Getting the OTC Garden Ready

Since we met, Paul and I have always grown vegetables. When we lived in an apartment with no balcony we applied for a plot at a community garden and grew vegetables on a cross section between a bar and the hospital. After moving to an apartment with a small patio we grew veggies in pots and harvested everything from chillies to leeks. Since moving to the UK we have been converting our concrete-choked garden back to workable ground, fertile enough to grow veggies, herbs and fruits.

This past weekend we got our first seeds in pots and potatoes in the ground. Gardening is more than just a hobby for me. I think everyone would benefit from being connected to the food cycle because understanding that we are dependent on the ground, the weather and pollinators, like bees, keeps us humble. The land is not responsible to us, we are responsible to it. The garden makes sense and that’s a good place for me to be when other aspects of life make less sense.

early potatoes
citrus seeds (oranges, blood orange and lemon)
rainbow beetroots
Padron peppers
broad beans
sweet million (cherry tomatoes)
madame marmande (beef tomato)
plum tomatoes

One of the most useful veggies, potatoes are incredibly easy to grow. Buy a bag of seedling potatoes (these are potatoes that are sprouting and ready to grow new tubers) and plant them about 30cm apart in good soil. You can pop them in the ground or in a deep tub, like an old dustbin, with holes drilled for drainage. As the shoots start coming up, push some soil up around them to protect them. The spring rain will take care of watering but if we get a warm spell water every day or two. You’ll be harvesting potatoes by early summer if you plant them now.

Paul looks like a regular guy but what no one sees is that between November and March he usually has citrus seeds hidden somewhere about his person. For about 7 years Paul’s been trying to grow a citrus tree from seed. In order to get a seed to germinate it has to dry out in the right environment which happens to be wrapped in a tissue inside a trouser pocket. After months of carrying the seeds around they finally went into pots this weekend. The pots will sit in the greenhouse and be potted onto larger pots as, hopefully, the plants grow. Water every 1-3 days depending on how hot it gets.

Seeds are pretty inexpensive and you get 2 or 3 years harvest out of one packet. We don’t have time to mollycoddle the veggies so everything gets put into the same kind of potting compost (just a few seeds per plant pot) then they live in the greenhouse and whatever sprouts, wins and gets transplanted into the ground. Water every 1-3 days depending on how hot it’s been and how dry the soil gets. Beetroots are my favourite veg so we plant lots of different colours. Tomatoes are endlessly useful and I turn the harvests into pasta sauces to be used all year round. The leeks go in now and will probably be harvested in October or November.

There are some veggies that we plant at staggered intervals so that we get a continues supply rather than them all coming ripe at once. Padron peppers are one of my favourite snacks in the summer. A cold glass of beer and some salty, fried Padrons are bliss. The first lot of seeds go in now then we’ll plant another batch in 2-3 weeks.

If you’ve never tried growing anything before it’s worth chucking a few seeds in a pot and keeping them in a sunny spot in your house until you see something start to grow. The feeling of eating food you grew is fantastic and growing it does you all sorts of good too.


Published by One Tough Cooker

I'm the writer at One Tough Cooker. My experience with post-natal depression has shaped my appreciation for the family cook. We make thousands of meals to feed our families' tummies, hearts and minds.

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