Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Want to lose weight and eat healthily? Then grow your own vegetable garden!

Our garden has recently undergone a radical transformation. When we bought the house it had a small patch of well tended lawn and rose bushes in its borders and it was therefore doomed from the start. In the six years the Tarts have been together we have killed no less than 3 lawns. We're unwilling killers, but it always happens. We like how it looks but we've no interest in paying it any attention. I like to think that this stems from a buried need for substance over aesthetics. Sometimes its more than neglect, its manslaughter, as in the case of lawn victim #3. We went about clearing out the brick outhouse (its a Victorian terrace so there is a room stuck on to the kitchen which is only accessible by going outdoors. It still has a drain hole where a toilet would once have been) which had been filled with not only our castoffs but the previous owners too. We did this in the winter, moving all the rubbish from the outhouse into the garden, piling it on the lawn, intending to get a skip within days to put all this stuff in. But the months dragged on and it wasn't until last month when we finally cleared it all, filling a builder's sized skip to the brim. Alas, the lawn that had been underneath it was dead, leaving just rock hard mud in its place. Neither of us had any shred of enthusiasm for buying and laying new turf. So instead, we decided to bring life and hope where there had once only been doom and despair, by growing vegetables!

I remember my dad growing fruit and veg in a small patch in the back garden. My earliest memory is of a bed of strawberries, which then changed to strawberries, beetroot and carrots and I remember my mum boiling up the beetroot to eat in salads, something which I now view as a criminal way to treat beetroot. Beetroot is at its absolute loveliest when gently roasted for an hour or so with a little bit of water, balsamic vinegar and salt. It should then be eaten warm with soft melting goats cheese and a little more balsamic vinegar. Boiling and pickling beetroot is equivalent to the treatment of my lawn, neglectful and uncaring. The final years that I remember my dad growing anything there were tomatoes in grow bags and endless amounts of runner beans. All summer there were runner beans to not only be eaten, but topped, tailed, stringed and sliced until my fingers were white, wrinkled and sore, before they were duly boiled to a soft mush to suit the tastes of the majority of my family. The only joy I ever really had in runner beans was observing the change from bright red flower to tiny crescent bean and finally to its fully formed state. That and eating the actual seed part of the bean raw, first admiring its mottled burgundy and cream skin and then its smooth sweet flavour (the only perk of being head bean preparer). Our garden will be different.

It took us over a week to dig up the remaining turf, break up the hard compacted soil and most labour intensive of all, sieve out the many, many, many stones in the top soil with riddles. Whilst it sounds a chore, we actually found it quite therapeutic and enjoyable, to sit in the garden sifting out the stones, watching the pile of soft, fine earth pile up over our feet and then finally levelling it out. If you stepped on this soft soil you sank about a foot deep into it. The sense of satisfaction when it was done was lovely, but we felt a little redundant the next day as we had no more sieving to do.
I'd been growing some tomato plants from a pack of seeds I got free with a Good Food magazine and they were thriving but crowded in their pots, so they were the first to be planted into our newly prepared soil. So now there are 18 tomato plants flourishing, tied to large sticks I cut from the trees at the back of the garden. Four of the plants have just flowered, and it is all very exciting.

Even more laden with excitement are the seeds I sowed just under a week ago. Three rows of carrots, 3 rows of beetroot, 2 rows of purple radish and two rows of romaine lettuce. According to the seed packets, the carrots take 3 weeks to show a seedling and all the others take a week. So we were astonished to see seedling from all of them already. The radish are the fastest with their rows clearly visible. The beetroot are second behind them, with dark magenta stems now protruding, some with dark purple veined leaves. The lettuces are third with small seedlings ow becoming visible and as expected, carrots are last with what appears to be a few overly enthusiastic seeds already germinating. Every morning we now have to go out and check on the progress of them.

Whilst talking to a guy at work I remarked about my recent labours in passing and found out that he too grows his own veg, a lot of it, and he very kindly donated to me a bit of his surplus. Two tomato plants and a courgette and aubergine plant. Sadly the snails got to the aubergine before it even reached the soil and died, but the other three are planted and doing well. The previous owners also left us some strawberry plants in a blue plastic storage tub which I've now transplanted into the hanging baskets they also left to us. Both are far more useful than the broken lawn mower, broken lamp, rusting mountain bike and giant dog house they also bequeathed to us.
Unfortunately we've come to this late in the growing season, so despite having some leek seeds, I would be able to sow them until next spring. Just more to look forward to really.
Anyway, here's a couple of photos from the garden after we'd just completed it. When the seedling are a bit more visible, I'll post some more.

PS. In other news I have officially been asked by my friend to make her wedding cake. 75 guests, 3 tiers, 3 different cakes and only 3 weeks to make it in. Now there's blogging material.

1 comment:

HC said...

It is now me doing the growing here! We've got beetroot, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce. Did try b. squash but the seed didn't grow.

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