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Growing Veg 2017/#1 – Getting Started

Tomato Seedlings |

It all starts with seeds. Sometimes tiny, sometimes large. Put them in some fresh earth. Water them, keep them warm, then watch the magic happen.

Sounds lovely and romantic, doesn’t it? And to me it is. But it is also really, really hard work.

It starts gently in January when you pick your seeds, planting certain varieties in February or March. By April it’s time to start prepping the greenhouse, but it’s not until May that the real work begins. All of a sudden the frost is gone and it’s time to get planting. NOW!

From that moment until late October it is an all-out slog. Digging, planting, weeding, watering, spraying blackfly, picking off caterpillars, undoing the damage done by moles and cows and other critters.

Jalapeno Chilli Seedling |

A jalapeno chilli seedling

One by one, your crops become ready to harvest. Some are slow, providing a steady crop. Others are full on and need daily intervention so they don’t run amuck. Leave your courgette (zucchini) plants unattended for two or three days and you will have some goliaths waiting for you when you return!

Is it all worth it? Absolutely. My aim last year was go grow enough vegetables to feed us for an entire year. And that’s exactly what I did. Because we don’t have underground storage I deliberately left out vegetables that I can buy very cheaply from neighbours or at the market, like potatoes and cabbage. My onion crop got decimated by an early morning cow, so we also had to buy onions. I’ve never had much success with garlic and I don’t think ginger would grow here. I had dried lots of wild mushrooms, but sometimes a fresh mushroom is nice. I also like fresh tomatoes, so we bought small amounts of these. And we ran out of pickles. Other than potatoes, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumber pickles, garlic & ginger we have not bought vegetables since the beginning of last summer.

Sweet Pepper Seedlings |

Sweet Pepper Seedlings

What did I grow last year?

I had a bumper crop of both carrots and beets, which I tried storing in barrels of sand to protect them from the elements. This did not work once the temperatures got really cold (like -15 C / 5 F) – most of them turned to mush. Thankfully I had frozen a few and these were enough to get by – we didn’t need to supplement these two vegetables.

What I did have enough of were:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Courgette (zucchini)
  • Sweet peppers
  • Florence fennel
  • Redcurrants
  • Damsons
  • Apples
  • Lettuce & salad greens

I also had a large amount of chillies still frozen from the previous year.

Some of these were used while they were available only (such as the salad greens), but most produced enough to store, either by drying (onions & wild mushrooms), preserving (jam, jellies, tomato sauce, vinegar and wine) or freezing (the bulk of the vegetables listed above).
We are still eating our own vegetables every day, and I anticipate that we will have enough to see us through until the new season begins.

Tomato Seedlings |

Tomato seedlings

What will I grow this year?

In a nutshell, much of the same. I will grow less of some (like carrots, fennel and green beans) and more of others (like tomatoes and pumpkin). My aim is to grow vegetables that are easy and compact to store.

So far I have planted my sweet peppers, chillies and tomatoes. I bought heirloom tomato varieties that I am very excited about. One is called “Lithuanian” and the other is “Hungarian Heart”. I hope they will be successful both in terms of crop and the ability to save seed for future years. Both germinated very well and the seedlings are all healthy. A have a few indoor chilli plants that got a little tried looking over the winter months, but I am happy to see that they are now starting to regenerate.

Reviving Cayenne Chilli Plant |

Jalepeno Chilli Plant |

Regenerating chilli plants

They’re not for eating (obviously!) but I also planted six acorns last autumn. All germinated and have grown into strong seedlings. I look forward to watching them slowly growing into huge oak trees over many, many years.

My arms are tired just thinking about all the work that’s ahead of me, but if I’m honest I can’t wait. Sunshine, fresh air, birds chirping, veg growing – I love it all!

(For more posts in my “Growing Vegetables” series please see here.)

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Oak Seedling |

An oak seedlings grown from an acorn I collected in our village

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alice Merlics-Walsh #

    I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying your stories! Quite an inspiring journey you are having.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 3, 2017
    • Thanks Alice! Delighted to hear that! I’ve been enjoying your new blog, too. Best of luck with it!

      Liked by 1 person

      September 4, 2017
  2. I love the additional amount of diversity of food one can get by starting their own seeds. It is a lot of extra work and resources, but I think it provides an interesting window to get to know other cultures and cuisines.

    Liked by 2 people

    May 30, 2017
    • I LOVE seed shopping! Yes, it’s lovely to walk into the market and buy a healthy plant ready to transplant into your garden or greenhouse, but I love reading through seed catalogues and picking varieties that suit my needs or pique my interest, then trying a selection to see how they turn out. It’s fun and so gratifying.


      June 2, 2017
  3. Wow… it’s time to get the seeds out… I just have a few peas germinating. Grinned on your line about goliath zukes.Thanks for this inspiring gardening post.

    Liked by 2 people

    March 24, 2017
    • Thanks Bruce. Those zukes can really get away from you sometimes, can’t they?! Happy planting! 🙂


      March 24, 2017
  4. Beautiful crop!

    Liked by 2 people

    March 22, 2017
  5. What a crop! I’m seriously impressed. I have fruit trees on my balcony which generally yield enough to feed nobody it all, and I generally grow tomatoes each year, but I cheat by buying plants. It’s hipster gardening really. All blossom and no knickers.

    Liked by 2 people

    March 21, 2017
    • That last line made me giggle! Nothing wrong with buying plants, especially if you don’t have somewhere suitable to start them. You need plenty of space. I’m impressed that you grow anything at all in what I assume is an apartment! Good on ye!

      Liked by 1 person

      March 21, 2017
  6. What a glorious post! Your hard work has paid off in spades (sorry – pun intended) and this year will be even better as you work in the little lessons learned last year. It really is the Good Life – I include the backbreaking l’y hard work in that statement because I honestly believe that physical toil is a big part of the recipe for content if there is a point to the toiling. I look forward to updates on your growing calendar through the year and next year, all things being equal I hope to be planting for myself (a little not a lottle to start with)

    Liked by 2 people

    March 21, 2017
    • Thanks Osyth! Yes, there is a certain pleasure from the pain when you know what’s coming at the end of it. I thought I was going to go cross-eyed picking and stemming 22 kilos of redcurrants for wine, but that wine got me through the winter! (And boy is it tasty!) There were definitely lots of lessons last year and I hope to do even better this year. Best of luck with your own planting adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

      March 21, 2017

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