It was Boxing Day morning, and Christmas-time in the UK can be a grey, drizzly time of year. It’s not particularly cold and not particularly warm – fairly non-descript. Having had a family filled Christmas Day, the next day, then, seemed the perfect day to start growing vegetables.
I knew that spring is a good time to start growing things, but why not get ready a little early? The reason that I needed the extra time was because I had nowhere to grow my vegetables. I had a garden, but it was a space full of grass (to describe it as lawn would be stretching it) broken only by a concrete path running down the middle.
My task for the day was to dig out my first vegetable patch. I grabbed my spade and started digging but soon found that a fork was the implement to be used to break the ground. I had loosely marked out a square and started digging out row by row. When you garden is full of quick spreading couch grass, joined by a network of intertangled roots this is hard work. Fortunately, I discovered my soil is “good” soil – not too much clay, not too much sand, which meant that digging wasn’t as hard as it could have been, and that there was a good chance that my vegetables might grow without too much difficulty.
Half a bed that day, half a bed another day and I had a space where I could grow something. Roll on a couple of months and I had some seeds potted up on the window sill, and potatoes in egg boxes waiting to go in the ground.
Another month and I decided that it was the right time to get planting. The first thing I learnt was that there will never be enough space in the ground for what you want to grow. If I planted all my potatoes, there would be no room left for anything else. The second thing I learnt was that once I’d planted my seeds out, they looked much smaller than they had on my window sill.
A day or two after planting, I noticed that some of the leaves looked as if they’d been nibbled. Another day later and there was nothing left in the veg patch. Gone. All gone. It could have been a combination of slugs and birds. I felt deflated, frustrated and angry. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’d dug my own bed, tended to the seeds and then nature had cruelly taken them away from me.
This could have been the end of my gardening trial. Instead, I decided to fling some seeds down directly into the bed and to see what happens. A few things grew, the potatoes had survived, and I had learned what to do next time.
Fast forward a few years and I have had more vegetable growing failures, but also some successes. Courgettes can grow anywhere. A gooseberry bush that was threatened with eviction decides to start fruiting. I think the potatoes that I planted originally are still producing shoots.
The veg bed needs severe weeding every year, but gradually I feel it is becoming easier. I have dug another two beds and every year I plant some seeds, learning from the year before and learning for the next year coming.
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