The Veritable Veg Patch

8th May 2013 by

Food. It’s what feeds us and keeps our body going. Over the years my concept of food production has changed. Let’s rewind to the beginning shall we?

I came to the UK over five years ago and one of the first things I noticed was how all the veg seemed to be packaged pre_packed_displayin the shops. I didn’t understand why this was the case. Upon being introduced to the Otesha Project, I started questioning my food even further – what a food mile was, the journey of food from field to plate, where things came from, how they grow etc. In primary school I learned a wee bit about the basics (planting a seed etc.) but I never really understood or felt the connection between my own personal life and the choices I had.

Fast forward to the last year and I was fortunate enough to move into a flat which had an outdoor area. When I first moved in, it was pretty derelict and I couldn’t even see the garden through the wild growth. The previous tenant was an artist and loved being nestled in amongst the branches to paint – first lesson learned: everyone has their own definition of a garden.

It took me six months to get the gumption to tackle the area. And I did it in bits and pieces. I’m by no means a horticultural expert but I was patient with myself and took it in turns to clear the area.

More lessons learnt along the way: I could go to my local library and pick up brown waste bags and get all the green waste taken away and mulched; good tools are a great investment (shear, lopper, secateurs, gloves etc.); my local shops sold plants and small bags of compost at a particular time of year – ie. when I should be tending to the garden.

It still took me another 3 months to reveal the ground but I felt a sense of satisfaction as a raised bed emerged out of the wild state. Whilst the clearing was going on, I also kept an eye out over the months of how much sun hit the garden patch. I knew enough basics that sun, soil, water and seeds are what I needed and I was trying to ascertain what I had to work with. Next lesson learned: my garden didn’t get that much sun. Hm, this could be problematic I thought. But alas I plowed on.

I decided that the first year would be my season of experiment. I went out and bought seeds that I fancied growing – peppers, tomatoes, beans, peas, broccoli, courgette, carrots, salad, strawberries. It was a wide array of things and I admit, I got a little over excited. I read the instructions on the packet and tried my best to follow them thoroughly. And then waited to see what happened.

Long story short things grew but they didn’t necessarily grow well nor did I have a massive harvest. Over the summer period there was an intense deluge of rain (too wet), and then a drought (too dry). I learned about slugs, feral cats and pests the hard way but I certainly don’t regret the experiment. I would however be lying if I said I wasn’t discouraged by the end of the season.

And now fast forward to the present. After pondering about what to do next, I took inspiration from Otesha’s blog including the tales of horticultural training as part of Branch Out, the Tastetastic! cycle tour as well as the brilliant Newcastle-based Vertical Veg to try once again. I’ve learned to actually do a bit of research about things I might be able to grow with the little sun I had and I’ve accepted that Mediterranean vegetables just won’t work.

broad beanThis year I’ve chosen spinach and salad (which don’t need much sun), strawberries (in a container so I can move them around to catch the sun), tomatoes (in a container high on a shelf I’ve built to get the most sun exposure as possible), peas, beans and broccoli (all of which I’ve moved elsewhere in the garden where I hope it does better than last year). So far, so good. But I recognise it’s early days yet and I have a feeling there will be more lessons to learn.  Here’s hoping for the best!

Have any tales or tips for your food growing? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear about it.

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