vegetablesWhat is the fascination with gardening and growing your own vegetables?  
I asked myself that question for years before I came with my wife to live in Ireland.  Yes, in the past with other partners I had a garden and grew a few vegetables purely because I felt I should. 

When we arrived in Ireland we started a small herb garden with a large oil tank in it.  We had the tank removed and invested in a greenhouse.  In it we grew tomatoes and cucumbers and sometimes peppers.  One day (in a fit of madness) I suggested making a box to grow other salad stuff and a few peas and beans.  After a couple of years our next door neighbour’s daughter jokingly said “you should get an allotment”.    Over the next few weeks my wife researched and found several locally and on a Saturday afternoon we went to have a look.  After we applied for the allotment, we drove home and for the rest of the night tried to convince each other why we should not have an allotment.  We took it the next day.

By this time we were in the dreaded “R Scenario”.  My wife had taken two pay cuts and my own work was more hit and miss than ever before.  We started work and soon made friends with several people around us.  We had both grown our own gardens as children and were both dragging up from the depths of our memory the methods needed for keeping a garden.   In our house we had changed the front garden and it had been entered in the Tidy Towns competition.  We won an award for it which I suppose had inspired us to keep it up and tidy. A couple of years later we won the Best Front Garden Competition in our estate outside of the Tidy Towns Competition.  We still keep the front garden up despite not be able to enter the estate competition until 2013.

In 2009 we started being allotmenteers and grew our own vegetables.  This is going to sound like a cliché but it is very, very true: When you grow your own produce it REALLY does taste completely different.  What do we grow?  Up until last year we grew potatoes, cabbages, beans, peas, lettuce, radish, scallions (spring onions), garlic, carrots, parsnip, broccoli and brussel sprouts.  We still grow tomatoes and cucumbers in greenhouse and our herbs outside the back door.  Anything that we can freeze we do.  We get fresh vegetables virtually all year round.  Some of the vegetables we grow are sold by my wife in work and the money made goes into a kitty to buy seeds and other things for the next year.  After three years of having one allotment a friend gave up and we tried again to convince each other not to take on a second one.   That did not work so we now have two allotments.  Why you ask?  We could be mad as we are both in our mid-fifties but we look at it from the fresh and home grown food standpoint, the friendships, the exercise and fresh air.

Are you wondering what do we grow now?   On the second allotment we have built a Fruit Cage which measures 27 feet by 13 feet and in that we have Raspberries (Summer and Autumn Fruiting) Gooseberries (green and red variety), Blackcurrants and Blackberries (cultivated variety).  We also have a bed for Strawberries which holds approx thirty five strawberry plants.  .  We have a herb bed with Marjoram, Thyme, Sage, Parsley and Horseradish along with the Chives.  Outside the fruit cage we have planted Sweet Pea to attract the insects to pollinate the fruit.  We also inherited several Rhubarb plants (which are really great cut fresh – not so good for arthritis suffers though).  The fruit is to be made into jams and preserves and sold to help make the allotments pay for themselves.  Yes I suppose it is almost a semi commercial enterprise, we do give some of it away as raffle prizes for the local parish pantomime and as presents to family.

  we both enjoy it!

I have planted 200 onion sets this year and I can report all are growing well.  I have fifty garlic cloves in and doing well.   Everything else is growing slowly due to the upside down nature of the weather.  This year we are growing some marrows and these will be sold as my wife does not like them. The proceeds from the marrows will add to the allotment funds.  Over the last four years the most difficult part of gardening has been digging the soil.  From now on it is going to be much easier as I have invested in petrol driven Cultivator/Rotavator and it is brilliant.  It really does turn the soil into a fine tilth.  It also turns in the organic compost we produce from the brassica leaves and other compostable items brought up from the house.  Having the Cultivator has halved the time it takes to prepare the ground and makes going over it again so easy.

We have found that our own potatoes taste so different and are easy to store.   We do have problems with blight but if you spray early and keep spraying the affect is minimised. In most years the potatoes will last us from harvest (August to October) right through to February to March – depending on yield.  Hopefully the yield will be good this year.

Why do my wife and I spend time so much tending our garden?   The answer is very simple: we both enjoy it!  We both like to look at our lovely garden.  It is a very good form of relaxation after long and sometimes stressful days.  It gives us pleasure to see the results of our work.   We love growing our own food and would grow more if we had the time it definitely tastes completely different.  What a pleasure it is to have salad for dinner!  You walk out your back door and pick the tomatoes, scallions (spring onions), radish and lettuce and you wash it and put it straight on to the plate.  There is a great satisfaction in the knowledge that you grew it and you can now sit down and really enjoy its taste and the freshness of it.

To conclude: I garden and have allotments because it is an enjoyable hobby pastime; I am getting exercise and eating really fresh food.   I also know that it has not been treated with any chemicals