Real Men Sow

Four Ways I’ve Managed to Keep Growing Veg with Kids

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Ailsa is due to give birth to child number 2 on Wednesday. Last time baby arrival was imminent, I wrote a blog post discussing what I was going to do with ‘…my last weekend of freedom’.

I talked about how I’d planned an action packed weekend, full of a wide array of allotment jobs such as bagging up molehill soil, installing a water butt, sowing seeds and weeding beds.

I had to get everything done straight away, as of course, I was never going to have enough time to do all these things when I had a child.

As it turned out, it wasn’t like that at all. Things have changed, sure, but I like to think I’ve adapted to fit growing veg around the changes in my life. On the eve of another addition to the gang, here are four things I’ve done to keep on growing veg with a family.

I gave up my allotment
I used to have a big, 10 rod plot which I spent a lot of time tending to. Although the plot was only a 10 minute walk away, getting there began to get tricky, let alone spend the time needed to keep on top of things. Instead, I built three raised beds in my garden to go with the inherited greenhouse, and began growing fruit and veg in them instead.

Being at the bottom of the garden, I could do little and often. Even the odd five minutes here and there helped, and I could keep up with the weeds, watering and other plot chores.

I still keep a hand in down the allotments by helping mum with hers, and this has given me the best of both worlds.

Focusing on what I want to grow
Having less time to spend on the plot gave me the opportunity to think about what I grow and why. For example, why do I grow carrots when we don’t eat many of them?

Cauliflowers were another unfortunate veg to get the chop. I do like the odd cauliflower cheese for tea, but it’s few and far between and caulis are tricky and labour intensive to grow. I decided if I wanted a cauli, I’d got to the shops and buy one.

That left a list of the fruit and veg that we do we eat lots. Nowadays my time is focused on a smaller group of veg, such as tomatoes, French beans, beets, squashes, Winter greens and of soft fruits.

Similarly to growing what we eat, I also stick to growing the fruit and veg that I enjoy. Lots of different squash varieties, melons in the greenhouse and big beefsteak tomatoes are examples of veg that are very satisfying to grow.

Keeping things low maintenance
One of the most important things I needed to address was the amount of time I spent working on keeping the plot tidy and weed free. The target was to use spare hours to concentrate on growing food.

I’ve found using Charles Dowding’s No Dig method be a great time saver for me in my raised beds. This has helped to keep weeds to a minimum, as has the weed suppressant membranes and bark pathways. Next year I’m going to put more membrane around my fruit bushes too, so that’s kept neat as well.

I’m starting to appreciate the mantra that small is beautiful. Some of the most productive, well kept, attractive plots at the allotments are half sized. There are half the weeds, half the soil to dig and half the effort.

Growing less can be more in my opinion. Keeping on top, having a neat and tidy plot and concentrating on growing the things you like gives confidence and ensure morale stays high.

Not taking too much on!
Of course, the best bit of advice is not to take on too much. I’ve come to the conclusion that a plot is not unlike a house: it’s nicer to have a small house that you can keep clean and lovely than a massive place that’s messy because you haven’t the time to get the hoover round.

This is meant to be fun, after all. :)

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2 Comments

  1. MattSeptember 13, 2015 at 4:38 pmReply

    I think those tips are spot on. I’m in a very similar situation to you. I’ve certainly learnt that less can be more, and that I might as well spend my limited time growing stuff I like – and that my little boy will eat!

  2. HelleSeptember 17, 2015 at 7:20 amReply

    As I’m sure I might have mentioned a couple of times, I’m a great fan of Charles Dowding’s method. It’s a great time saver, I really don’t have many weeds in the veg plot. As for growing only what one really likes and cannot buy totally agree. Yesterday, Wednesday was my birthday, is it your new one’s as well :-) )

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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