Friday, 27 January 2017

The Life of a Kitchen Gardener

I was introduced to the wonderful world of nurturing, picking and eating homegrown produce when I was a child. I don't remember giving a second thought to growing food during my late teens; then I got my first home with a garden. It will come as no surprise to veggie growers to learn that I swiftly replaced the overgrown low maintenance planting with higher maintenance, but hugely rewarding edibles. An allotment soon followed. It was a neglected plot. Bringing it back into full production was extremely hard work, but every particle of soil reclaimed from the tenacious grip of couch grass meant more space for growing glorious food.
Over the years my love for growing and eating homegrown produce has not diminished, but the assortment of crops I grow has changed. When I became a parent to three children under three years old, I stopped growing anything requiring too much attention in the kitchen. Podding peas became a thing of the past, while strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra and peppers were grown in great numbers. I also embraced potatoes in pots, not because I was short of space, but because rooting around for spuds in a container is far quicker (and safer) than finding a fork and digging up potatoes with three hungry children trailing in your wake. The potatoes also came out cleaner than they did when lifted from the soil, which sped up the whole process of food preparation considerably.
As our children grew older I added their favourite foods to the mix. Shiny aubergines, asparagus, purple beans and sweetcorn were welcomed into the greenhouse and onto the plot. Our strawberry patch expanded and raspberries were given a free rein to walk wherever they pleased, so long as they fruited. At harvest time the children would run excitedly to the kitchen garden with their friends and delight in picking great bowlfuls of juicy tomatoes and succulent strawberries warm from the sun. Harvesting crops was a novelty for some of their friends. I hope that they will remember those sunny days of childhood and try growing food for themselves one day.
Now our children are teenagers with busy lives. For most of the year they barely have the time to notice that their food may have travelled only a matter of metres from the patch to their plate, but then in summer, when school’s out, I see them helping themselves to fruit from the kitchen garden or picking a salad for lunch.
For the past two years one of our children has grown chillies on her bedroom windowsill. She also has an ever-extending collection of cacti. May this be the start of a lifelong love of gardening for her. Our youngest teen likes to see flowers in the house. I am hoping that our new cutting garden will inspire her. As for me, I will be found in the vegetable garden, trying out new crops and looking forward to that point in summer when the school closes its doors and our children remember where their food comes from. 

32 comments:

  1. Oh I have no doubt your children will catch your enthusiasm for gardening. My Mother was a veggie gardener that had a few choice flowers around and in her veggie plot. I turned more into a flower grower with a few veggies plugged into the flower borders. This past couple of years I started a raised veggie bed in the forgotten corner of my garden. What goes around comes around. Both of my children now like to putter in their gardens. It is fun to see them grow a few flowers and a few veggies. A great way to connect.

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    1. It is wonderful that your children now have their own gardens. The connection between generations through gardening is so valuable. When I was younger I would visit gardens with my aunt. We shopped together for plants and I loved mooching around her garden. Sadly she is no longer with us and although I miss her, I have treasured plants from her garden, because like many gardeners, she was happy to divide plants and share them.

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  2. I came from a garden loving background being given a pack of Virginia and night scented stock to plant in a tiny bed each year and moving on to propagating busy lizzies from cuttings and spider plants until the house was full of them.

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    1. I love the idea of you filling the house with spider plants! I do believe that early success is a key factor in producing gardeners. I think it's sad when kids are given a plot which is out of sight with tricky soil.

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  3. What a lovely post, and brilliant that your daughter is growing things on her windowsill. I remember when I was little my windowsills were crammed with plants, couldn't have fitted in a single extra one. It's lovely for children to grow up with homegrown food I think. I always like to see mine in the garden picking things to eat. CJ xx

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    1. Thank you. How wonderful that you crammed plants onto your windowsill too! I wonder if you ever went away and left them, because when my daughter goes away, her plants cause me more worry than the entire garden put together. I want her to be encouraged by her success, so I would be horrified if I were to forget to water or feed her plants, or for them to get an infestation on my watch.

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  4. Although I myself didn't grow up around gardeners, I am certain that doing so plants the seed (pun intended) with children. The seed may take years to germinate but it will happen.

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    1. I hope so! I am fascinated by how you got into gardening.

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  5. I think you have sown the most important seed a gardener can.

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  6. That photo of the kids watering is priceless, as is the gardening enthusiasm you have imparted to them.

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    1. I had forgotten all about that photo - and their HUGE shorts!

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  7. How wonderful that you have shared your love of gardening with your children and fostered a love of fresh produce. My three boys sometimes would turn their nose up at veggies, except for the ones that came out of the garden, which always tasted better. I love the photo of your children in the garden! And you receive my congratulations and admiration for surviving three children under three! I had three children in five years, and that was tough enough!

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    1. They do love eating fresh produce, which is great when you grow food, but it can be expensive to buy fresh produce at certain times of year. At the moment we have a shortage of lettuce in the UK - Iceberg lettuce have been rationed - and we have no leaves left to eat at home. Needless to say I have gone into salad-sowing overdrive.

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  8. Hi Sarah, another well written post, you have such a gift with words!
    I am very surprised that with three little children you were able to garden at all, especially growing vegetables, since I do think they are a lot of work and you really need to tend to them if you want to harvest something at the end.
    It was touching to me to read about how you brought the garden closer to your children's heart. Hopefully one, two or even all three of them become gardeners themselves one day.
    I am wishing for you plenty of time to spend in the veggie garden this year and be able to grow fancy and unusual vegetables to your hearts delight!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Thank you, Christina. I did have to change the kind of food I grew. Even the choice of cultivar can make a difference to the effort involved. I still grow raspberries capable of standing on their own canes without support as it saves a lot of time. Similarly, Tumbling tomatoes do not require tying-in and the regular removal of side shoots; and cut and come again salads are a gift to the time-poor kitchen gardener.

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  9. Your children are lucky indeed. I love the photo of them with their watering cans. Strawberries are wonderful, do you grow raspberries as well?

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    1. I do grow raspberries - they are a great favourite in our house! The children also like Japanese Wineberries and we all pick blackberries from the hedgerows around the farm.

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  10. You have definitely set your children a good example and even if they don't start gardening immediately, I bet they will once they have settled into their own adult lives. Lovely post, and so much easier in this new format for me to read and comment on from my tablet! :D

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    1. I'm so pleased that the format makes reading and commenting easier. That's what I was hoping for!

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  11. Your children are very blessed. Your photos are lovely.

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  12. It's amazing how much of that will imprint on them. I reckon they will be food growers one way or another.

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  13. What a lovely post! Not many children these days see home grown food. I'm sure you have inspired the next generation of gardeners!xxx

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  14. What a lovely post! Not many children these days see home grown food. I'm sure you have inspired the next generation of gardeners!xxx

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    1. I am always delighted when I hear that a school is setting up a garden for its pupils. I'm even more delighted when I hear about children eating a meal cooked from the produce from their school garden!

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  15. I'm interested in growing potatoes in tubs as well, Sara. Last year I tried to do this and have had little crop, but this season I'm wanting to continue this experiment. Lovely photo of your children!

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    1. Thank you! I recommend growing potatoes in pots. It is a lot less work than growing them in a border. Start them buried just beneath the compost about 15cm from the bottom of a big container and keep adding compost as they grow until the pot is full.

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  16. You have instilled an appreciation of gardening into your children that will probably be within them forever. I think most true gardeners that you talk to will tell a story of a passion that grew while they were very young. My passion started around the age of five when my mom would buy me marigold seeds to plant in pots, nurture and watch them grow. The love of everything green developed into an interest in horticulture, leading to a landscape design business and just recently, two gardening books. Your post is lovely and really made me smile as it brought back personal memories. Your children will truly appreciate what you have given them, especially as they get older. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!

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  17. A lovely post, its memories of harvesting fresh peas and strawberries in my grandparents gardens that sparked that love of gardening for me. Though really only developed once I had my own garden, then it became an obsession!! It sounds like they are starting to grow a few things and thats how it starts!!

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  18. That's so wonderful to have those memories of growing food and to pass new ones on to your children! We moved too often and lived in too harsh of climates to grow food when I was a child, but we would visit my grandparents farm and eat amazing sweet corn and forage for berries. I hope to pass memories of growing food to my children as well.

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