The story so far...

I was introduced to gardening by my former partner. Well, I came home from work to my rented flat to find her in my trackie bottoms fork in hand digging up soil that hadn't been touched in years. She knew her stuff. I didn't. We broke up (unrelated).

So I was left with a half cleared garden and some newly planted broad beans. Blessed with an old pear and apple tree, a bay tree, a clutch of chives and heartache, I got about the task of creating a veg garden.

Work in progress

I had to tackle weeds:


Unwelcome visitors:

Freaky eyes

But gradually I cleared the space to reveal the potential to grow a feast over the summer:

Chives (back), cucumber (front), courgette (right)

Weeping heart and rose plant to the left (um and weeds on the wall and path)
So I set about buying whatever I could get my hands on. I suddenly saw the array of seed packets at B&Q and thought 'I'll never need to shop at a supermarket again' and promptly bought a bucket load of seeds, not caring whether I liked the fruits of the plants or not. Peas (hated them), radish (never tried it), spinach (does anyone actually like the stuff?), the list went on.

And I planted them all at once, not thinking the necessary few months ahead when a glut could await me. I also just planted them wherever there was space. I gave some thought to planting them in a line, but I even messed that up. I put peas next to chillis next to cucumbers. I put leeks next to beans next to dandelion.

Ah the dandelion. I didn't mean to plant it, but as a seedling it had appeared in a pot of compost. As I'd not yet discovered the value of marking what I'd planted, I thought it was some great vegetable-to-be and I planted it out and watered it religiously in the hope of something special. Crushing disappointment.

On the whole though, it all seemed so easy. Seeds germinated:

I have no idea what these were

I grew my very own broad beans (not that I'd ever eaten them before)

Broad beans at the peak

And ate them!  It was then that I realised, I'd only got enough for one meal. A friend advised that I should have planted successionally, watered them more and pinched out the tops to get more growth. What? Who introduced this technical stuff?

Hmmm, maybe I'd need to build bridges with Tescos or flirt with the greengrocer to get back on good terms having got carried away and thought I could do this all alone. Still, I was proud of my beans:

My proudest moment as a veg dad

Summer was a success. Cucumbers ran riot, a glut of runner beans and the pear tree also came good. Bbqs after work with home grown salad become a staple on sunny days and life was good again.

The garden came into bloom too and I thought to myself how much time I'd wasted in pokey London flats, when I could have been enjoying all this. But to be fair, I was in my 20's and it would have been a choice of Soho or go slow...

Weeping heart

Then came bad weather. Apparently, these vegetable types can be a bit high maintenance! My garden very quickly resembled one of those restaurant store cupboards Gordon Ramsey often finds in his Kitchen Nightmares:

Rotten cucumbers (honest)
Runner bean plant from hell

Then came winter and work stopped.

Swiss Chard - looks better than it tastes

So over Christmas I set about a plan. Bought some books, had a whisper in old Father Christmas' ear and  got some good tools and set about clearing the garden ready for the new year.

I bought zoo poo (from Paignton zoo down the road - ish) and nourished the soil around the fruit trees. I pruned the apple tree in the hope it would give me more than the two apples it did last year. I even warmed the soil up by covering it. Because apparantly that's what gardeners do. But then some dog owners buy poodle coats.

In 9 months I've learnt more than I could ever have expected, through snippets of conversation, seemingly wise words from River Cottage and the RHS but most rewardingly from just watching what happens and trying to find the answers to all the burning questions like ' what are those little black things on my broad beans? Oh, aphids. And 'why has my potato plant just collapsed?' Hmmm, what's this thing they call blight?  I finally understand the birds and the bees; eating my snails and pollinating my raspberries. My cooking improved simply by chucking in home grown herbs at every turn. And I bored my workmates and friends senseless with evangelical excitement at the taste of my pickled cucumber...

This year will be a whole lot more challenging as I attempt succession and companion planting, more crops, in rotation and see if I can get other people to love it as much as I do

This blog picks things up from Easter time 2011...

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

My photo
I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.