Sustainable Living : The perils & flukey awards of an untended garden

A few years ago I tried my hand at gardening, confident I’d be smugly eating all my own vegetables in no time. I borrowed books from the library, read up on ‘companion planting’, the right time to plant various seeds and purchased seeds online with Irish Seedsavers (highly recommended). When all the research began to overwhelm, I decided to just plant the seeds that I liked, water them and hope for the best. For the first few years I did maintain the garden properly - weeded the beds, watered the plants, lay coffee grounds around to discourage slugs and was amazed to see how much bounty I got from the garden.

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Fast forward a few years and a few children later, the garden veg patch has not received the same attention it once did. I still plant every year but it’s the plants I know will grow easily, need the least maintenance and that I’ll use regularly. So, if you do like the idea of growing your own vegetables, with minimal effort, here’s what I’ve learnt:

Herbs are a pain, they just didn’t want to grow in my garden. Even mint, which everyone says will take over, didn’t like the look of our patch. 

Potatoes are winners. Buy a bag of starters from a garden centre or keep some from a bag of spuds at home that you like. Keep them in a press until they grow those weird looking knobs and then plant them in rows (approx. 40cm apart) with these knobs pointing up. You should really check them every couple weeks and build the soil up around them. Otherwise any potato that sees the sun will turn green and you can’t eat it. This year, my least attentive to date, I didn’t do this and had a few casualties.

I like the idea of growing a basic green salad in the garden. It’s really handy to be able to go outside and pick lettuce, rocket and spring onions and have a side dish for Summer dinners. Although spring onions can take longer to grow, lettuce and rocket grow easily and really quickly. I planted at the start of April and we didn’t buy lettuce or rocket all Summer long. In my optimism, I even bought tomato plants in the hope of producing an entire salad from the garden. Despite the crappy Summer this year, the tomato plants did grow. Although the yield wasn’t great, the tomatoes were the tastiest and sweetest ones I’ve eaten. 

The whole gardening experience was equally relaxing and trying this year as in their quest to help me, the kids seemed drawn to dig up the very things I was planting and trying to maintain. They were so excited to help me plant the seeds, help with the watering and run out to pick a couple of tomatoes and some lettuce for our lunch. I really recommend gardening with your kids but just don’t be too precious about the results and be prepared to have kid friendly back up tools as they will demand whatever it is you are using. Your plants will also be overwatered regularly.

As I only planted one flower bed (instead of the usual two) this year, the major blow came when I had to dig up the knee high weeds that had taken over due to my underwhelming urge to weed all Summer. Zero fun was had that day.

So, if you are eager to grow your own, start all the reading up now and by March forget anything you’ve learned and be ready to just throw the seeds in, cross your fingers and hope for the best. I swear by it.

Thanks for reading,

Eva