Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Learning about veg

A couple of weeks back my friend Marie, a teacher at the local primary school, asked me if I would come in and be "Gardener Judy". She teaches the 4 year olds, an age where they have lots of untamed energy and curiosity. 

I really surprised myself with how much veg I had grown that I could bring in and show, so I hosed down my wheelbarrow and filled it up.

The kids played pass the pumpkins, unwrapped a corn on the cob, smelled mint and tasted rocket (yuk!), pumpkin seeds and apple chips (yum!). There was awe at the big leeks, with the squiggly white roots at the bottom. Hopefully this will help the kids remember it is a leek.

They got to hold beetroot and parsnips, and saw the tiny seeds that they had grown from. And I left them with a bag of autumn onion sets so they could all go out and plant one in the school's raised beds.

I am grateful that the school let me use some of the photos, though not with any faces in. The kids were really attentive and it was great fun. Hopefully it will be a regular event from now on.

This is my first year with an allotment and what a big learning curve that has been! It isn't just about adapting to having more space and sowing a few seeds, but preparing for every pest and disease possible. This year I wasn't prepared, because in my sheltered garden at home I had never experienced blight, white fly, rust and countless others. Next year I will be planting hardened seedlings behind a fortress of protective netting.

I need to do a lot more planning too, so that I am ready to plant at the right time. Taking on the allotment in March meant I was diving straight in, whereas this year I want to make sure I am better prepared for spring.

The learning doesn't just stop with the plants. When you harvest them and bring them home, you have to know what to do with them so they don't get wasted. This may mean cooking for dinner or preparing for longer term storage, by freezing, de-hydrating or making jams and pickles.

At the beginning of the season I would bring home a lettuce or some stir-fry veg in a carrier bag and pop it in the fridge and half the time it wouldn't get used.

By summer I had worked out a better system. As soon as I got home I would wash the greens, spin them dry and pack them in re-sealable freezer bags. The freezer bags, although plastic and disposable, worked well because I can squeeze most of the air out and the leaves keep fresh for several days. This way people would grab a few leaves for a sandwich or stir-fry and nothing got wasted.

I have to mention my spinner at this point, because I picked it up from the car boot sale for 30p, and it is one of my best bargains. It is part of the 'Martha Stewart Collection', which means nothing to me, but it is clearly very well made and a joy to use. I can't understand why it's previous owners never used it, because everything in my house is now spun ;-)

I have a fair number of pumpkins, squash and sharks fin melon to store. I planned to put them out in the sun to harden the skins and to that aim assembled the mini greenhouse unit that I picked up in the sale. It was so much smaller than I imagined and very flimsy, that I decided it wouldn't take the weight of more than a couple of small squash. Instead my window sills have been full of squash, but now the radiators below the windows are coming on I need to move them to the garage. It will probably be cooler than 10 degrees C in there, but the house will be too warm.

The biggest pumpkin will be carved tomorrow ready for Halloween. Happy trick or treating :-)


  1. What I love about allotment gardening is you are always learning new things, even when you have been growing for years like me. You have done very well for your first year...well done!...and how wonderful giving up your time to talk to those children, they looked like they were having a great time with you.

  2. Oh, those glorious veg photos. So wonderful. What an amazing effort and such great rewards! You are right, making sure you use what you grow is sometimes the hardest bit..
    I bet those kids had a marvellous time. You must have felt so great about being able to harvest a wheelbarrowful at once to take in!

    1. Thanks Jo. It surprised me too, to have a wheelbarrow's worth of veg :-)