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. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Garden Blogs and Good Intentions

I am one of those gardeners for whom the new year is like a starting gate catapulting open in a horse race. Waking up on January 1st is the point at which the door is released and the prize-winning filly hurtles towards the finishing line, only in my case I'm a mare running like the clappers towards the seed catalogues, and there is nothing prize-winning about me (my track record with raffle tickets speaks for itself).

I had planned to focus solely on ornamental seeds during early January, but my head has already been turned by edibles. Pipiche is an attractive Mexican herb, so it might be considered ornamental, but Carosello looks like a hairy cucumber. Had I resolved to exercise more self-control, I would have failed in my resolution on day one. Thankfully, the older I get, the more resolved I become to never make a resolution, which is a resolution in itself. It only goes to show how unsuccessful resolutions can be.
When I started blogging I had no clear idea of what I was trying to achieve. I knew that I wanted to share the joy of gardening with nature in mind. All of the photos in this post were taken over the festive period. Had I cut back and tidied the plants in autumn instead of leaving them to provide food and shelter for our wilder friends, imagine how flat and dull my garden would have been. I might not win any raffles, but the wildlife and the sight of the plants on a frosty morn makes me feel like a winner.
It took a few months for me to pluck up the courage to publish my first post. I chose the easiest platform I could find and didn’t commit myself to a domain name. I had read blogs for some time and I really loved the blogosphere. I still do. Being part of this global community has taught me to be a better gardener. Now I want to learn to be a better blogger, so I am starting the year by asking for your advice.
If I were to change the blogging platform, are there pitfalls I should watch out for? Would adding a culinary section to the mix be a good idea? What about historical posts and comments - do they travel well? Have you ever changed the name of your blog? If so, was that an issue? What works and what doesn't about this blog? You may quite rightly be concluding that I have as much of a clue about what I’m doing as I have about growing that hairy cucumber lookalike, Carosello. Of course, if you have any advice on growing Carosello, it will be more than gratefully received.
Perhaps I should leave The Gardening Shoe well alone and go and focus on something more predictable, like selecting veggies to grow in 2017. The most predictable aspect of which will be the addition of a couple of ornamentals to the edible list. After all, there is bound to be something I forgot to order while I was getting sidetracked by Carosello and Pipiche. Such is the nature of seed catalogues and good intentions. 

Thank you for all your encouragement and support over the years. Wishing you health and happiness in 2017. I look forward to reading your blogs and salivating over your beautiful photos this year. Here's to you!