It’s been a good few months since I last did an update on our Homemade Vegetable Garden Project. I’ve been sidetracked with writing up other projects. Nevertheless the garden has remained my pride and joy and each morning and afternoon I’ve made time to continue to nurture it. It turns out keeping your vegetable garden alive is harder than I first expected. But also rather surprisingly it has been hugely enjoyable and incredibly therapeutic.
On days off work, we have spent a lot of time and energy on creating the vegetable patch, potting on seedlings and eventually putting them outside in the ground. I think you’ll agree it looks much better than it used to!
So what lessons have I learned about growing fruit and vegetables in these past few months?
The main thing I’ve discovered is that it is actually really upsetting to lose plants you’ve cared for! This means I’ve had to learn about pest control: we have snails, caterpillars and a gazillion greenfly! I’ve put sharp stones and broken shells around the broccoli to try and stop slugs and snails climbing the stems and eating the leaves.
The lettuce has ended up being inedible due to the number of bugs on it, although keeping it seems to be the best option to hopefully lure the bugs away from other plants! I have found that bugs don’t seem to like rocket, so as a result this has thrived. Interestingly, when I threw a pinch of lettuce seeds in with the second lot of rocket seeds, the lettuce has grown really well and shows no sign of infestation.
Observing this, I’ve looked into growing plants that repel bugs in vegetable gardens and now I’m also growing lavender, rosemary, basil, catnip and mint. I’ve dotted these about the main vegetable patch to try and deter the pesky pests. It has also become necessary to use soapy water in a spray gun on the salad vegetable plants as an insecticide. This website has some other great natural insecticides that I will have a go at making as soon as I get some free time!
I’ve learned the hard way that you need to take measures to protect your plants from the elements. A blustery day snapped half of my broccoli and tomato plants in two as they were too young and weak to be left outside. I now take the trays of seedlings out each morning if the day is ok, and bring them back in at night. This is fine for a few trays of plants but next year when I look to do more I think I’ll have to invest in a greenhouse.
Having a few plants go rotten has taught me that it is also necessary to get the drainage right on plants. Put stones or crock in the bottom of plant pots, and stand the pots on little feet or a layer of stones to keep them draining freely. For pot plants that dry out too quickly, put a layer of gravel around the stem to help reduce the amount of water evaporating.
When they become seedlings, plants need thinning out or they will not be able to thrive. This is particularly necessary with carrots where they will end up twisting around each other and become a nightmare to ever peel!
A spell of good weather in May enabled the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber and peas to shoot up. I learned that some plants, like these, need extra support. By that I mean putting a stake in next to them and carefully clipping them to it. This helps them to not fall over which can snap the stem. It can also give plants more room to grow and they go upwards rather than sideways.
I now know birds are naughty little things and will pinch berries as soon as they see them. Unfortunately, we lost all of the cherries off our little cherry tree due to birds. Learning quickly, we’ve put netting around the strawberries and have enough to do the raspberries when they fruit. I need to get some hay too to put under the pumpkin plant so the pumpkins don’t grow directly on the damp soil which would spoil it.
It is time for us to invest in growing some borage (a herb with star shaped flowers that start off pink and then turn blue) to attract pollinators. I’m going to do this in pots so I can move them around the garden as necessary. Reputedly, if you grow borage near strawberries it can apparently increase the yeild of strawberries you’ll get. It is also believed that it helps improve the flavour of tomatoes growing nearby. We have also put little dishes of sugar water to help bees, butterflies and even moths after finding one on its last legs on the driveway. Fortunately after feeding it some sugar water it revived and buzzed off!
For the first time ever I have used a manure/composty mix on the garden. I got some bags locally and it was a bit pongy for a day or two but the smell quickly passed and the effect on the plants was amazing, they shot up! The downside to all this fertile soil though is that weeds had a field day too. I have spent a bit of time each week weeding the vegetable patches and troughs to stop them from competing with the plants I want to grow.
Apart from the rocket, nothing is ready to harvest yet so we’ll continue to wait and get ready for the next stage which will be learning how to store your produce to last through the winter months.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Homemade Vegetable Garden Project Update – June. Why not PIN this along with the other updates to refer to if you take on your own project in the future?