Ground zero. That’s where I’m starting from with learning how to grow fruit and veg. If that sounds like you, then we’re in this together!
I’m not from a particularly veg-growing family. My grandparents grew the odd spud and rhubarb. My mum and stepdad grew potatoes and grapes in the greenhouse at one point, and my dad grew tomatoes for a few years.
I’m not naturally green fingered and I struggle with house plants. I have very little knowledge about horticulture, and my previous experience makes for a very short CV.
Attempt 1: My debut was some years ago, when I tried growing a few tomato plants on my windowsill.
Result: I had small plants, but no tomatoes.
Conclusion: Epic fail.
Attempt 2: A few years ago, I thought I'd go back to basics and start with some lettuce seeds on my windowsill.
Result: They were quite leggy and didn’t look like any lettuce I’ve ever seen in a shop.
Conclusion: Must do better.
Attempt 3: Last year, with renewed vigour, I decided to try growing cherry tomatoes in the conservatory-cum-workshop and some rhubarb kindly donated by Chris Cant from Penrith & Eden District Freegle.
With the tomatoes, I went the whole hog and planted one variety from seed and we bought a few plants reduced to £1.50 in B&Q (clearly the cream of the crop). The seedlings duly appeared into the world in their trays, and I planted them into small pots, and then finally into big ones. We soon had a jungle.
I knew about this concept of nipping off side shoots when you’re growing tomatoes and I read a bit about this and even watched the odd YouTube video. I still have to admit I wasn't very clear on what exactly I was trying to achieve. According to the packet, the ones I planted from seed didn’t need to be de-side-shooted as they were meant to be bushy, but I only noticed this salient fact months later. At any rate, they all took on a life of their own.
Result: The rhubarb looked after itself and grew apace. As for the tomatoes, We did have quite a few tomatoes throughout the summer, although because I hadn’t side-shooted them correctly, many of them were pea-sized and the room was the set of I'm a celebrity, get me out of here.
Conclusion: Good start but must do better.
Attempt 4: This summer, I planted some more tomatoes from seed, and also branched out into cucumbers. As we were having such a sunny summer, once the seedlings got established, I replanted them into bigger pots and put them outdoors.
Result: That’s a story for next time!