The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Five reasons I’m ok with growing edibles


Click for larger imageAs I’ve mentioned, my fruit and vegetable growing experiment is having some surprising results: not only is this stuff edible, but I’m enjoying it in so many ways. As my own personal Eatin’ Project, this year I have dedicated a 1.2 m raised bed to showing myself and my kids how to turn seeds into food. I’ve been gardening hard for about five years and until now resisted growing crops, mainly because I hate fleece, netting, cages and the other prophylactics that allotmenteers protect plants with. If you’re in the same mindset I was, and you’re considering branching out from flowers only, here’s some food for thought:

  1. Bugs 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 bugs in it. But the raised bed (and the fact that it’s surrounded by wide gravel paths) has kept most slugs and snails away, and the rich soil along with an open, sunny position means other pests haven’t taken hold. I’ve found only a few bugs on the lettuce — just the odd greenfly or earwig. They haven’t done much damage, they’re easy to clean off and somehow they don’t bother me. The insects are a reminder that these plants, which we’ll eat, are alive. That appeals to me.
  2. Edible plants are pretty: the green swirl of the lettuce, the ferny carrot foliage, and now the purple blossom on the potatoes are all attractive, and the tiny handful of night scented stock and cornflowers I included in the raised bed bring in colour and pollinators. The rest of the garden (especially the romping rose hedge and main border, shown above) gives me plenty of space to be floral. The raised bed doesn’t need to do that job: its plants are more of a happy, leafy jumble — as if the fridge vegetable drawer has relocated outside.
  3. Food shopping sucks: I hate food shopping — my husband usually does it — but until now it’s been the only way to get fruit and vegetables into our diet. Having the good stuff growing outside the kitchen makes it much easier to eat healthily, and by pulling a few leaves from many lettuce heads, we always have salad. And it tastes better than Tesco’s.
  4. The kids are intrigued: my three-year-old girl likes to pull up a stumpy Parmex carrot, hand it over for washing, and crunch it (the carrots we grew in sandy soil taste better than those in the rich bed). Her brother eats raw spinach leaves and holds out his bicep for everyone to feel the difference. They both eat the few strawberries we’ve managed, and scattering apple lumps left over from breakfast keeps the blackbirds away from the berries (the cat also does guard duty). Both kids are so proud that we’re growing food and have shown off the raised bed to visitors. I think their enthusiasm is what I feel best about.
  5. Cloches make protection pretty: I bought three Haxnicks plastic bell shaped cloches for £10 and I’ve used them over and over again. They look pretty — a bit of a Victorian vibe without the weight of glass — and lettuces grow large and perfect under them.

I will grow more fruits and vegetables next year, but I’m a bit relieved that the Eatin’ Project hasn’t replaced my interest in  roses. This June was a rose bonanza in my garden, with the heaviest show I’ve ever seen, and the air has been thick with fragrance: the fruity Rose de Rescht, the Bourbon rose Zephyrine Drouhin and the lemony Etoile de Holland, plus the spicy clove of the old-fashioned pinks, and the outrageously sweet honeysuckle, Lonicera Japonica “Halliana.” I also took in Sissinghurst, Nymans and Hever Castle for the world’s biggest, best rose fix. (Endless pictures of the trip are here. Don’t go to Nymans on Monday-Tuesday like we did on first attempt — it’s shut.) When it comes to roses, the force is still strong with me; but I know now that my garden has room for something more.

Are you trying vegetable growing for the first time this year? Can you suggest any protection for fruit and vegetables that’s also attractive?

I have dedicated a 1.2 m raised bed

posted under Edibles, Gardening, Roses
13 Comments to

“Five reasons I’m ok with growing edibles”

  1. On July 5th, 2010 at 11:05 pm Claire, Plantpassion Says:

    try growing crops in hanging baskets for totally pest free produce, – parsley and tomatoes and rocket do very well. I’ve planted calendula officinalis and sweetpeas in with my veg to get the flower look, – and runner bean flowers are very pretty at this time of year. Plant chives near carrots for purple pom pom heads and keeping carrot fly off the parmex. My 6 yo, loves peas straight from the plant, and even loved the broad beans this year.

  2. On July 6th, 2010 at 1:53 am Jean Says:

    Your border is looking fabulous, and I’m glad you’ve decided that you can grow both flowers and food. I love the idea of growing food as a way of getting kids interested. I belong to a local community supported agriculture scheme and my farmers have an 18th month old daughter. Recently I was asking how they were managing harvesting and childcare. The mother explained that they have a babysitter come on harvest days. ‘But,’ she added, ‘Lydi comes out to the fields and visits while we’re harvesting. Today she was munching on bok choy; I love that!’
    I hope you’ll have time to show us more of your gorgeous roses. 🙂

  3. On July 6th, 2010 at 9:29 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Claire – that’s a great idea; I think I will try the hanging basket with dwarf french beans, as I’ve heard others have had success with that (and the basket bracket is over a rose, so falling water won’t be wasted).

    Jean – thanks for that! It’s amazing to see my kids want and like fresh things from the garden. The striped rose in the closeup in the right column here is Variegata de Bologna from Sissinghurst, and I want it! Here are 3 more shots of roses at my place this year: Rose de Rescht closeup, Tess of the d’Urbervilles under my bedroom window, and Etoile de Holland by the back door:

  4. On July 6th, 2010 at 10:25 am Tom Hughes Says:

    Thank you for the Haxnicks mention, always lovely to see others talking about our products (enough plugging), but I wanted to say that your advice on vegetable growing is spot on.

    I love fresh veg and growing it, but I often find the many helpful tools and ideas, including some of our own I have to say, unsightly, all very well growing beautiful vegetables, but it’s no good if you grow them under a piece of plastic sheeting in the compost corner of the garden. So I’m always on the look out for ideas to make these products more aesthetic.

  5. On July 6th, 2010 at 1:32 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Tom! I may splash out & try one of your glass ones, or your very large plastic bell, which I haven’t tried yet.

    With the medium bells I bought, I saw several packs of them on sale in the shops with one or more of the bells cracked; must have happened during handling, since I have had no problems in day-to-day use, but you may want to investigate different packaging to keep them safe in transit.

    I’ve seen the other protectors Haxnicks sells & some of them are pretty, but just too expensive for me. The medium bells are in the right price range & have proved to do the job. Then again, if you had a cheaper version of this ( I would be very tempted!


  6. On July 6th, 2010 at 5:10 pm Nigel Says:

    You didn’t say about the flavour! We’re harvesting tomatoes, now, and the foxy smell of the plants, and the totally fresh flavour has to be tasted to be believed. That would be my biggest reason – fresh flavour.

    The bugs are unaesthetic but easily washed off, whereas you don’t know that shop-bought produce has had on it!

    Lovely picture! Good gardening.

  7. On July 6th, 2010 at 5:12 pm Nigel Says:

    Whoops, sorry – should have said ‘you don’t know what shop-bought produce has had on it.

  8. On July 6th, 2010 at 10:50 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Nigel! I should have mentioned taste but in truth not all the carrots were yummy, only the pot grown ones were sweet ( anyone know if rich soil causes bitterness? Maybe I didn’t water enough?) The first beans and tatties are coming now and the taste is FAB. Store bought veg and all that’s touched it (chemicals and people) is icky to think about, agreed.

  9. On July 12th, 2010 at 1:40 pm hillwards Says:

    I always think that our home-grown carrots taste much more “orange” than any shop bought carrot. I can’t think of any other way to describe it!! It makes my husband laugh.

  10. On July 12th, 2010 at 10:33 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Thanks Hillwards – what variety do you grow? I am ready to spread my roots a bit and go for a proper straight one next year instead of the ball-shaped variety.

  11. On July 13th, 2010 at 8:29 am hillwards Says:

    We’ve only grown the traditional straight orange variety – Kingston F1 – so far. This is only our second year, so we shall try some more exotic varieties in the future. The seeds we sowed direct into the ground barely germinated this year, we ended up then sowing another lot in a bit of drainpipe in the greenhouse to start them off before putting them out, so ours are very behind this year…

  12. On July 13th, 2010 at 9:43 am Tom Hughes Says:

    Hi Sheila,

    Had a look at the Victorian Glass Greenhouse that you are lusting after – Very pretty, but i agree, quite a price for 45cm x 45cm cover. -Seeing as you asked – We do a Kitchen Garden Cloche which is 45cm x 100cm, at an RRP of around £30, which you should find in most good garden centres. Paste this into your browser to see.

    Tempted? – Also working on some really exciting ideas in this area for the future – Watch this space.

  13. On April 29th, 2013 at 8:36 am Fennel and Fern » The wrap-up Says:

    […] Stopwatch Gardener discovers that growing edibles is fun and […]

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