Lessons Learnt


Summer (HA!) is coming to an end and my vegetable patch is looking rather bare, mostly because I tore everything out in a fit of rage on Tuesday evening but also because the majority of summer crops have been harvested or have passed their best.  Still growing are blueberries (more on them next week), raspberries, leeks, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and, quite unbelievably considering I must have eaten over thirty already, courgettes.  Will begin my winter planting soon.

Tunesia from All Things Barkley asked me recently to post on how I started my raised vegetable patch as she’d like to create one herself but doesn’t know where to start.  Frankly, I’d be a total fraud if I started to dish out gardening advice.  This was my first year of gardening and my plan from the very beginning was to dive into growing food with total abandon and learn from all my mistakes.  It worked a treat!  I’ve had enough successes to keep me motivated and glowing with green-fingered pride, and plenty of mistakes to remind me that I am a total amatuer and have a lot to learn.

 I did promise Tunesia that I’d explain how I started and so here it is.  The raised bed, itself, I made last Autumn out of mini-border fences from B&Q.  They are all higglety-pigglety and have lots of thick posts holding them up but they are doing the job!  Had I known that railway sleepers are fairly easy to get hold of I’d have used them instead.   The soil (which must be “graded” – don’t know what that means) I ordered from a local landscaping company and they filled the bed for me.  Over the winter I piled manure (obtained from friend with a horse) on top and left it until spring at which point I dug it all over and began to plant.

Quite simply, I planted what I wanted to eat.  Followed Delia’s Kitchen Garden’s advice on what to do and when (though I added a month on to all her spring/summer dates as it’s colder up here).

As I said, I’ve learnt a lot.  The following are just ten of my many many discoveries.

Lessons Learnt

1) There’s only so much sorrel one can eat.  Do not plant a huge row of it.

2) If you plant seeds at the same time they are ALL ready to be harvested at the same time.  Plant seeds a week or so apart (in particular rocket and other salad leaves).

3) Not only are courgettes are easy to grow, they also turn into marrows.  Who knew?! Sow in a pot, plant out under a cloche and remove cloche when warm weather is here to stay.  Three plants were ample for my small household.

4) Brussels Sprouts need room to grow as do cabbage plants.  Plant much further apart next year.


6) Pea plants get pretty big too.  And grow really tall.  Plant further apart and support really really really well.

7) There are lots of different kinds of basil.  The one I grew was tough and mild tasting.  Wish I could remember its name as I want to avoid it.

8) Carrot flies are not a myth.  Thin out and pick carrots in the evening when it is cool or risk having your entire crop ruined.  Sob.

9) No matter how brown and dry your mint looks, it isn’t dead!

10) The rate of illiteracy amongst creepy crawlies is shocking.


24 thoughts on “Lessons Learnt

  1. LOL. I love the sign. I tried to make the anchovy pasta but then had to wing it because I forgot to print out the recipe from your post. All I could remember was anchovies melting into the oil. I looked forward to see that phenonmenon first hand all day. I must say it was quite amusing!

  2. I am not sure what happens if I step in the garden! I am very impatient you see. Gotta learn, too!!!

    But I love your garden a lot. It reminds me of my grandma’s garden, although she grows tropical vegs mostly (we are in vietnam).

  3. 1) Hmmmm, good question. For taste, it’d be my peas or raspberries. They were both amazingly sweet. For sheer volume, it’d be the courgettes. Loved having lots of fresh rocket/arugula to hand too though. So many!

    2) Mainyacha – Hope the pasta tasted good anyway! I love watching the little fillets melt away in the oil.

    3) Anh – Patience is not a virtue of mine either! A tropical garden sounds wonderful… 🙂

  4. Thanks Wendy, I have been wanting to put in raised beds here and you are spurring me on to get going with it. I did try growing courgettes this year here in pots and it was semi successful. Love the sign by the way!!!

  5. Oh if only I had a back yard to garden I would be all inspired – a friend has offered to help me put some beds over my concrete so might have a few bits and pieces in my backyard in time but there is very little room! Was reading the Delia book just today and thinking how nice to have a veggie garden. Had a laugh at Ms Courgette in the sunnies!

  6. This was a great post, not only for you to put down what you want to remember for next year, but also for us amateurs who can always use some tips…thanks 🙂

    And yes, that doggie photo is adorable!

  7. Pat – I love the sign too! It always makes me smile.

    Truffle – To be fair, it’s not my photography. It’s just that I know some gorgeous dogs!

    Johanna – What about container gardening? I remember seeing a section in Delia’s book and being really surprised at just how much you can grow in a pot!

    Sognatrice – You are very welcome! Being a fellow amateur, I know how much I value little nuggets of advice. That’s Rosie (my brother’s dog) in the photo. She’s wonderful.

    JennDZ – Thank you and yes, I do love it! May not be very good at it yet but I am trying. 🙂

  8. I had a raised garden in Minnesota and it was very handy! If mon mari didn’t insist on sweet corn, pumpkins and melons I’d do it here, too.
    I planted a basil last year – called Blue Spice. It had such a horrid fragrance that I couldn’t even stand to work around it let alone eat it. I stick to Genoa, lettuce leaf and lemon… all lovely!

  9. Hahaha I love the last picture! I learned a lot from this post. I’m planning to start my first veggie garden next spring and among many things I want to grow peas and zucchinis! 🙂

  10. KatieZ – I know so little about gardening I don’t understand why sweetcorn etc means no raised bed!
    Thanks for the basil advice. It has been heeded. 🙂

    Amy – I’m glad! As I said, this was my first year growing and my my my have I learnt a lot!

  11. Growing veg & herbs is such a wonderful adventure! I hope that someday I’ll move into a house that has a big enough garden for me to grow more than just herbs & lettuce. Thanks for all the tips.

  12. Lucy – I found the Delia book very helpful. Even she, though, assumes some knowledge. In the beginning I was on the phone to my Dad a LOT.

    Nora – It is! Even herbs and lettuce is exciting!

    Cynthia – Thank you. Glad to be of use!

  13. Wendy, what a fantastic post. When we finally get out of the city, I hope I can beg a little of your advice about these things? I had a container garden at an old apartment, which I loved and learned a lot from, but when it comes to growing things in proper beds, I haven’t had any experience since my parents’ veg garden in Fife. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the garden photos. Now I want to watch Wallace and Gromit.

  14. Figs Olives Wine – Not sure I’m the best person to give advice but I would certainly try! Love Wallace and Gromit..

    Cooking Ninja – Thank you very much. 🙂

  15. Oh what a lovely and ambitious garden you have! And I’m sure Malte wouldn’t mind to play with that little cutie hiding in the veggieplot:)

    Yes, one can’t help but wonder about the obvious lack of pedagogical qualities in the teachers of Snail & Worm School…;) And btw, I have a sign from that same label, but it says Plant goals & harvest dreams! – took me ages to decide on exactly which sign to get…

  16. Thanks for the post. I feel truly inspired to give it a try. I just feel guilty that I received a sodded back yard as a birthday present from my Dad a few years ago…I’ll keep you updated.

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