Gardener’s Question Time

One of the disadvantages of moving here was that – despite being effectively in the middle of nowhere – the cottage doesn’t have a garden, apart from a narrow bed outside the front. All fantasies of growing my own veg, let alone keeping chickens or the odd goat, were confined to two not particularly impressive tomato plants in pots and a herb garden in a sink that I’d brought up from London.

All this has changed, as I have now been given access to this:

New garden - mine is the bed at the front

New garden - mine is the bed at the front

– a plot in a beautiful walled (and, more importantly deer-and-rabbit-proofed) garden. Not quite enough room for a chicken or a goat, but plenty of space for veg, and access to a compost heap, cold frame and tool shed to boot.

So … what to grow? It will need to be a) edible, b) not require much in the way of sunshine and c) fond of a damp climate. A very, very, very damp climate.

26 Responses to Gardener’s Question Time

  1. Plenty of room for a goat. Just tie it on a leash long enough to hop over the wall to graze in places such as the patch next door.

  2. Huttonian says:

    Not Apple trees I suppose ?

  3. cha0tic says:

    Which way does the wall face?

  4. Sarah says:

    Neeps and tatties.

  5. disgruntled says:

    Gregory – as that part belongs to the person who has very kindly lent me the garden, I think unleashing (or even leashing) a goat into it would be ill-advised
    Huttonian – last time I looked, Hell hadn’t frozen over
    Cha0tic – south-west I think.
    Sarah – I was afraid of that

  6. disgruntled says:

    Ah … I was with them up to the point where it said ‘area should not puddle after heavy rain’

    So not Scotland then

  7. cha0tic says:

    SW, that’s good I believe. It already looks like there are wires on the wall for an Espalier fruit tree of some sort. Check with an expert about a type of fruit and variety suitable for your location/latitude. You might get away with Apples, but I think Raspberries are a traditional Scottish thing. You might have to bugger about with a fruit cage then though.

    I’d suggest choosing stuff you like eating 🙂 Radish was always a favourite with us as kids. We grew loads of the stuff so it must be easy to grow. Runner Beans maybe. Spring onions. Potatoes, but pick a nice potato variety. You’re not going to get a massive crop out of that size plot, so you may as well have a small crop of good ones.
    Don’t bother with lettuce, it’s the most tedious vegetable in the world, but maybe do some Chinese leaves, or Curly Kale, something a bit tasty. Some herbs would be nice. Rosemary as you must be able to get decent lamb round your way.

    Sprouts, ready for next Christmas. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots if the soil is light enough.

    Oooh Rhubarb if it’ll grow there, as I think you can basically just leave that alone.

    Shallots or pickling onions, Beetroot, Peas.

    Failing that, search the interwebs for an outdoor marijuana variety. You might get enough to keep you stoned for the year, or send you to jail for five years 🙂

  8. psychosplodge says:

    dig a pond and grow fish…

  9. yarb says:


    I would in all seriousness suggest turnips. A delightful vegetable, and dependable I’d have thought.

  10. disgruntled says:

    cha0tic – raspberries are definitely on the cards;they grow wild here but not in great enough quantities
    psycho – there’s also a pond, but I’mnot sure we’ve got fishing rights
    yarb- curiously enough we had turnips for the first time a few weeks ago and they were surprisingly yummy.
    You need a steeper slope for haggis, I understand

  11. R::B says:

    Home-grown carrots are always good and benefit from a good soaking. Courgettes have always been good croppers for us too…three plants can keep us going all summer. Peas and beans are easy and we’ve had no problems with them getting too heavily soaked. Onions and shallots are essential! If you have good drainage, or can dig in some sharp sand, garlic should do well too.

    I’m just starting to order seeds for this year and have decided to try okra and kohl rabi, although my experiences with brassicas generally leave something to be desired.

    You should have a look at the forum at Self-Sufficient-ish – there’s always someone coming up with useful advice…

  12. Kay says:

    Definitely raspberries, both early and late fruiting varieties and rhubarb which grows anywhere, just about, except the Sahara. If you really love fruit, stick in a blackcurrant, they’re not fussy buggers. You can espalier a tree but it’s probably going to have to be something hardy as that stonework looks both cold and damp and just because it’s a wall, doesn’t mean you can grow peaches up it. Alpine strawberries will go in tiny spaces or even in nooks and crannies in the border wall and taste wonderful. They crop lowly and slowly over months and months so you get a tiny handful a day, not a kilo that goes off in ten minutes.

    Veggies: if it’s very damp then you’ve got to improve the drainage with grit or everything will rot in the ground. Potatoes may be better in containers (you can grow them in sacks or piles of tyres) so you get an early high-value crop rather than tying up your ground with maincrops when they are already cheaper in the shops. You can’t beat leeks for value though as they get up to around 30 pence each in the shops (insane money!) and winter veg (purple or white sprouting broccoli, kale, brussels and winter radish) are always fantastic to have to hand when there is nothing good in the shops. I think you’ll struggle with tomatoes unless you have a cold frame to bring them on from seedlings and even then they’ll probably find it difficult to ripen in a bad summer. If you have room, grow peas and dwarf french beans as both can be frozen.

    btw, you did know I have two allotments and blog about them for a living, didn’t you? I am about to bore you to death on growing your own …

  13. Simon says:

    That is a fantastic plot and if it is SW facing you’re laughing.

    The best advice is grow what you like eating. You’ll be fine, with a bit of luck, as long as you stay away from fragile things (like aubergines, cucumbers). Ask your neighbours – they’ll know what works.

  14. Flighty says:

    I see that there’s plenty of good advice in the other comments. All I would say is try growing anything you like! xx

  15. disgruntled says:

    Well, the order has been placed – at least for my preliminary planting. I’m sure I’ll be back for advice as the season progresses

  16. Dom says:

    Nettles. Easy to grow, makes a nice warming cup of tea after one of your made cycles to the shops in the rain. Either that or some sort of biofuel so you can take the car instead 🙂

  17. disgruntled says:

    It may come to that…

  18. highwaycyclinggroup says:

    If your ground is damp then try building some raised beds, did wonders for us here, we have very clay laden soil, by putting in raised beds we could control the soil type better, and it helped get some organic material into the ground. If you can get hold of some empty water cooler bottles or similar you can make some cloches, which will in effect give you a row or two of mini greenhouses.

    Good luck.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    I just bought the new Jamie Oliver book and it’s fab, with recipes and what and how to grow. Maybe more specific to south England, but it talks about what to grow in winter as well. Very interesting stuff!

  20. disgruntled says:

    HCG – raised beds might be a bit of an investment for a plot I’m only borrowing, but I’m considering it
    Elizabeth – I’m finding there’s a huge difference between climate here & in southern England – when I did grow veg down south, winter barely impinged at all

  21. Simon says:

    Don’t be put off – we’ve had a bad winter – it’s not normally quite so harsh.

  22. disgruntled says:

    Yeah I’m hearing this a lot: ‘don’t be put off, this is a bad winter. It will be better next year … *pause, uneasy laugh* … at least, I hope it will…’

  23. PaperBoy says:

    I’m for ignoring the advice given by locals that have been there since time immemorial – sometimes they grow ABC because they always have or that their great-great-great-Uncle tried to grow something other than ABC in 1740 and it didn’t work. Try loads of things – see what works *for you* – there’s no point in me growing celery, everyone in this house hates it – grows well here though, but what’s the point?

  24. […] ceasefire before the hostilities resume tomorrow – I’ve been busy in the garden. Following your advice (which mostly amounted to ‘grow what you like to eat, duh’) I have planned out my […]

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