Plant ALL THE THINGS! (aka being a newbie gardener)

It’s the end of May of my first springtime as a gardener. Well… I say “a gardener”. I have major impostor syndrome when it comes to it, because I really have no idea what I’m doing and am winging it all the way. Having said that, I’ve planted seeds, they’ve grown into little plants and are still alive. I guess that makes me at least a bit of a gardener.

Apparently, a common mistake of newbie gardeners is to plant too much. *raises hand* Yep, sounds about right. We’ve got… a lot planted, and so far, much to my surprise, most is still alive.

We’ve replaced our old greenhouse, which was made of rotten wood and brittle glass, and held together with paint and wishful thinking. The new greenhouse is gorgeous, feels much sturdier and safer, and has loads of planting and storage space.

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Planted in the greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse, about 2/3 of the ground is concrete and the other 1/3 is a planting bed. This is where I’ve put six tomato plants and five peppers. This leaves three gaps for two “Mini Munch” cucumber plants and one “Gherkin” cucumber plant once these have grown beyond tiny seedlings (once I bring back the chilli plant on the left back inside the house).

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Each plant has its own grow pot, so they can be watered through the outer ring to get straight to the roots, hopefully giving me the best chance of not-totally-killing-them.

The tomatoes are San Marzano, Orange Berry, Ildi, Cour di Bue, Red Pear and Tigerella and will be deeeelicious when they’re ready. The hot peppers are Jalapeño, Fresno, Sweet Banana and Red Cherry, and the sweet pepper is Rubens.

A few more tomatoes and one Purple Beauty pepper are in grow bags against the side wall.

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There are still quite a few small seedlings living in the greenhouse, but they’ll get booted to the great outdoors as soon as they’re big enough. I’m particularly looking forward to the aubergines being ready to transplant into patio pots.

Planted outside

As of today, here’s what lives outside:

First, courgettes; Planted outside today, we’ve got 10 plants in 6 varieties; Soleil (yellow long ones), Black beauty (dark green long ones), Patty pan (Small light green roundish ones), De Nice a fruit rond (pale geen ball shaped), Yellow scallop (yellow small round) and Lebanese (pale green long ones). Alongside them is also a single marrow, Mrs Marrow, who will become the resident alcoholic. Her future lies in making marrow rum.

A few troughs of herbs serve as windbreaker, containing oregano, sage, orange thyme, apple mint, Corsican mint and horseradish.

More of the same tomatoes and peppers reside outside, to allow me to compare how they grow outside vs inside the greenhouse; San Marzano, Ildi, Orange Berry and Tigerella outside, along with two more Jalapeños and one Sweet Banana.

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We’ve built a frame for peas and beans, which has runner beans, french beans and mangetout peas climbing happily along (though there seem to have been some recent slug visits that need to be seen to). At the end of this raised bed are some Calendula flowers, as they apparently are good companion plants to just about everything.

In the same large concrete bed, there are carrots, swiss chard, Sturon onions, garlic and elephant garlic. Wait until you see the size of the heads of elephant garlic!

Beyond these beds is the raspberry jungle that continues to grow, with loads of fruit forming and juuust starting to blush. They’ll probably be ripe by mid-June, so to make sure the birds don’t eat them all before we do, I’ve started building a makeshift frame. (I’ve made more progress since this photo, but it chronically starts raining every time I go back out to add another bit of netting so it’s not quite done!)

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The back raised bed has two types of beetroots (Boltardy and Cardeal), two types of cabbages that don’t seem to have started coming up yet (Attraction green cabbage and Kalibos red cabbage) and some cauliflowers that also haven’t come up yet.

There’s also Andrew’s much-awaited sweetcorn still growing well and about 2ft tall now. In the hope of staggering the harvest, I’ve planted them at different times in seedling pots, but I’m worried now that batch #3, which was planted directly into the soil, won’t come up. Oh well, it’ll still be about 13 plants worth of sweetcorn, which ain’t too bad.

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The potatoes are starting to look good, with the earlies promising to be ready in late June or so.

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The garden gnomes are protecting the gooseberry bushes.

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And the flowers are popping up everywhere in the rest of the garden, along with unidentified weeds I no doubt need to tackle (once I figure out what’s good and bad!)

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As you can see, it’s a perfectly sensible (ahem…) selection of plants for a first-year gardener… right? 😉

Discovering My Green Thumb

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Flowers from the garden

I’ve always assumed I’d never be much of a green thumb; When anyone gave me potted plants from the supermarket, they’d be dead within weeks. And while the thought of eating fruits and vegetables that had actual flavour, I never had the inclination to dig up the grass to plant my own.

Then in August, we moved house and everything changed. Rather than the miserable always-shaded garden from our old house, where 12 neighbours’ windows were always overlooking, we’d just moved to a house with a large allotment*. That’s when I realised that, with the right setting, gardening could actually be a lot of fun.

[* “Allotment” is a term used in the UK to describe a green space used to grow fruit and veg. In urban areas, these are often communal areas where everyone rents a little patch of their own. We’re very lucky that ours is at the end of the backyard and quite spacious, but I do envy the sense of community and amount of advice that must exist in shared allotments.]

Over the autumn and winter, we let the garden get rather weedy, so much of March was spent weeding. Not the kind of dainty weeding where you walk around in your straw hat and pick up a little weed here and there. Picture Indiana Jones in the jungle with a machete. Yes, that’s more like it.

By the first week of April, enough had been cleared out to consider planting the first potatoes. I bought a bag of three types of potatoes to be planted at about 3 weeks intervals, so I should have some nice variety this summer! The first ones (Colleen variety) are showing lots of leaves now, closely followed by the Remarka potatoes in the second row. The third ones (Sarpo Mira) aren’t visible yet.

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Who knew potato plants looked so pretty?

Amusingly, while looking at the weeds that are starting to grow in the areas we haven’t planted in, it looks like we also have Surprise potatoes; otherwise known as ones the previous house owner planted last year that are now in random spots in the ground and growing of their own accord.

Another legacy from the previous gardener is a corner of raspberry canes. Again, these were only tended to in the Spring so there are a LOT of new canes that will need to be dug out at the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll have some amazing raspberries this year – if I can stop the birds from getting at them first!

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Raspberry madness

And a few random asparagus shoots have also reared their heads.

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New asparagus spears shoot up every time I look away!

The remainder of the garden is all a bit of a wild meadow, with loads of perennials covering the garden in new colours every week. Once we get to know what’s already there, we’ll be able to add our own touches, but this year, it’s mostly a process of discovery.

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Wild meadow flowers