I am new to this gardening lark so the progress of the veggie patch has rendered me awestruck over the past few weeks. The tiny seeds that we planted back in April seemed to take forever to become seedlings and force their way through the earth. I checked them three or four times a day hoping to see a mini shoot parting the softly compacted compost filling the little trays in which we had planted everything. I’ve never been particularly patient so this whole ‘slow-lane’ life was something I would have to get used to, and quickly. If that makes any sense.
Eventually, they began to peep through, each little green shoot seemingly identical – only a series of hastily written labels informing us what was what. By the time they were ready to be planted into the ground, the soil had been warmed by the early May sun and a healthy amount of compost dug into the beds. They suddenly looked small and vulnerable, like they were toddlers about to have their first day at playschool and I wondered whether they would survive the harsh realities of life outside of a plastic greenhouse.
But survive they did and soon it was possible to tell them apart. The peas grew thin pasta like feelers with which to grab onto the bamboo canes we had planted them next to. The kale began to take on a dark purple tinge. The salads started to grow leafy and full, their soft plumes of green filling the bed and offering a seemingly endless supply of tasty lettuce. And the courgettes attempted to undertake some sort of bid for freedom, like some aggressive floral lebensraum.
By my reckoning they are expanding by a couple of square metres every day. They seem to double in size whenever my back is turned, expansive leaves encroaching onto the lawn, hiding the dark green fruits underneath. At this rate they will reach the coast in about a month. Nestled in between the courgettes and the leaves are the familiar pale yellow flowers which are delicious raw in salads as well as stuffed with spinach and ricotta before being deep fried.
But not all of the veggies have been a success. The radishes were, quite frankly, pathetic. Visually, they were amusing – a rag tag collection of Laurel and Hardy comedy roots, some swollen and distinctly radish like, others pathetically thin and whispy as if they had been stretched out of all recognition. The taste was disappointing too. I like a radish to have a bit of bite. I want to know about it when I pop one in my mouth. It should clear your sinuses, send a rush of pain up your nose and leave your eyes watering as if someone has just scraped your retina with a scalpel. The full frontal facial assault I was expecting did not materialise. it was more of a tickle than a barrage. Although the leaves, when tossed in a sharp vinaigrette, do make a pleasant enough salad.
But this is just part of the learning process, merely the beginning and there are plenty more where they came from. Luridly coloured rainbow chard, beetroot, potatoes, broad beans, butternut squash and purple broccoli are still yet to offer up their wares. Little red fruits are appearing on the cherry tree in the front garden and the herbs, sitting happily in small pots, send the occasional wave of fragrance towards the open kitchen door. This is summer.