Monday, September 5, 2011

Seeing Other Plots

It's a peculiar thing that for all the images I see of people's gardens and so forth online, it's very rare for me to see comparable gardens in real life - areas that have limited size, and that are being grown by people who don't yet have a vast amount of experience. I've seen the veg plots in the Botanical Gardens in Dublin, and the absolutely stunning Victorian Gardens in the Phoenix Park, but both of those are full-on professional, and the Victorian Gardens in particular have about four dedicated people working full time on them.

However, at the weekend, I was able to see the student plots in Kew Gardens in London - more than a dozen small plots, each thoroughly jammed with vegetables planted by first-years horticulture students. They were pretty impressive in some ways, and oddly comforting in others. For instance, none of them had much in the way of carrots, a crop I've simply not been able to grow here.

The tomatoes, though. They were mostly using Tigerella and Shirley varieties, with some Truegold here and there. They were massive, enormous plants, easily my height, weighed down with huge trusses of fruit. Each had been sown indoors around the end of February, and then planted out in the end of April. I'm planning similar varieties and schedules myself for next year. Now, London is always going to be a few degrees warmer than I can manage, it being further south and under the heat island effect of a large city. But I think that with some sensible use of glass, and some good composting, I ought to be able to do fairly well. Even half as successful would make me very happy indeed.

And basil, variety Sweetgreen, growing in small rows here and there, with an amazingly strong scent. I did note that it was in among vegetables, not in a dedicated herb bed, which I might try next year too - reserving the herb bed for the tougher perennials like mint and sage and thyme.

The squashes and cucumbers were beyond what I think is possible in my climatic conditions. That said, I haven't had a chance to look at my own squash since I got back, so it's now been about five days since I saw them. It's possible they've set fruit and got going in the meantime, although I'm not all that hopeful.

Vegetables were not planted in rows in most of the plots, but in rough patches - the intention here was to cut down on pest effects. I'm not completely convinced by this, because it seems to me that it would be a lot harder to thin plants in these conditions, and it'd make weeding tougher as well. But I'm willing to give it a try - perhaps some beds in rows next year, and some in patches, and see which does better in the end.

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