It’s a funny old year, but the poor growing conditions and moving house have both given me an opportunity to review my focus.
Everyone I speak to at the plots is bemoaning the weather, and saying how much they’re struggling to grow anything decent. I’ve had trouble too, but one plus point is a sudden appreciation of the crops that are easy to grow in England, whatever conditions are thrown at them.
The Mr Dependables
Despite the conditions, I’ve still had healthy crops of new potatoes, chard and broad beans, and my French beans and beets are looking fit and strong.
These are crops that have never failed me. Through heatwaves, drought, cold, wind and torrential rain, they’ve always produced. The Mr Dependables of the allotment are hardy and not fussy about what’s going on around them. None are glamorous, but during difficult growing times, I’m reminded how important the underrated veg is.
Then there are the good old soft fruits. Bar some weeding, I normally ignore them, only for the bushes and plants to come back again. I’ve had another good year with strawberries, and the bright red fruits are such a lift during this rotten weather. The same goes for the gooseberries and raspberries.
Fresh fruit is so precious – not only for its money saving qualities, but because it happily gets on with the job year after year with very little fuss.
What Would I Miss If I Couldn’t Grow?
With this in mind, and half an eye on a future of growing in my garden, my thoughts turned to smaller spaces and what I couldn’t do without.
I concluded that I’d have to grow rhubarb over anything. It’s the crop I look forward to the most every year, and February and March see almost daily vigils to see if the crowns are making any progress.
Financially, tomatoes and strawberries have to be there, as they gave me the best bang for buck during last year’s money saving experiment, but I reckon these are the two I’d miss the taste of also. These two crops are streets ahead of anything in the shops.
Then there’s the lastability and versatility of squashes, which will last well into the next spring if stored in a cool, dark place. You can do so much with them, and they’re a real meal filler through the winter time.
Other elements come into the equation too, like the wonderful smell of leeks. No other scent matches up to freshly dug leeks. And the excitement of digging for potatoes. It’s like an allotment treasure hunt, digging away to see what’s there.
All food for thought for the new garden patch. I’m going to have cut down on what I grow, or be much cuter with my use of space, but a summer of struggling and forcing myself to think about what I’d miss most is a great way of focusing the mind for the future.