This Spring and Summer we tried our hand at growing Courgettes, Basil, Parsley, Tomatoes (San Marzano), Potatoes (Maris Peer and Rooster), Peas (Hurst Greenshaft), Carrots (Flyaway F1), a surprise Butternut Squash plant, and Jolokia Naga Chillies kindly donated to us from our local Bakers!
- The courgette plant produces male and female flowers
- The first flowers are generally male and when the flower falls off, this is no problem, it’s meant to happen!
- Female flowers have a mini courgette behind them which will continue to grow if fertilsed. If not, they will simply rot with the flower.
- In moist conditions, if the flower remains on the fertilised courgette, sometimes the courgette may rot along with the courgette. This happened to two of our courgettes so I made sure to knock the flower off when it was ready on future ones.
- Rather than pull up the plant on harvest moon I left the courgette plant until it either stops producing fruit, or until frost kills it off.
- Courgettes can be eaten before they are fully grown.
- Cut the courgette off with a sharp knife.
BASIL AND PARSLEY
- Relatively easy to look after, plant in an adequately sized pot in good compost and on a sunny window sill, water regularly, and harvest frequently. I learnt that growing a plant from seed was a lot easier to look after than buying a grown plant as you can pick when young. They can also be grown all year.
- At first I did not prune the plant, I planted all the seeds (40) in one tiny pot, nearly killed them with lack of space and then by frost in the garden. And I did not provide any support. I now understand this advice is there for a reason or you will not get any or much fruit or will be late and not as tasty.
- Should take a month from appearance of tomato to fully ripe. Mine however did not ripen.
- As with tomatoes I thought had been hit by potato blight but may have been magnesium deficiency due to insufficient nutrients in compost, or simply damp weather conditions. I learnt not to water on the leaves but just the roots to avoid this.
- Not all potato plants need to flower before producing potatoes.
- To cure harvest, put out in dry sun to cure for a few hours then store in dark bag such as brown sack.
- I planted mine in a ridiculously small pot
- Peas do not like SALT!
- Pick regularly to encourage more from.
- Once flowers arrive it shouldn’t be long before the first peas grow.
- My carrot growing was quite successful. Next time I will put them in deeper compost
- Carrots do not need a great deal of water or they will concentrate on growing foliage (but too little water and the carrot will crack).
- Carrots are biennials and so the seeds and flowers will produce in the second year. F1 varieties like mine will not produce seeds.
- If the carrot does flower, the carrot will be woody and inedible.
- These are related to courgettes and other squashes and grow in a similar way with similar flowers. The baby squash can be seen behind the female flower.
- They are pollinated by nectar gathering insects, or if necessary they can be hand pollinate with a finger or brush.
- They require a lot of space to grow.
- It takes around 3 months from a fertilisation of flower to maturity.
- Unlike courgettes, butternut squash can not be eaten until fully ripe.
- The seeds from supermarket Butternut Squash, even if they do germinate, may not produce any fruit because you cannot be sure of the heritage of the plant.
NAGA CHILLI PLANT
- Chillies are self pollinating, but jolokia naga chillies actually need a little help. I did this with a brush dipped in warm water and then I brushed it on the flower heads
- Naga chillies can take 190 days to ripen
- Jolokia naga chilli plant grows up rather than out.
- We are making our own compost the very old fashioned (and probably least efficient) way of digging a trench, adding our veg and fruit peelings (uncooked only so not to attract vermin – plants that may have fallen to the ground anyway), covering it with more soil and then layering in this fashion and turning over from time to time. Time will tell if the compost is ready for next summer.
I have also learnt that although we aimed to be as economical as possible with our vegetable growing, it can be a very expensive business! If you buy new pots (some needing to be very large), compost, fertiliser, tools and seeds, that lot can set you back a lot, and then you do not have a guarantee that you will grow any good food! At the supermarket you at least can see what you are getting for your money.
The trick, I think, is to do as much as you can in preparation. Make your own compost as early as possible so you don’t need to buy any, re-use old pots or use anything to hand (eg. use old wellingtons to grow carrots), research online for recipes to make homemade organic fertiliser. It takes a more effort to begin with, but can save a packet if budgeting is the reason you are growing your own.
Our mind frame is to treat it all as a fun experiment, then if our plants do fail all is not lost.The entertainment and learning Ana and I gained from it completely overshadowed the fact that I killed our peas and that our tomatoes were late fruiting and rotted before they turned red or that the butternut squash will not ripen before the frost. And our successes in terms of courgettes, carrots, parsley, basil and potatoes were happy bonuses!
Next year I want to grow chamomile so I can grow my own tea (I drink a lot of chamomile), and I’d like to try growing garlic from a garlic bulb.