Starting a veg patch

by James Alexander-Sinclair

My elder son Archie made his first vegetable garden this year, in the back garden of a slightly scummy, student infested house in deepest Peckham.

Photo of a cabbageMy elder son Archie made his first vegetable garden this year, in the back garden of a slightly scummy, student infested house in deepest Peckham. It was a very enterprising community effort by all of his housemates, involving sporadic (though manic) digging interspersed with frequent short fag breaks. The film of the process can be viewed here.

They then planted a whole load of stuff. Mostly without following any of the instructions, but who among us can say that we have always adhered religiously to what the label says?


I thought as much.

They sowed far too many cabbages, a raft of beetroot and battalions of lettuces. These then grew up slightly congested and choked. The brambles elbowed their way in and I then received a text message asking what the mysterious scrambling plant with White trumpet like flowers was. As you have probably guessed, it was a fine specimen of convolvulus, or common bindweed.

The next trauma to hit their nascent efforts was the cabbage white butterfly, which fluttered in and deposited eggs. These hatched into caterpillars, which then proceeded to demolish the cabbages. (For future reference this is best avoided by covering the developing cabbages with horticultural fleece, through which the butterflies cannot lay eggs. Either that, or gird up your loins for a session of egg and caterpillar squishing.)

These things happen to all who garden and we learn to roll with the punches. We have two options: one is to despair and beat our breasts in frustration, the other is to make the best of it and carry on carrying on.

Archie has chosen a third option: move to another flat with no garden.

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/08/2011 at 11:08

shame on them - five healthy young people who are students who should of all people know how to research a subject, not able to turn that tiny garden into a veritable store of fresh vegetables to keep their expenses down and eat healthily! I think the important giveaway in your blog, James, was the word "fag". At least they were getting some fresh air when they were digging! I do hope they will remember the fun times and ,next time, try a bit harder with their research. And I am sure they now appreciate people who do manage to grow good crops and the craft of gardening.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/08/2011 at 16:24

We all make mistakes when we first start gardening. Mine was not putting any slug pellets around some Asters. My dad was in hospital at the time and asked me to put them in, which i did but forgot the slug pellets. Next morning all I had left were stalks and nothing else, my dad just laughed when I told him. My dad didn't come home so I was thrown in at the deep end. I still make mistakes but that is the joy of gardening and its how you learn. It never ceases to amaze me and the excitement I feel when tiny seeds grow into lovely plants.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/08/2011 at 18:39

I have a black hollyhock, grown against a North facing wall, that currently measures 10 feet 4 inches and is dwarfing my sunflowers. Should hollyhocks grow this tall?

Gardeners' World Web User 01/08/2011 at 20:19

Despair not....therefore but for the grace of horticultural expertise go you and I.... we all have to start somewhere!!!

Gardeners' World Web User 02/08/2011 at 14:10

I share Archie's disappointment and frustration. With me it wasn't until year two that I could boast more than a 50% survival rate. Now things I'm planting are actually growing - yesterday I ate my first ever cucumber, that looked and tasted like a cucumber, it might sound simple, but the sense of achievement is rather good. If he does move to a gardenless flat, perhaps he could start again with herb pots, cut 'n cum lettuces, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries and build on these little successes.

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