Kitchen garden update

Plenty of green growy things to keep you up to date with this no-space grow-your-own experiment. Throwing a few seeds around, hoping for the best, trying to remember things I’ve forgotten and learning something new almost every day.

There’s still a lot growing on the windowsills, including cherry (Garden Pearl) and plum tomatoes, sweet Genovese basil, baby leaf spinach, rocket and land cress. I was told that all the tomatoes would ripen at the same time with these varieties, but instead we’ve had plenty of fruits each week and there are still flowers here and there as well. That’s much better for a kitchen garden, as it’s better to try for a continuous supply of fresh produce rather than a glut that needs using up or preserving.

I think next year I’ll be less lazy with what I grow and have some cordon type toms, instead of the bushy types. Longer growing seasons and higher yields should make better use of the limited space, even if they aren’t the sort of plants you can chuck in a pot and forget about.

The windowsill is warm, sunny and pest free, which is handy for most plants. The garden has had lots of problems with beet leaf miners which have ruined most of the outdoor spinach, leaf beet and chard, but baby leaf spinach is just fine on the sill. The dwarf beans are happy here too, away from this year’s swarms of greenfly, and still flowering and making full sized french beans every few days.

The windowsill herbs here are mint and parsley, and they’re doing fine. No need to spend stupid amounts of money for very little at the supermarket…

Most of the pots had to be moved outside in the end. There’s almost no topsoil here, but they’re doing OK on the decking. Here we have different types of basil, lemon balm, marjoram, a cucumber plant, autumn sprouting calabrese, thyme and some toms with an incredible amount of fruit on them. There are some mixed wild flowers in there too, to get bees to pollinate the plants, and to attract hoverflies to eat garden pests.

I’m experimenting with some more unusual foodie flavours I’ve never grown before, including giant red mustard, sorrel, russian tarragon, salad burnet and golden purslane. To keep a regular supply of the things we eat the most, I’ve also been sowing a few seeds of parsley, radishes, stubby carrots, coriander and spring onions every couple of weeks in small pots. Very easy to throw together and it really keeps the grocery bills down because you don’t run out of your favourites.

This looks like a raised bed, but it’s just more knackered decking with the wood taken off the top and the rubble removed, plus some cheap compost chucked in. This monster below is white sprouting broccoli, and it’s basically the only thing that the cat hasn’t dug up (I suspect it secretly threatens to eat the cat when I’m not listening). Thanks to my be-clawed ‘little helper’, the almost-raised bed hasn’t been much of a success and the only way it’s going to work is if I plant things in it that are already pretty large. I’ve been growing a few things in modules in the mini-greenhouse so let’s see how the next batch of plants get on.

The front of the decking has an older cucumber plant with some salad leaves at the base, the non-stop courgette plant and some almost-ready salad potatoes. They have all done me proud and been very easy to grow with hardly any care needed.

The back of the decking is where I got a little over-confident, with some sweetcorn, a butternut squash plant and all kinds of beans growing up the trellis (which saved on buying canes). Take it from me, sweetcorn and Hunter squash are not ideal for most small gardens – they’re nutrient hungry and low yield, and thirsty. Don’t try this at home. But the seeds were free and if it all goes to plan they will probably be delicious. To get the best yield from sweetcorn you have to plant it in clumps rather than rows, there are 12 in this picture.

The sweetcorn variety is a new one that grows about 4 to 6 mini sweetcorn per plant, but if you miss the baby corn stage, unlike some others, it goes on to give you a couple of nice fat corn cobs per plant as well. Sounds too good to be true, and it is – to get the baby sweetcorn out you practically have to rip the plants to pieces so although they were tasty I am letting the rest of them become full sized cobs.

Hardly any beans so far – a late frost got half of the first lot and karate kitty got the second lot. Thanks kitty. The borlotto beans are the only variety outdoors to produce anything edible to date. Fingers crossed for the rest of them, which were a late sowing.

There are a few crappy old windowboxes left behind by the previous owners, and these are now filled with herbs, various salad leaves, beetroot, mini-cabbages, fennel, and a few other goodies. There are also some marigolds to cheer the place up and bring in the bees/scare off pests.

The hanging salad baskets have grown a lot of food from very little compost, including red and green salad bowl lettuce, herbs, radiccio, juicy spring onions, and Tom Thumb lettuces. This one also has edible flowers which allegedly double up as pest control (marigold and nasturtium) but I like the splash of colour as well.

That’s all from the garden for the time being. What have you been growing? Any success stories?

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  1. Amazing Penny! You’ve got so much growing there!! How big is your garden and do you have any space to sit in it or is it completely taken up with growing vegetables…

  2. Hi Amy, welcome back! It’s a standard London Victorian terrace, with some decking and a bit of patio, so there’s room for a table and chairs by the hanging baskets. You can grow quite a lot in a small space if you’re careful, especially if you train beans, cucumbers, cordon tomatoes, squashes etc to grow upwards 🙂

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