Grow your own Vegetables

“Per Ardua ad Astra”

This means something like “through pain and suffering to reach the stars” – the motto of the Royal Air Force, which also very much describes my early gardening experiences.

When I was 10 years of age, my father was very ill, so my mother declared that I was “Man of the house”. What this meant was digging a vegetable patch and growing potatoes. I hated it, having much more interesting things to do like getting muddy in the nearby brickworks, shooting things (birds mainly, alas!) with my catapult and chemical experiments in the air raid shelter. A mix of carbide and water made a splendid depth charge when placed in a screw top cider bottle, weighted down with a brick and tossed in the nearby river. Then wait for ten minutes and hear the satisfactory “whoomph”. – would sink any submarine!!

But I digress… When first married, we had little money, so an allotment patch seemed ideal to grow vegetables. The only problems were the allotment committee, which seemed to think my patch was “untidy” – and the farmer who came and dumped a trailer load of pig manure on my allotment. Too fresh by far, but great the next year when the stink had died down. (I dug the whole load in when fresh).

Onwards to the next phase…. We had a bigger house with a garden, and I had a wife who liked vegetables, which is more than could be said for our children. Eventually fried potatoes became a star attraction.

On still faster and further to a second wife and several more houses. We eventually bought the Old School in a small village called Cretingham in Suffolk.

On the surface the front garden looked ideal as a veg. garden, it had a pleasant lawn, with nice green grass. Ideal to dig up for vegetables. Never did like manicured lawns!

Then the big discovery!

My vegetable plot used to be the boys’ playground of the School. It looked really inviting until we discovered that it had been covered in asphalt, which has a thin layer of topsoil put down by a previous occupant of the house! Removing the black stuff took many hours of backbreaking work with a pickaxe, sledgehammer and shovel, but at last there was enough soil available to contemplate planting some vegetables. Not far from our village was a large stable for horses and they left bags of manure outside for free. A quick word with the owners enabled me to take my own bags and remove loads of good manure. I calculate they over more than 20 years I have put more than 500 bags of manure into the soil, which has worked wonders for the fertility of the soil.

So, despite advancing old age, I can still dig heavy clay soil, maybe Irish ancestry?

Now, I have the untidiest and most productive vegetable plot in the local area. Maybe the problem is the horse manure which contains seeds of stuff the horses ate.

And, I find growing vegetables, giving some to neighbours and eating the crops really good for the soul!

So I now grow:

There is more but I’m getting tired!

Here’s a pic of the veg garden

For those who want a really interesting and stimulating TV programme, which creates adventures to follow when it comes to all aspects of gardening, the programme to watch is “Gardeners World” which appears on BBC TV. The lead presenter is Monty Don, his website is

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