For the past couple of years we as a family have been trying, through lots of trial and error mainly, to grow some of our own fruit and vegetables. With a family of 5 to feed it makes good economical sense to grow some of our own food and it feels really good to know where the grub we put into our bodies comes from. We are a long way away from producing all of our own fruit and veg but we hope to increase our crop each year and to learn how to preserve and pickle any gluts we may have to see us through the winter months – we are learning as we go and enjoying taking it one step at a time on this journey to be more self-sufficient.
Our allotment site gets fairly battered by winds to say the very least and after repairing the glass in our greenhouse 4 times we decided to replace it with polycarbonate panels just a few weeks ago. After a stormy weekend we went with high hopes to check up on how it had fared and were totally dismayed to find that the sheets of supposedly durable plastic had been ripped from the frame, some shredded and torn, and the greenhouse frame twisted beyond salvage. We were understandably a little bit gutted at the waste of money and materials and also because we had begun planning early this year and I had seeds propagating at home to move to the greenhouse once the frosts had passed. Unfortunately we had no choice but to dismantle the greenhouse and aside from living on foods that will only grow outdoors in Northern Ireland, come up with another plan – preferably an inexpensive one too! A small greenhouse in a sheltered spot at home will be a suitable stop gap but I think we are going to do something we rarely do these days and buy something brand new! A polytunnel might be just the solution for the wind-battered location of our plot.
There’s a lot to be said for the life lessons learned while teaching yourself to grow a garden! I would say the main one for me is patience as gardening involves a great deal of waiting it would seem, allowing nature to do its own sweet thing, as well as trying things out, then trying again a different way if it fails. It’s also good for relationships we are finding. We have been working so well as a family team – constructing raised beds using an old bunkbed frame, digging them into the ground at the plot, buying seeds and planning what will grow best where, preparing the ground for the first potatoes to go in, learning how to make compost and clearing away weeds and debris. It’s a good full body workout too and guarantees the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have!
You’ll see from some snaps I have included in this post that I’ll pretty much pop a seed in any container I can find that will hold some compost and all of my labels are made using old milk cartons. I don’t spend a lot of money on the allotment, preferring to reuse what I have lying around and it’s a really good way to unleash your creative side. I have loved learning to saw, hammer and screw, to construct things using scrap wood and am very, very excited for our next big project which we hope to start work on this weekend if weather permits – a shed made from pallets! Watch this space for an update on that one! It will be unique that’s for sure and much cheaper than buying a premade shed if all goes according to the plans my husband has dreamt up!
At this time when we here in Northern Ireland are still very much in lockdown and I have all of my children still remote-learning I have to say that sowing our seeds and working on the allotment at the weekends is so precious and it’s so lovely to be nurturing my seedlings each day. It is a great stress-reliever and a brilliant way to unwind and also very exciting to see what we can grow. The boys all love to help out and will get stuck into whatever needs done and I am sure they are learning some really valuable life skills through it all. It’s messy, sometimes frustrating and back-aching work at times too keeping on top of it all as the vegetables go through their various stages and each season has its own tasks but ultimately it’s super-rewarding and satisfying and I am grateful for our little patch of growing space where we can connect with nature and each other.