The Sprog'S "Mother Dirt"
0 comment Sunday, October 5, 2014 |

While garden plans continue apace and there's a lot going on and being planned, I am gathering up what I can as far as seeds go in order to plant a food garden along with the sensory garden.
My son's enthusiasm is very encouraging - ever since he was two, I've been starting seedlings in yoghurt pots or pots I made with newspaper. I once even found him "planting" himself when all my seedlings ended up in the carpet. I have always grown strawberries; on Mother Dirt I grew greens, onions, potatoes, carrots, cherries and lavender. I've downscaled a lot from that massive plot, and growing in long windowboxes is what I'm endeavouring at the moment, with maybe a small bit of raised bed to start with until the garden plans really kick off. I have the faith that eventually the garden as a whole will happen, but I won't put growing food entirely on hold, though I may not aim quite so grandiose at the moment.
As a result, my garden plans are considerably less extensive as previous years. My needs are simple and I am trying to stay in keeping with what I know I've the space to manage.
Peas - I'm so overjoyed that sprog wants peas. I like them myself, but I love them best fresh out of the pod. Where are these going? I've no idea...I may reserve a raised bed where the compost is for this.
Beans - beans are a bit hit-and-miss with sproggo but they're a good summer veg for me and when I dry them will be great in soups over the winter. Location? See above!
Carrots - I have both Rothchild and the "globe" variety, for juicing and storage and the small ones just for fun, as sprog may get a kick out of round carrots.
Potatoes - always a winner, my son loves his oven chips and he's also showing an interest in mashed. I buy potatoes rarely as I have turned them into a rare "treat" for myself due to carb content, but I do want a fair few to store. I'm going with my favourites, Yukon Gold.
Onions - red baron are my usuals; red onions give a better flavour, I think, and I always grow a bunch of these in with the carrots.
Purslane, chard, baby lettuce - my greens are a necessary thing, but I'm trying to find veg that really packs the biggest vitamin punch; I've already known that iceberg lettuce is pretty useless, but I didn't know about purslane until recently. Purslane is considered a weed, but it contains natural Omega-3 oils, and loads of B vitamins as well. Chard is not something I used to enjoy until I found a lovely, simple recipe with bacon, a splash of vinagrette and shallots. I could eat the stuff nonstop now and, sadly, there's hardly any chard in the stores and hasn't been for a while. If I want it, I have to grow it, and that goes for the rather trendy baby-leaf lettuce as well - much more expensive than I can afford, but I can cut-and-come-again with home grown for quite some time.
Herbs, herbs and more herbs - oh so underestimated! Herbs are a cook's blessing, a child's delight and the poor man's gardening material. These were the first plants I taught my son to grow; chamomile, coriander, thyme and sage. The chamomile I still have, and the thyme, but it's time to replace the sage, plant some new coriander, and I'm now looking with a view into lavender, some new chives, ginger-in-a-pot, basil (probably in a small growhouse), and I'd love to try and grow more mint and some tarragon. Besides, herbs are beautiful; a pot of blooming chamomile has greeted visitors at my door for seven years. A whole windowbox devoted to herbs is the goal this year, as well as whatever pots I have left over.
Squash and pumpkins; I had some success with these last year, but I had to grow them out front to keep the dog from eating the young squashes! If I manage a small bed for the beans and peas, I will plant Black Futsu with the legumes, and maybe even a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin for halloween. However, it's all going to have to be netted I think to keep Ludo out of the lot, and even then I have to prepare for the eventuality that these plants will take up a TONNE of space, as squash tends to do. Still, the excitement sprog showed last year when the squash started to set will be worth fighting the vines out of the way of the stairs.
Sunflowers - just a given really when one has children. Strangely enough, I find that this is a type of flower that most of the English absolutely loathe. I'm not sure why; I've even heard people say they didn't like the way the plant "stares at you" (!). TRIFFID!!!! Regardless, I'm fond of the sunset variety, which is a deep, rich red, rather compact, and should work a treat.
Tomatoes - I have grown toms in the most unlikely of settings; in a chest of drawers, in an old nappy bucket. English summers are mercurial, and what I often ended up with was a lot of green tomato chutney, but I'm still on a mission to grow enough toms to make my own pizza sauce for sprog's pizza addiction. This will definitely necessitate a growhouse, but those aren't horribly expensive and four plants would certainly serve us.
Strawberries; I still have upward of 40 strawberry plants outside, and will always get more off the plants I currently have when they send out their runners. However, the bed they're in is a really inefficient way to plant them at the moment, and so I'm going to take them out and put them into "strawberry towers"; much more compact with netting to keep off the starlings. These aren't expensive to purchase, and so next month, before prices start to go up in anticipation of gardening, I'll get two and move my dormant plants somewhere more amenable.
Minarette cherry tree - maybe I'm being wildly optimistic, but I'm keen to get a minarette tree in, and cherries would be brilliant. However, again the question is "how to keep the dog out of it" and then how to compete with the starlings...I'll have to put some thought to this a soon it will be time to order a tree and it's either now or wait till November.
This still looks like a huge list; but there are no veg or fruit here which require a lot of time, space, or work. I love asparagus, but it takes a while to produce, so it's not here. No corn - and I love corn. No raspberry canes though both sprog and I could eat them till we bust, but I don't know where to put it and I can't prepare a space for them just yet. No leeks, no celery, no chicory, no cabbages.
My ex still insists that growing food doesn't save any money when he can buy Class A fruit and veg at the supermarket for pence. But if you're growing in your garden without the use of chemicals, what you're growing is organic food - and if you have a look at the price of organic in your local supermarket, the difference is made quite clear. Compare the cost of fresh herbs; pots of growing coriander are a con, because coriander is annual and fast-growing. You have to reseed the stuff constantly if you want to use the leaf. I can grow from seed continuously throughout the year for the cost of a coriander plant which will last maybe a month.
Besides, there's a lesson here - a lesson in interest and in caring for something with one's own hands which one cannot put a pricetag on. My son's interest is growing, and his enthusiasm, and this means we have a subject which we can always talk about together. That's worth a lot to me.