What I have learnt from our Second Year of Growing our own Fruit & Veg

In 2014 we bought seeds to grow sunflowers, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, peas, salad leaves, tomatoes, spring onions, radishes, potatoes, chives and carrots. We also made a compost trench at the end of last year, and I planted a sprouting apple pip just as an experiment.

Sunflowers

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We planted our Sunflowers far too late, because my first two attempts failed. The problem mostly being replanting. Next year I shall make sure to replant them when they are young and protect them with a cloche and perhaps some egg shells. I will also make sure to support them with a bamboo stick and string.

Brussel Sprouts

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These are our Brussel Sprouts. There are about three plants looking similar to this one, and about similar in size. The most successful seems to be the one in a pot on top of the soil surrounded by egg shells. Successful in the sense that it is the least eaten, but it’s also the smaller of the three. Next year I shall be sure to protect these poor little plants from the naughty slugs, snails and caterpillars whose eggs I also noticed on one or two of my plants. I’m leaving them to do their thing as their are tiny little sprouts on one of them.

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Who knows??

Butternut Squash

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After last years surprise squash I was determined to grow some this year. I planted a few seeds straight into the soil far too early when the soil was not warm enough and nothing came of them until the weather heated up. These were then very quickly eaten by those naughty slugs and snails. I managed to protect one sprouting seed with a cloche and the plant we ended up with is a result of that. Last year, as the plants came with no help from me, I thought they wouldn’t need any assistance this year either. But they germinated when it was warm and were protected by the mulch of the compost heap the seeds were thrown into. The slugs had lots of other goodies to gobble up on the way to my seedlings. So next year plant when soil is warm and protect them!

My other problem this year is harvesting and curing them. Knowing when to harvest them has been a headache to me. Some say to leave them on the vine until the vine itself goes brown and dies. But I read somewhere else that the squash will rot with the vine if you do that?? The first two squash that developed are nice and tanned, but now I’m confused about curing them. Can they cure when ripe but still on the vine? Do I need to leave them out in the sun? Bring them in in the rain and cold and night?? So far I have just left them and tomorow plan to harvest one. Apparently they turn sweeter if you cure and leave them?? Who knows? I don’t even know if all six will ripen before mid November when we are due our first frost when they must all be harvested by? Questions, Questions…

Peas

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I thought I’d learnt from last years mistake here. I put less seeds in the pot and made sure not to kill them with salt, however the same thing happened. The peas came out lovely, then suddenly they shriveled up and went brown exactly the same as last year before all the peas had matured. I can only guess that the pot is to blame and it was too small even for the amount I planted? I have more seeds left for next year so I am wondering if I should perhaps plant them in the ground instead.

Salad Leaves

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These were very unsucessful. We had Spinach Beet, Rocket, a mixed pack of seeds, and I don’t even remember what the leaves above were? Many bolted and went straight to seed because the soil was too dry (even in wet weather, the rain wasn’t hitting the window box), the spinach beet just didn’t do well possibly due to the pot being too small (?), and the mixed salad (apart from the basil which I recognised), I put straight on the compost heap because I din’t want to accidentally eat a weed thinking it was a salad leaf I didn’t know?

I think in future I’d prefer to grow salad leaves on a window ledge inside the house, and leaves I recognise and know what they should look like! And I’ll make sure they get the right amount of water so they don’t bolt.

Tomato

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I expected nothing from the tomato seeds I planted after last years fail, but they’ve surprised and delighted me! We’ve had dozens and dozens of lovely fresh tomatoes. It’s late October and they’re still growing! I’ve learnt that they really do taste better straight from the plant, even more so than if you put them on the window sill to ripen, or leave them on the side until your ready to use them. The only thing I did differently this year is support the plant with a stick, and make sure I pruned the side shoots. Ana enjoyed sprayed the shoots with a mist of water to encourage them to set, and we fed them with organic feed about once a week at the end of summer. Really impressed with our tomatoes this year!

Spring Onions

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I shall definitely be growing these again. No trouble! Pests don’t seem to like the onion smell and they grow quickly. Some we left until they were the size of a small onion :S and they add such a punch of needed flavour in a plain salad. Loved them!

Radishes

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Another great surprise. Apart from the slugs who liked to nibble on them, these radishes were really tasty. And I didn’t think I liked radishes!

Potato

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We didn’t seem to get any big potatoes this year. I grew the same kind (Rooster) but they only grew to salad potato size.I don’t know why this was. My mum had the same problem, and she planted hers straight into the ground. Maybe we will try a different variety next year.

Chives

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I replanted our chives twice, but other than that I more or less forgot about them. It was only the other day that I cut some for Ana and she loved them and asked for more! We made the mistake of planting ALL the seeds at once. That wasn’t my intention but Ana was helping. I don’t know how they do over winter or if you’re meant to harvest them before frost? I might leave them and see what happens. We only recently tried them because I didn’t know if they had to be left to a grow to a certain size first? Or when they are meant to flower? Can you eat them once they’ve flowered? Apparently you can eat the root too like a mini spring onion. We’re yet to try that. The individual roos are probably tiny anyway because so many seeds were planted at once.

Carrots

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We planted less this year and the carrots seemed to thank us for that. They grew a little bigger. Ana certainly delighted in picking these and she liked them fresh from the soil (after being rinsed).

Compost Trench

Last year we started a compost trench, though I’m not sure if I wrote about it. We don’t have a compost box, but I didn’t want that to stop us. We dug a trench, piled in our grass clippings and veg peelings and anything else we thought compostable, and it worked a treat! Our plants seemed to love the soil. Next year I hope not to buy any additional compost, but we’ll have to see. I’ll also have to keep composting over winter for that to work. At the moment we’re waiting to harvest our squash, then we’ll dig up the earth and make a new trench.

Apple Pip

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The sprouting apple pip from the apple in the fridge was this years surprise. I had no idea growing fruit was so complicated with grafting and family groups etc. The pip came from a delicious apple, but there is no guarantee what kind of apple will be produced from the pip. It’s a semi self fertilising variety, though that’s if it produces any fruit at all, which we wont know for a good few years. Again, a fun experiment and a great learning curve on the way! I’m leaving the baby plant in the garden over winter, but I’ve wrapped it in plastic wrap and a cloche, hopefully to keep it from severe frost. Only time will tell.

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