“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” ― Calvin Trillin
So it seems I've been growing vegetables and herbs for 20 years! Even now, though it might sound strange, I don't deem myself to be an expert or claim to have in depth knowledge of soil types, crop varieties, or what will do well each season. When those first seedlings start poking out from the ground it always comes as a pleasant surprise and I'm forever delighted that, for the most part, we somehow manage to harvest some pretty good crops of staple foods. It all started when David came home one day and said he'd taken on a plot at an allotment a 20 minute walk from home. Since we only had - back then - a very tiny back garden and with 5 (yes 5!) offspring to feed, and virtually no money to our name, it made sense to do whatever we could to help things along. To say it's been a learning curve is an understatement! Even though my own parents always grew a few basic staple items, I didn't naturally inherit a desire to 'grow my own'. And we hadn't heard about the no-dig method of gardening - it was back-breaking work to clear and prepare a very overgrown and forgotten plot in the corner of the allotment site. And I will say just one word which is enough to put a lot of growers off for life... Sussex clay! Fast forward a few years, a different allotment association on the other side of town, and David is voted in as Allotment Chairman. That makes me chuckle still today because he's the last person you'd think of who'd want the position as he definitely is against rules and regulations of any kind lol! Anyway, by this time we had our own hens on the plot and David was becoming an established beekeeper and had several hives there, which of course helped increase pollination for everyone.
Fast forward a few more years and our move 150 miles west to Somerset. Different soil, different weather patterns and a neglected and overgrown veg patch in an exposed area in our back garden. It was pretty much too late to grow much that first year as we arrived in mid June, but by the following year we started organising it into distinct bed areas with weed suppressant paths and removing some pretty deep rooted docks and masses of nettles. We managed to getting a few spuds, onions, cabbages, beans and peas in and it was a bumper crop! By this time we were generally using the no dig method and had the added advantage of our own fertilizer with compliments from our hens and horses. We've since expanded our growing season and range, not just outside, but with the addition of David's 'potting shed' construction where I can now happily grow tomatoes, cucumbers, delicate herbs, peppers, chillies, perpetual salads, and even a melon or two. The outside veg beds are now raised beds using shiplap fencing lengths and this gets added to with the chicken manure, our own food-waste composting material and a few bags of bought compost. The plum tree and regrown apple tree already here are also thriving. This is all helped along through pollination from the roughly 150,000 bees in our hives. By this time we discovered we had been labelled by some of the locals as Tom and Barbara Good (aka the Good Life), which makes me chuckle as I was very fond of that programme at the time!