At first I was happy just getting tomatoes to grow, then I picked other seedlings from garden centres such as cucumber and courgette, that was it, I was producing my own vegetables.
The greenhouse was a happy place, I had electricity in it, so besides an electric propagator and the rabbit’s electric blanket, I had a Walkman in it as well. There was room for a patio table and chair so my greenhouse was more like a detached conservatory. Of course once you get some encouragement with success in growing something, you want to try a bit more. I had a friend who grew dahlias, onions and leeks for show and showy they were. He was good at giving advice but not so hot in parting with his ‘show’ produce. Only once did I get an onion and I have to be honest I don’t know why they give out prizes for such examples, they have absolutely no taste at all. Now, although I will listen to show competitors, I don’t always agree with their methods. I prefer the more natural shape and size of vegetables, however I have learned quite a bit. I try to buy organic seeds so when they arrived, I put some into an envelope to let my neighbour try them. He doesn’t grow them on from seed, he gets someone else to do it for him, one of those very competitive gardeners whom I have now learned is a bit devious when it comes to the local flower show. I asked how the seeds were coming along, but apparently none of the ones I gave him germinated, a very poor gardener for an expert I thought, if I can get more or less 100% germination as a mere hobbyist.
I have a heated windowsill propagator with seven units on it, just the right size for the seeds when I sow them around February. Because of the need to make sure they don’t dry out on the windowsill, the rest of my plants get watered as well and it’s probably a shock to their system as I am quite lax in checking them. Once the seedlings are big enough, they get put into the little plastic drinking cups, names written on them and they stay on trays near the window. My dining table, which sits at the window is out of bounds whilst it becomes a nursery for the seedlings. Once I think they are tough enough to go out into the greenhouse, out they go. The rabbit’s electric blanket and a heated propagator are ideal to keep their little roots warm until they get acclimatised.
It’s round about this time I advertise excess plants, free to whoever wants them, so eventually the numbers are whittled down with little or no wastage of seedlings. It’s also about time for them to be potted on and I put them straight into the big tomato pots. Only until they get to this stage are they mollycoddled, the cold won’t do them any harm and apparently it helps to sweeten them. The greatest delight is seeing the flowers develop and the tiny fruits forming. The tomatoes are usually OK so I can look at other plants
Courgettes and cucumbers were always able to produce a couple of fruits and then the rest died and fell off. Apparently I’m not feeding them enough. A weekly dose of feed at the same time as the tomatoes, is not enough, it needs something pretty powerful with nitrogen. This year my sorry looking courgette was re-potted with a good helping of chicken pellets in the compost and was put outside, it does tend to take over the greenhouse so this year I will see how it does outside. I’ve had three courgettes off it already.
I’ve also had a Tromba squash, peculiar looking but a very nice taste, especially lightly cooked in butter.
Of course we come to permaculture, ideal for small space gardening. It’s mixed gardening where you plant early maturing plants along with late maturing ones or small plants under taller ones. The tubs with the metal arch have kale, peas and achocha. The two climbers are still quite happy so when I harvest the kale, it leaves space to replant. In one of the photos with both arches showing, there is a small polytunnel, you can just make out the hoops and the sweet potatoes under it.