Boss has built three 4 x 4 ft raised beds at the top end of the garden.  We’ve added a seat and some pebbles so that the minxes can clearly see that the small bit surrounded in stones is for ADULTS and the enormous green grassy bit is for KIDS.  Yet they still clamour after our bit of the garden…  We still have a lot of things in containers that I’ve never gotten around to planting in the garden.  So the blueberries, tayberries, strawberries and raspberries are pretty stunted.  Still, the latter 2 have broken through the base of their pots and have started growing wild where they are. They’re obviously happy there, so why tinker with it?

How many I found in the ‘cleared of potatoes’ bed!

We grew half a million potatoes last year, so I tried to grow a whole raised bed of them this year.  Well, the fact we got any at all was a miracle, thanks to Mini.  And although we got a heart-shaped pink potato, the yield was rubbish. T he garlic came up in tiny bulbs after 2 years of growing (though each miniature clove packs a wicked punch).  The phoenix rhubarb died off.  On the other hand, we’ve so far had 7 meals each (for 5 veggie-loving Trouts) from the 3 x 3ft of broad beans and the 1 x 1ft of peas.  Amazing!  The courgettes that finally went into toilet roll tubes before they withered, then were left to fend for themselves till 80% died have sprung into life, and are currently swelling into yellow and so-dark-green-they’re-nearly-black courgettes and big round melon-sized globe marrows.  Which are fantastic fried in butter with a big squeeze of lemon juice at the end – drool!  ETA: and in October, made 4 big jars of courgette chutney!   And it looks like this year’s crop of blueberries is going to be huuuuuge (it was!)

I got perplexed by the brassicas.  I’d tried to encourage Mini and Midi to sow the brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbages in nice, neat lines.  But they dumped all 3 packets in a big heap that I had to desperately salvage with a rake and spread as best I could.  As all 3 types were purple, it’s taken till now to really see what’s what and make sure I’m not thinning out all of one type.  Though it’s not thinning that’s the problem – it’s the caterpillars!  Confucious say: “Don’t plant brassicas in the shade of a buddleia bush, you blinking bozo”.  Wish I’d listened.  Every day I go out and pick ’em off by hand, and chuck the fat little things on the grass for the birds to pick off.  Well, after being away for a few days, there were over 40 of the green and stripey ones.  Then there were 30 or so the next day.  And so on, and so on.  Today there were only 5 (and a fair few clusters of butterfly eggs as usual).  I feel guilty whipping off the caterpillars, but they’re standing in the way of me feeding my children.  So the guilt only lasts long enough for me to chuck ’em, rather than squash them.  Well, the big ones, anyway.  My main thought, though, is how can so many hide away?  I expected one big blitz, then only find a few a day.  Not be counting in the hundreds!

Edited to add: after a week of this tomfoolery, I manned-up, went out with rubber gloves on every 2-3 days, and squished them so they couldn’t make their way back.  Even in October I’m still squashing 10-15 in each Caterpillar Cull.  I am going to Caterpillar Hell when I die. 

So why is growing your own veg such a big deal?  Well, it’s not really.  I just really enjoy getting the minxes home from school, telling them what meat we’re having for dinner, then getting them to go out and pick what veg they fancy going with it.  They’ve never been fussy eaters (take after their greedy mama), so it’s not that I need to persuade them to eat.  I guess it’s the same reason why the minxes, as toddlers, used to go to petting zoos and drool, “Yummy!” rather than think the animals cute – we’re trying to bring them up to know where food comes from, and properly prepare and enjoy it (as opposed to take everything out a cardboard or plastic box and just shovel it down any old way).

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