No need to follow the rules – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

So, there are some ‘golden’ rules when it comes to growing your own vegetables, and these rules are all over the internet and in books, with advice from experts telling you how to plant, how to grow, how to avoid this, how to avoid that, when to harvest and what to do at the end of the season. I used to do my very best to follow all these rules and get things right so that my veg harvests would be the best they could be. For the large part, the advice is good advice, and it is sensible to follow it all. Rocket Gardens have plenty of growing advice too, with their Weekly Veg Out emails, their website and in their growing guide. The help is there and following the guidance is like having your hand held.

However, I wanted to put in a good word for the mistakes. Sometimes, you just don’t follow the rules, and it’s easy to beat yourself up about it. Tut tut, you didn’t harvest your leeks before they flowered and now the stalks are really tough, or you didn’t cut back your marjoram and now it has self-seeded all over the place, or you forgot to net the strawberries and the blackbirds ate them all. That’s okay though, because you’ll learn so much from that and you will instinctively do these things differently next time.

Then there are the happy accidents. Like yesterday when I went to pick some spinach and saw that the bulb fennel that I planted in August, that went super leggy and came to nothing, and that I forgot to pull up before winter arrived, had actually produced a couple of harvestable bulbs from its sideshoots. I had no idea it would do that. So here I am, in January when the weather is grim, harvesting a random fennel bulb with my spinach and winter kale.

Other happy accidents have included not harvesting wild rocket and then seeing that it has readily self seeded and I have little rocket plants all over the place to harvest from, or not pulling up chard that got frost damage and seeing that a few weeks later it was producing new leaves that kept me going for another two months, or not pulling up the sprouting broccoli that got totally annihilated by caterpillars and had totally bare leaves, but which suddenly sprouted broccoli in April.

My fennel harvest yesterday was a good reminder of this. I’d been looking at my veg patch in despair recently – I let it get away from me last year, and there are self-seeded weeds and plants in all sorts of places, and the strawberry patch is well and truly out of control, but in amongst it all, there are some brilliant learnings to be found, and, when spring comes, it is usually quite easy to get back on top of things anyway.