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The vegetable patch

My mother gardened all through my childhood. She tended a beautiful vegetable garden at our home full of fresh produce, which as children we would turn our noses up at. ‘Urgh look at that wonky weird carrot – I’m not eating it,” said my eight-year-old self. “What is purple-sprouting broccoli, it looks disgusting.”

As children, all three of us, my two brothers and I, rejected any sort of gardening, or even the notion that growing your own is a positive thing. Yet strangely it must have seeped into my soul (and indeed my brothers who all have vegetable patches and enjoy gardening). 

At the age of 24 in my first house, I dug up half the garden and put in four small raised beds for vegetables. Everywhere I have lived since I have had a vegetable plot – and in my current home it grows bigger every year! I’m not good with flowers, or perfectly put together herbaceous borders. But growing your own produce to me is something special. I can’t put it into words, it’s just something that seems obvious and right to me, to grow my food and eat it. And yes, I love wonky carrots now (and purple sprouting broccoli!). The taste is incomparable with what you can buy in the shops. But even more, it’s the joy of knowing you grew that vegetable from seed, you nurtured it, watered it, weeded around it (didn’t plaster it in herbicide or chemicals) and then dug it up – that probably adds to the taste more than anything else. 

Today, my husband and I (and our young daughter) have nine small raised beds and a greenhouse, and between June and September we can be semi self-sufficient with vegetables; beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, spinach, lettuce, garlic, potatoes, courgettes, beans, pumpkins and much more. We like to try new and unusual varieties – lemon apple cucumber, purple carrots, spaghetti squash, and amaranth among them. 

The radishes photographed are almost always the first harvest of the year, as they are so quick growing, and it’s a signal that the picking season is almost upon us. They are bright and beautiful, crisp and peppery. 

Working as we do in sedentary jobs, at computer screens, with the associated stresses of modern-day life, there is nothing more relaxing than digging about in the garden, getting muddy hands and being in the fresh air. I can’t recommend it enough. Even if you have a small space to grow herbs and leafy vegetables, it’s worth the effort. I think this quote sums it up for me.

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. –Alfred Austin, Growing with the Seasons