The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Give peas a chance


Click for larger imageA few summers ago a ceramic strawberry container sat on the whisky barrel by the back door, with a bright crop of lettuces I’d grown for summer salads. At the time my husband and I were big on the Atkins diet and meat-laden salads were a great favourite. I was fascinated that they grew so easily from seed and did come again after cutting, and the feel of their firm leaves as I rinsed them under the tap was hugely satisfying.

Less satisfying was my husband’s reaction. “It’s…fine,” he said. “I think I prefer the bags from Tesco.”

This feedback aside, I probably would have tried lettuces again if the strawberry pot hadn’t perished that winter, because they were beautiful. Truthfully, vegetable growing — and can I just say that I cannot abide the word “veg” — leaves me cold. Seeing vegetable coverage in the media is like contemplating my tax return; I glaze over. Partly this is because my attempts at peas, carrots and potatoes have given hilariously small yields, but mostly it’s because I’ve seen so few lovely examples of vegetable growing. Come hit me, Alys Fowler, with your TV series in January, because I desperately need convincing that I can do edibles beautifully.

Did you see this month’s Gardens Illustrated profile of Alys — the one that calls her “steely” — where she opines that it’s “slightly immoral” not to at least try to grow some of your own food? Yes, yes. My garden’s lack of fruit and vegetables makes me feel ashamed and unfashionable, all at once. But 9.5 out of 10 examples are visually awful and make a strong feature of bird netting and horticultural fleece. There’s no part of my garden I want to see draped in prophylactics.

So I’m now devouring information about doing vegetables beautifully, and my interest is piqued. I thought this planting (pictured) of kale and marigolds at RHS Harlow Carr this summer was a great example of what can be done. But I constantly garden against the clock — am I crazy to think about creating a potager-style space, edged with herbs, stuffed with edibles and beneficial flowers? I could make it easier on myself by siting my vegetable experiment in the sunny, sheltered square between the driveway and back gate and by using raised beds; I saw how fertile these can be when I helped with my local school garden.

I think I’m going to get out the pencils and measuring tape and start putting something on paper. Those stripey tomatoes, frilly asparagus peas and funky red Brussels sprouts in my Good Ideas for Your Garden book do look comely. I think, just maybe,  I could even grow to love them.

8 Comments to

“Give peas a chance”

  1. On November 24th, 2009 at 11:15 pm Mike Harmon Says:

    I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work 🙂

  2. On November 25th, 2009 at 12:34 am Deborah at Kilbourne Grove Says:

    I am always slightly paranoid that if I grow my own lettuce that I would find bugs in it. Tesco would work for me as well. But I do grow lots of tomatoes, they are safe!

  3. On November 25th, 2009 at 6:00 pm Janie Says:

    I think you could learn to love them too! I love to grow and eat lettuce! I just wash it good, and have not found any bugs yet. I do grow peas too. I eat them in the garden, no washing involved, except of course, for the rain.

  4. On November 26th, 2009 at 10:24 pm Nell Jean Says:

    You asked on my blog about a camellia suitable for espalier. Never having tried to train one, I can’t really say. Many of the Camellia sasanquas do take well to growing in one direction or another. There is a lovely pink that the nurseries have that grows with a very open habit that I think would do well, can’t remember the name.

    Try growing all sorts of vegetable things, you’ll enjoy the growing as well as the eating.

  5. On November 30th, 2009 at 6:09 pm Gail Says:

    I grow herbs and a few lettuces and know that I could try to grow more vegies in containers! It’s funny, but I’ve found plenty of bugs on lettuces I get from the produce markets! gail

  6. On December 5th, 2009 at 5:57 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Mike – thank you for the kind comments!

    Deborah – am definitely going to grow tomatoes this year…Tigerella, a striped variety…and also lettuces, which I’ll go thru with a fine tooth comb pre-eating!

    Janie – it’s asparagus peas I’m looking at growing, simply because they look so odd, but normal peas like yours would probably be a better bet, as we eat them by the pound here

    Nell Jean – thanks very much for camellia advice…I’m determined to get one of these as a present to myself for Christmas.

    Gail – I tried potatoes in a container and got it wrong…dug them up way too early…but wouldn’t rule them out as a container food. Have you seen these absolutely beautiful potato baskets and other containers from Burgon & Ball? I want them all!

  7. On July 5th, 2010 at 10:42 pm The Stopwatch Gardener | A gardening blog for time-poor plant fanatics » Blog Archive » Five reasons I’m ok with growing edibles Says:

    […] on the lettuce aren’t a dealbreaker: Deborah once commented that she’s always preferred store-bought lettuce to growing her own, worried there might be […]

  8. On April 13th, 2011 at 5:17 pm The Stopwatch Gardener | A gardening blog for time-poor plant fanatics » Blog Archive » Spring planting combinations that beat the patchy look (and don’t smell like toilet duck) Says:

    […] is why I was saying last year that I wanted to keep my new vegetable patch in a bit of the garden I don’t see from the […]

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