A few years ago I decided that I’d create a mini-allotment at the end of my suburban back garden. In the main, I did it just to see what I could actually manage to grow in a relatively small space, and I also reckoned I’d get a lot of satisfaction from actually managing to grow a few things that we could eat. When I was a kid and lived in the country, we used to have a small vegetable garden that provided a lot of the food on the table (potatoes mostly!) so in some ways my little current venture has a ring of ‘full circle’ about it too.
A few things have emerged as this interest has evolved. The ‘man-garden’ behind the so-called ‘real garden’ also contributes some potted flowers on occasion, not just vegetables. I have a small cheapo plastic greenhouse that I’m considering replacing with a small poly-tunnel ( read – garden envy), though space is limited. The vegetables have also become a bit of a chore when dry-weather watering is required. But my biggest gripe is the pests and plant diseases that seem to conspire to eat/kill/attack my little garden zone.
I am (hands up) very much an amateur, so I fear I have also contributed in part to my own problems by trying to cram in too many plants. And that enables the rapid spread of diseases, unfortunately. Plus it creates a mini-forest for slugs and snails in their thousands (it seems) to roam and munch. So what’s doing well and what’s doing badly this year?
On the positive side, I have a nice crop or Rocket, Salad leaves and Lollo-rosso, and with these the main challenge seems to be phased sowing to avoid gluts. I have a nice little bed of strawberries, which my regular watering seems to have helped with. So now I have a crop that I am at war with the slugs and snails over – even though I know the plants are packed too tight. The runners they put out tend to fill up any gaps.
Herbs are another success, generally. I have pretty much everything in this vein growing well now in beds or boxes, only problem is that when they tend to go to seed I’m unsure what to do. I have a box full of vigorous Celeriac (first time) that I have no idea how or when to harvest (research required). In my greenhouse I have seven tomato plants that are growing rapidly, plus one cucumber plant (again, a first) and I’m hoping that because I moved the greenhouse to a sunnier spot this year, I may get a better crop. I also have a few tubs of basil seeds growing well in the greenhouse. This is an ongoing interest/concern because I normally get them to a particular point and then they all fall over and die en masse. So every time I open the greenhouse door, I hope they’ll still be standing.
And on the negative side, what’s happening? Well my four courgette plants are flowering well but have mottled leaves, which has me a bit rattled. Though my extensive online research into ‘miscellaneous garden issues’ suggests this may not be a terminal condition (for my courgettes). I planted a bed of Swiss Chard that basically died when all the leaves turned papery – apparently this was a fungal attack, but I may have contributed by planting when the weather was quite wet. And finally my spinach plants are pretty much hit with the same condition, and written off. I have a few small tubs with French beans where the leaves are being eaten, but I’m hoping to figure out shortly what’s happening there, and try to resolve.
And last but not least, the slugs and snails create an ongoing moral dilemma about eco-friendly ways to kill them. I am aware that some proprietary solutions are potentially going to affect my garden birdlife, notably our resident robin family who have successfully raised a brood for the past two years. So that’s another angle to mull over and address. But I swear on wet nights you can almost hear the sound of an army of munching, predatory slugs and snails spreading out across the garden. So it’s them or me. Overall though I am still enjoying the ‘garden experience’. And I think the abundance of TV programs on this topic and the existence of online gardening forums and Q&A sessions indicates that I’m not the only one enjoying the idea and the reality of ‘growing your own’. No matter what the challenges and speed bumps that emerge may be. Persistence is the key (he said, confidently).