Saturday, 31 January 2009

Growing our own and gardening over time

Now I'm away from site for a few days my mind turns to growing stuff. There is just so much that I want to grow. I relish the idea of eating our own home grown veg. It isn't just the taste factor, it is the thrill of seeing the plants grow from those first tiny sprouts into full grown beauties.
I get awestruck whenever I stop to think about the abundance of nature- how one plant, one fruit even, such as the tomato, provides us with so may seeds, so we can keep growing and always have some to spare. That image always helps me feel supported by nature.

The thing is - I want to grow EVERYTHING. I know that we'll be busy building and I keep saying that we'll start with a few things in pots around the house this first year, but I'm desperate to really get started. I'm not sure if we'll have time to make the raised beds this spring (and it is good to have time to really plan where they are to go) - but we could try a couple.
To ease my desperation to 'get started' I've decided that we'll get a polytunnel this spring. That means that we'll have somewhere to start plants off (Sam is very adamant that I won't be using the windowsills in the shell of the house for plant propagation - how well he knows me!). Actually, I think the polytunnel will be great here in Leitrim for keeping the rain off and giving shelter to the plants (and any washing - I've seen many a polytunnel with a line of drying clothes down the middle. I guess that is 'cos we get a lot of rain showers here - but sometimes sun inbetween them).

I haven't always been obsessed with growing veg. In our last home in Cambridgeshire, England, we had a sweet garden mainly full of shrubs and flowers.

We had a small potager, but never really used it enough. It was our first owned garden and I just loved pottering round it. I wasn't bothered if it got a bit wild and weedy, I just adored wathcing things grow, flower, self seed etc.

Since then, the obsession with growing our own has grown within me. It isn't in a 'lets reduce food miles' way, it is more a fascination that I CAN do this myself and that I'll know my food will be of good quality and well loved. It pleases me to be a part of the growing process - part of the natural cycle in a way.

I haven't grown much in the past two years since moving. I could have made an effort (we live with my aunt and she is happy with us doing some planting in her garden), but I feel like saving my energies for our own garden. That being said, I did try a few things last year, the most successful of which was our tomatoes (bought as plug plants), which despite the rain and lack of sun thrived in my aunt's glass roofed barn. I also tried sweetcorn and squash but they got washed out. I grew garlic in pots and the next generation of them were sown in December in pots, to take down to Leitrim. Some of them already have tips showing (see below - garlic and strawberries).

I have also started a few tomatoes from last years seed. This was by accident as I left the seeds to ferment for too long (you ferment the seed for a few days in the pulp to remove the inhibitor for sprouting) and a few had already started sprouting. I couldn't dry them so thought it best to plant them. I also started a batch of basil at the same time - both pots are on the windowsill (while I'm still allowed to have them there!) and I use an old cheeseboard with a clear plastic cover as a propagator.

I'm not sure how I'll whittle down my wishlist of veg to grow this year to a manageable size. I have visions of trying grains, such as quinoa and amaranth, as well as the staples like potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, cabbages, herbs etc. and I still need time to help build the house .. unless we go live in the polytunnel for the summer :-)

Over the past couple of days my love of growing flowers, shrubs etc for scent and wildlife has been re-kindled, so it will be interesting to see how I marry productivity and beauty. There will be flowers in the veg beds, but also wildlife areas. Eventually, I'll have have a wooded area - and a forest garden (with edible plants). That is one of the perks of having such a big plot that backs onto woodland .... I can give a sense of the woodland extending into the lower field and then, as we get nearer the house it becomes more intensely productive.

Permaculture books call this zoning - having the things that need most attention nearest the house, for example the veg beds, rather than having them tucked away at the end of the garden where they're easily out of sight and out of mind. I like that idea - and it makes it easy to use produce when it's ready - as you can see it out the window of the house!

Anyway, it's time to go buy some seeds before I'm sucked into the build again.

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