Harvest (or 10 things I learned from gardening year two)

harvest2016_potatoes

Earlier in the year I outlined our plans for year two of venturing further into the world of gardening. As the harvest wanes and dark evenings have snuck up on us, I’ve been reflecting on what this growing season has taught me:

  1. It would be too easy to spend a lot of money in the garden. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the floral treasure troves to be explored, and we consciously reined in our expenditure. Shopping secondhand (charity shops finds and three vintage tea chests from Gumtree) helped us achieve some of our ambitions at an affordable price.
  2. Plants sometimes need…dusting. Cobwebs everywhere. Anyone else?
  3. The rage-inducing presence of snails and slugs. We went for a relocation approach*: armed with a trowel and empty yoghurt pot, transferring them from our nurtured beds to the ones along the side of the house that we see infrequently, leading to an out-of-sight, out-of-heart attitude.
  4. Southampton slugs like… chillis. We managed to rescue four from their incessant jaws, saving them for a big batch of homemade chilli. That was a happy moment. But the loss of some to these slimy blighters was frustrating and bemusing. If the heat of didn’t stop them, what would?
  5. Potatoes are frightening. When we first buried them in the planter, I checked each day for any sign of growth, thrilled to see a glimpse of green rising through the compost. Before long we daily checked them with a sense of trepidation. When would they stop growing? It was like Day of the Triffids out there. Is it normal to be frighted of your own potatoes?!
  6. Growing is not linear. Last year we had seven whole strawberries. This year, two. TWO. And one of those ripened then rotted while we were on holiday so we ate half a homegrown strawberry each. That was…disappointing.
  7. Homegrown is not always tastier. We managed to grow one pepper. It appeared to ripen beautifully but in the tasting was frankly bland and slightly bitter. Lashings of balsamic vinegar helped. We still ate the whole thing, finding some fulfilment from the fruit of our labour.
  8. But sometimes it is more flavoursome (and cheaper). Homegrown lettuce, rocket and herbs were our most fruitful grows. They supplied us all summer (paying for themselves in just a couple of weeks). I grow nostalgic recalling the pepperiness of the rocket, full-flavoured mint enhancing summer drinks, fresh rosemary elevating homemade chips. These were great, satisfying successes.
  9. The buried bounty is the best. Seeing the incremental increase in the size of our chillis and lone pepper was heartwarming, but the greatest joy was excavation the potatoes (and a lone surviving onion). We began, fearful that there would be nothing to show for the months of growth, then there was one, two, dozens of potatoes. True some were small, but they were there and they were ours. They filled fewer plates than our salad, but they were the best.
  10. Gardens are for designing too. I’ve always enjoyed the process of arranging and rearranging furniture, items on the shelf, books into a more aesthetically pleasing combination. I knew that the garden would be restorative from a well-being, reconnecting with nature point of view. I didn’t consider that this outside space could also be made home.

harvest2016_potatoes_closeup

*One day I returned home to find 26 (TWENTY-SIX!) snails and slugs brazenly rain-bathing on the fence and munching on our plants. I relocated them but one had the audacity to begin climbing the house towards the garden right in front of me. I killed it in a fit of rage. Two others lurking nearby fell under my trowel in that same anger-fueled state. I still feel bad about it. 

Today’s soundtrack: Sawbones podcast // Vinegar

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