Grubby green fingers, or our first summer as “proper” gardeners

When I was about ten I planted one row of radishes and one row of lettuces in a corner of my parents’ garden. Slugs destroyed the lettuces in that single-minded way that slugs do, but the radishes flourished and even managed to taste quite respectable.

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Those radishes were playing on my mind over the weekend as I shouldered my fork and trowel to start some spring planting. Up until this point, I wouldn’t call myself a gardener, save for the carnivorous plants I tended lovingly on my London windowsill. But our new garden in Surrey comes with a garden. A rather beautiful garden, lovingly laid out and planted. Over the past few months we’ve watched in awe as the borders spring to life, first green foliage, then white snowdrops, yellow daffodils, golden primroses, bluebells, delicate forget-me-nots and best of all, big scarlet tulips all blooming from the soil.Now, when faced with a garden that has been so well-loved, beautiful dark earth wrangled into tidy geometric raised beds, I felt the latent stirrings of something green-fingered in my soul. As part of The Maker’s Year I’ve been trying to pay extra attention to these cravings, to explore those little niggles and see where they lead. Whether that be furniture restoration, woodworking, painting, or indeed seed potatoes. I’m rather proud of my seed potatoes.

Planting potatoes | Song of the Stitch
Planting potatoes | Song of the Stitch

Potatoes are relatively easy: place your seed potatoes on a tray in a well-lit frost-safe place and leave them to sprout. Once the sprouts are good and big, create a trench a couple of inches deep and pop them inside, spaced about twenty centimetres apart. Cover them over completely, mark the row, and move on to the next one. I say easy, but maybe we should come back to that as and when I actually harvest any actual potatoes.

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With help from my Dad, I set our greenhouse to work as a nursery for broad bean seedlings. We filled small pots with compost, soaked the compost completely and placed a single magic bean inside each. I covered the pots with cling film to keep the moisture in, and then left them to sprout. And sprout they did! Just check out these beanstalks.

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Just stunning. Broad beans may not be my favourite food, but dammit I am going to find some decent recipes for them if I get a crop from these babies. I gently wiggled the root mass and compost free from the pot and placed each one in a ‘drill hole’ (yeah, I’ve got the technical garden lingo down) with a fresh handful of compost, and tucked them in.

Planting potatoes | Song of the Stitch

Of course, the acid test for my green fingers will be whether my potatoes and my beans grow, flourish and produce. But in the mean time I have plans. Shallot and leek-shaped plans. Because the creative brain niggles are demanding more planting, and I for one am going to keep chasing this scheme to see where it ends up. Who knows, there might even be radishes.

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