I have a confession to make. My name is Maz and I have found great pleasure in carrots…and don’t get me started in the levels of excitement I’ve experienced from a girthy courgette this summer. Now, get your minds out of the compost heap you dirty lot, I’m talking about growing my own vegetables in my new rolling veggie patch of course.
“We wanted to have our own veggie patch and herb garden but we did not have the space.”
I never thought I’d see the day that I would get so much pleasure from growing a radish but I’m there and I’m loving every minute. I’ve reached true #nancore status and it seems I’m not the only one. Every man and his dog took to the internet to buy seeds and seedlings in the thousands at the beginning of lockdown, with most online garden centres selling out of everything they had by the beginning of April. Getting hold of tomato seeds was harder than getting your mitts on Glasto tickets.
“The great thing is, you can still have your own veggie patch and herb garden without loosing any floor space.”
I guess the desire to be out in the fresh air and feel connected to nature has been stronger than ever this year – add that to the immense gratification you get from growing and nurturing something from a seed, during a time when everything else feels so drastically out of our control and bingo, before you know it you’re wearing a straw hat whilst knee deep in soil and you’re series linking Gardeners World for your wild Friday night in.
At the beginning of the spring we built ourselves a mini rolling veggie patch out of some left over decking wood that we had clogging up the garden. We also finally got around to making the hanging herb planters out of drain pipes that we’d been planning since last year. Remember that surge in productivity at the start of lockdown when we were baking banana bread and organising our knicker drawers? Oh how I miss it.
As those of you that have been following our garden renovation will already know (full blog post here if you don’t), we only have a small city garden, or if we’re honest the word “yarden” probably describes it better – it’s roughly 4 by 5 meters in size. We wanted it to include a veggie patch for our son but we also didn’t want to use up the valuable planting space in the raised beds around the edges. We don’t have much room for plants as it is and we really wanted them to be filled with grasses and ferns for maximum biophilic impact and movement in the garden.
In the end, we decided to make a small rolling veggie trug – that way we can easily move it out of the way when our son wants to kick a ball around, and because our garden is a bit of a sun trap, we can roll it out of the sun if the veg ever looked like it was wilting and struggling in the heat. As it turned out, this was only an issue in the beginning, once the seedlings were more established they actually thrived in the direct sun.
Ross started by making a 50 x 145cm frame for the rolling veggie patch out of the decking wood and he attached some slats to the bottom, leaving gaps between them for the water to drain through. He then attached some castors to the bottom that we bought on Amazon. We chose the ones with locks on them so that they would be completely solid when locked into place, and less dangerous if Finn decided to go climbing.
Lastly we created two 50 x 40cm frames out of some 2 x 4cm batons and screwed them together with four 50cm lengths, which we then stapled chicken wire to, to make a cover that we could place over the top and protect the veggie patch from the birds, which are extremely active in our garden.
We used left over Ronseal paint in ‘Tudor Black’ to match our pergola and then finished it off by stapling in some plastic base lining to protect the wood from the soil and poked some holes through with a skewer for drainage.
Once the rolling veggie patch was built, we kept things simple and used multi purpose compost which is suitable for growing most things. We pinned on some string to make the lines where the different types of veggies would grow so that we wouldn’t forget what went where. Try and keep the planting in the middle so that it’s obvious if a weed pokes through and you don’t end up pulling up a plant by mistake.
Sewing your seeds in your veggie patch
I soaked the seeds in some water for roughly 8 hours overnight to get them started. Don’t soak them for too long though or you’ll risk drowning the seeds. I then just followed the instructions for planting them on the back of the packet. You can get away with sewing the seeds a lot closer together than it says though, particularly with things like carrots and radishes – your veg will just grow a little bit smaller as a result.
Someone told me a really useful trick for evenly spacing your seeds in your veggie patch – they told me to use a regular sized mug to mark out a circle and then sew your seed in the middle. Cleaver hey?
In the end we managed to fit in; 2 courgette seedlings, 1 butternut squash seedling (in hindsight, 1 courgette plant would have been enough as I did not realise how big they grew), 8 carrots, 4 lettuces and 10 radishes which I have been rotating and replanting as we eat them. All in our little rolling veggie patch.
We created a hanging rail around our entire garden at the end of last summer using copper piping so that we could utilise all usable space. We decided to make some simple herb planters out of drain pipes that we could hang from the piping. You can move them around as you please and I think they look pretty cool too.
The Hanging Herb Planters
Here’s what we used:
- Plastic gutter pipe which we cut in half to make 2
- Gutter pipe end stops
- Basket Chains and Hooks
- Command Strips
Cut the pipes to size using a regular saw, attach the stop ends with the best invention known to man – good old command strips. Then drill holes in the stop ends and all along the bottom of the pipe for the water to drain through, then fill with multi surface compost. Loop the chain under the pipe and hang them from the hanging rails. You could use hanging hooks or a nail instead if you prefer.
I’ve had great success with the parsley and the mint after a slow start is now growing like a weed. The rosemary hasn’t done so well though – yet. I’m not going to give up on it without a fight.
Fill in the gaps with whatever you can find.
In addition to the hanging planters and rolling veggie patch we drilled some holes into some spare indoor pots and metal buckets that we had in the loft to grow the tomatoes, baby sweetcorn and broad beans in. This was more than enough to keep us busy throughout the summer. Finn loved watering them all and watching their progress every day.
Pretty much everything has produced some fruit or veg, apart from the butternut squash which I think got over shadowed by the courgette plants huge leaves. The broad beans were doing amazingly until the black fly got to them but before then we did manage to get a small harvest. It’s all a bit of a learning curve really and we hope that we can do even better next year with the things that we’ve learned this time.
Things I’ve learned:
- Always cut the bottom leaves off your tomato plants to make sure that all of the nutrients go to the leaves higher up that will eventually produce the fruit.
- Tie the stem securely to a cane – they don’t like too much movement in the wind and put them in the sunniest spot possible.
- Use a feed once a week – I only started doing this from end of June onwards and the difference in growth was incredible.
- Check for black flies and if you find them, give them a blast of cold water until they can’t hold on any more. Apparently you can spray a watered down solution of washing up liquid and water as they don’t like the taste. Just using cold water worked a treat for us though.
- If you want lots of smaller courgettes, cut them off immediately, otherwise you will end up with just one whopper that takes all the nutrients like I did. Pretty proud of that guy though.
- Use broken pistachio or egg shells to keep the snails and slugs away.
- Home grown veg tastes amazing – WAY better than shop bought so it really is worth the effort.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t make it. It happens and it’s how you learn.
Right, I’m off. I’m going to tuck into a roast lamb dinner accompanied by my son’s home grown herbs and veg.
I hope you found this post useful. Tag me with your veggie patch pics and herb planters if you do decide to give them a go, I’d love to see them.