Grow Your Own- The Salad Days


I can’t imagine that I would have ever believed that the day would come to pass that I would find the lack of the need to buy lettuce so utterly thrilling.
I never really bought much of it anyway, it goes soggy in the lunch box and never tastes of much, not to mention the potentially gaseous after effects. However this leafy nonchalance went out of the shed window about the same time that I saw the first rounded shoots of green come up in my little horticultural patch back in April. The lettuce are truly thriving my friends, and they are really, really nice to eat. I don’t speak with the blinded love of a mother here, I didn’t expect to want to eat that much of them but thought they would be a good learning experience and something to plug out the shadier spot of the veg patch with. A rather tentative first harvest came a couple of weeks ago, three crisp and colourful leaves washed thoroughly then chopped to go in the lunch box. Only lettuce. Only really seriously tasty lettuce that doesn’t fool the palate into thinking it is just crunchy water! It actually tastes green and pleasingly astringent and, so far, no uncouth bowel effects. Hooorah for the lettuces! After this successful first taste test I went on to make a well recieved cesar salad for ten from my little patch which has thinned the crop slightly but brings us neatly to my next favourite thing about growing them- constant renewal. Plucking out the middle leaves on each plant the leaving for recovery results in a basically endless supply as long as you don’t strip one individual too far. Leave the biggest leaves at the base for the evil hell snails to deface and wait for new growth from the top. If you do over harvest just chuck out some more seeds and in current conditions you will have a new plant ready to reap in about a month. Brilliant.

Speaking of the evil hell snails, I can confirm that all humane control attempts have ceased and I am now drowning the vile beasts in beer. It’s an easy enough method- dig into bare soil in a vulnerable spot deep enough to house a yoghurt pot or similar sturdy but shallow container. Make sure the edge isn’t above the main soil level then fill about two thirds with beer. You should start to find their bloated little corpses from the next morning. I move them to rest permanently in the compost. They aren’t fussy about their ale either- I’ve been using Morrissons value label bitter which is about 90p for a four pack. Worth every penny and more.

My other resident pest Moby Dick the phantom crapper has carefully inspected the plants I bought in good faith to repel him, knocked one over and done a big poo right next to it. Back to the drawing board on that one.

Our friendly great tits still visit frequently as does a fearless blackbird who pecks at the lawn most evenings and Kevin The Depressed Wood Pigeon, who moans a lot and keeps trying to eat from the fruit trees. But he’s too fat and the branches just bend until he falls off, and it serves him right.

We have some lovely foxgloves and a magnificent splash of maroon snap Dragons. There are geraniums everywhere which need thinning. As for the rest of it:

Cabbages– January King, planted in the ground. Very quick to appear, noticibly leggy seedlings.

Onions– red Karmen in ground and pots from bulb. The tops are enormous but not yet very big underneath. Doing better in the ground than pots.

Carrots– Nantes 5 variety in ground and pots. Still too young to harvest, seemingly better off in the pot than in the ground due to protection from digging, see previous rants about that bloody cat.

Wild Thing Sage, smells as pretty as it looks


Herbs– rosemary and oregano doing well, no doubt aided by my constantly forgetting that they are there and thus not eating them. Applemint and Spearmint thriving in pots and trying to mount a full resurgence in the flowerbeds. Sweet smelling perennial in one of the beds has now flowered and been identified as a Wild Thing Sage and it is rather beautiful. Ornamental for now, need to research edibility.

Hazelnut Trees- still there, crying in the wind as I rip out the children born of stray nuts that got into the veg patch. Note to all- hazelnuts trees are easy to propagate.

Fig– recent leaf growth surge.

possible plum?





WTF Trees – one crab apple confirmed and another now looks likely to be a plum, as first suggested some time ago by the Mothership.

Chilli Plant– staged a come back on the windowsill and is flowering once more.

Errol The Lemon Tree– loving life in the conservatory. I have half a plan to put him out in the gap in the beds recently vacated by a surplus lavender bush.


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