Diary of a Rocket Gardener…learnings from the veg patch


My veg patch has just reached that time in the summer when everything is looking really lush and healthy and I am harvesting veg every day. I’m finding that this is the easy part, as I’m no longer constantly being plagued by pests or looking after vulnerable new plants, and also I am around a lot in the summer whereas I was away frequently in the spring so was unable to give the garden the attention it really needed.

As I sipped on a gin and tonic in the veg patch with a friend on Monday evening, I mulled over a few little things I’ve learnt and observed over the past few months, and I thought that some may resonate with Rocket Gardens readers. In no particular order…

  1. There’s a really rewarding, social element to growing your own. It’s great to share your produce with friends and neighbours, whether it’s offering a handful of runner beans to a neighbour or cooking up a tasty veg-heavy supper for friends. And it’s also fun to simply wander around your garden with a friend who is interested to know what you’re growing, and exchange notes about what’s worked and what hasn’t.
  2. I should definitely have grown my brassicas under a net. I had a lot of casualties to caterpillars and pigeons.
  3. Lettuce suddenly bolts when it’s hot and dry. A mulch here would have helped, and I should have watered them more often over the past couple of weeks.
  4. Beans and peas need to be picked often. I have found a lot that have grown too big because I wasn’t checking them.
  5. Spacing is important. I lost patience with planting my veg at the “right distance” and ended up bunging them in, and I am sad to say that my celeriac is currently suffering because the purple sprouting broccoli is towering above it and blocking the sunlight as a result. These plants do have a habit of growing!
  6. Tomatoes are even thirstier than I thought and I really think they need bigger pots/grow bags than the commercial garden centres sell. Next year I’ll be planting my tomatoes into little raised beds in the greenhouse instead so that they have more space. I’ll also be trying to tie them to canes more regularly and pinching out side shoots more often – I neglected mine a little and they’ve become quite unruly and some have fallen over. Oops.
  7. Squashes and courgettes need a lot of water.
  8. Sweetcorn needs food.
  9. It would have been easier to group my veg by plant type, e.g. all the brassicas in one area, all the beans and peas in one area etc so that I could give them all the right amount of watering. I mixed it up a bit and ended up giving some plants more water than they needed and vice versa.
  10. There is nothing more rewarding than tucking into a plateful of your own homegrown food.
  11. Being well prepared at the beginning of the season would have made a big difference to the success of my crops.
  12. Learning from your mistakes is the best way to get better at growing your own veg. I have a fair few books on growing your own, but nothing teaches me more than seeing my own veg plants fail because I didn’t give them enough water, or because cabbage root fly got to my brassicas, or because a pigeon pecked my broccoli to pieces.