Friday, 13 September 2013

2013 - Year of the toddler

Last year was The Year of the Slug. This year, rather than slugs, it seemed appropriate to give the pest title to none other than my daughter. She got into everything. Everything. It was hard enough to get things started in the first place what with the late appearance of spring, but really it was the first time she'd been able to explore outside properly since she learnt to walk. So explore it she did.

Plants were trampled on, handfuls of soil were grabbed and thrown into the air. Curious fingers picked and pulled at seedlings and even my mini greenhouse seemed like a good climbing frame.
It got to the point where spending even brief periods of time in the garden with Alessi was becoming stressful rather than fun. I knew I didn't want to spend my time running around after her constantly saying no this and no that. Most of all I wanted the garden to be somewhere I could relax and watch her play and explore to her heart's content. So I gave up. I ditched anything high maintenance and left the garden to it's own devices. Sadly, this meant also having to re-home the chickens. They wanted to roam the garden which I used to let them do during the spring and summer months, but I didn't want Alessi playing in and picking up chicken poo either. Luckily at the same time a friend of ours was looking to get herself some chickens so she took them on and I honestly think they were happier for it. Maybe when Alessi is a little older we'll look to get some more,but for the meantime it was the best thing to do. I do miss them though.

Anyway, back to the veggies. Here's what worked (and what didn't) this year plus tips in blue for my own reference, so that I know what to do differently next year..

  • Pumpkins - plant in the sunniest spot, they love it there
  • Strawberries - hanging baskets are a winner, copper tape will keep the more determined slugs and snails at bay. Will need watering twice daily in hot weather though
  • Salad leaves - don't bother with raised beds, they're too much of a lure for a toddler who likes to play with soil. Sow directly into the veggie patch and don't be precious when it comes to spacing seedlings.

  • Courgettes - move to a sunnier spot and don't accidentally plant one in a hanging basket along with the strawberries. *Ahem*
  • Onions - don't bother. Grow garlic instead.
  • Beetroot - don't bother with these either
  • Spring onions - ..or these
  • Sweet peppers - Start growing early, in February and stagger the seed sowing. Treat for spider mite from day one.
  • Sweet Potatoes - Don't bother trying to grow roots by sitting in water. You'll wait for months for a tiny tap root that will eventually give up and die. These things need a long time to grow so ignore what the online advice says and just chit like you would a regular potato. 

  • Anything grown in the conservatory - Treat for spider mite as soon as the first buds appear. Don't ever try bug spray again! Stick with chemical free solutions and keep spritzing. As soon as signs appear on leaves, cut them off straight away and be brutal if need be. They will grow back. 
  • Nettle plant feed - Making plant food with nettles was a great idea. Leaving it in a bucket to 'brew' and then forgetting about it for FOUR months was not. The stuff stinks after six weeks. Four months and the smell will linger for days.

So that's it. The lesson to be learnt here is Hell hath no fury like a curious toddler interrupted during a game of 'chuck the seedlings'. Next year I might just stick with a paddling pool for her and a giant glass of Pimms for me. Lovely.

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