Grow­ing WILD!

This month we launch a new se­ries on grow­ing by with the ac­cent firmly on re­silience.

Country Smallholding - - Feature Growing - Kim Stod­dart,

Ipas­sion­ately be­lieve that grow­ing some of your own fruit and veg­eta­bles is one of the most em­pow­er­ing, ther­a­peu­tic and lifeaf­firm­ing ex­pe­ri­ences go­ing. I’ve in­ter­viewed many small­hold­ers over the years and, for most, an ini­tial back­yard veg patch or al­lot­ment was in­stru­men­tal in fu­elling a de­sire for greater self-suf­fi­ciency. It’s no sur­prise, then, that a pro­duc­tive veg patch has pride of place on most small­hold­ings and so, over the months to come, I’ll be demon­strat­ing an al­to­gether wilder form of gar­den­ing with greater re­silience at heart.

With longer, wet­ter win­ters and pre­dicted ex­tremes of weather re­ally start­ing to bite, I be­lieve it’s more im­por­tant than ever to get pre­pared. The good news is that let­ting na­ture in to lend a help­ing hand by cre­at­ing a supremely di­verse, wildlife­friendly space helps a great deal and saves time and money to boot. Hav­ing some form of cover such as a poly­tun­nel for your crops is also an in­creas­ingly smart move, so we’ll be look­ing at this also, with lots of ad­vice, tech­niques and in­ter­est­ing news in the world of grow-your-own be­sides.

Fruit and veg­etable grow­ing is of­ten made out to be a lot more com­pli­cated that it re­ally needs to be. So, for gar­den­ers of all lev­els, I’ll be ex­plain­ing all the things you don’t need to do, as well as rec­om­men­da­tions for en­joy­able, fuss­free, pro­duc­tive har­vests. Putting the fun back into grow-your-own is also im­por­tant be­cause I be­lieve the ac­tiv­ity is as im­por­tant as the fi­nal prod­uct – hav­ing the po­ten­tial to make you feel re­ally rather good about your­self. Whether it’s feel­ing proud of some­thing you’ve cob­bled to­gether, pick­ing rasp­ber­ries, peas or cherry toma­toes and pop­ping them straight into your mouth like sweets or sim­ply sit­ting and star­ing at a bee, lis­ten­ing to the sound it makes as it pol­li­nates a plant. It’s whole­some, nur­tur­ing and real in a way that much of mod­ern so­ci­ety is seem­ingly not.

So please put away your spade (at least for a bit), for­get about ex­act­ing crop ro­ta­tion or pH test­ing of your soil and come join me over the com­ing months for lots of prac­ti­cal and ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tives for grow­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles in har­mony with the nat­u­ral world.

Wildlife watch – wasps

Yes, they do be­come rather rowdy at this time of year as, des­per­ate for sur­vival, they are at­tracted to the smell of food (es­pe­cially any­thing sweet) in the gar­den or in your home. I know it’s an­noy­ing, but I cut them some se­ri­ous slack as they do have an in­cred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial role to play oth­er­wise. It is not per­haps com­monly known, but wasps are ben­e­fi­cial pol­li­na­tors and they are also use­ful preda­tors that help in the bat­tle with aphids and cater­pil­lars ear­lier in the year.

Poly­tun­nel grow­ing

With the ex­tra pro­tec­tion against the

el­e­ments pro­vided by a poly­tun­nel, you are able to ex­tend the grow­ing sea­son that much fur­ther which, in a good year, can mean har­vests of cu­cum­bers and toma­toes up till Novem­ber even.

A poly­tun­nel also pro­vides greater room for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and cre­ativ­ity in your ef­forts. For ex­am­ple, last year I planted car­rot seeds in late Au­gust which, with the mild au­tumn, meant I had a boun­ti­ful sup­ply of de­li­cious baby car­rots well into the new year. You can also over­win­ter much more than you could do oth­er­wise. Pick and come again sum­mer sal­ads will last that bit longer and pars­ley can stand firm all win­ter long.

Now is a good time to think about sow­ing ori­en­tal veg and sal­ads de­signed for win­ter pick­ings. Mizuna and Mi­buna are two of the eas­i­est and will grow quickly given half the chance. I rather like Mouli radish as well – a gi­ant white tu­ber known as Daikon in Ja­pan.

An old mar­ket gar­den­ers’ trick is to bury a few cherry toma­toes into the ground at the end of the sea­son so they can ger­mi­nate when they are ready the fol­low­ing spring. You’ll need to thin out and move the re­sult­ing seedlings but it’s a great, ef­fort­less way to add to your pro­duce for next year.

The joy of de­cid­ing what to grow each year

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