This will be our third summer in this apartment. The first year; we moved in half way through the summer and I was very excited to get planting even though I had no idea what the year’s weather would be like. All I knew was there was sun right now and I wanted to take advantage of it. I built up a bed and bought all the seedlings I could carry.
For those if you playing at home (left to right) that’s carrots, leeks, Brussels sprouts, curly kale, kohl rabi, Swiss chard, and purple sprouting broccoli.
I thought we would be all set to grow this varied array of vegetables and be eating like kings before Christmas.
Little did I know there was a scourge to befall us. Squirrels!
Other cities I had lived in did not have this problem for varied reasons(too hot, too cold, too foreign) so I was not aware of the trouble they can cause.
The funny thing is they didn’t eat a thing. Squirrels have very good memories and every time they see disturbed soil in their territory they have to check it out – it could be a buried nut or a good place to bury a nut. Either way, they saw my seedlings a newly dug holes just for them – they would remove the pesky seedling in the way and put something in the hole.
Each morning I would go to the garden and see all the seedlings laying neatly beside their holes and various buried foods around the patch. This went on for the rest of the late summer and autumn. In the end we only a couple of seedling sized Swiss chard and some small Brussel sprout plants sans sprouts.
The second year; we decided to fight the squirrels preemptively and build a cage for my vegetables; I refused to put anything in the ground until it was up.
That year we got our plants from Victoriana nursery (see Resources) in Kent, they grow all their own plants and send out the seedlings when they are hardened off. Asparagus, various colours of tomatoes, strawbini (a strange spinach plant), beetroot, leeks, lettuce, peas seedlings plus courgette (zucchini), parsnip, pumpkin, radish, cucumber, carrot and melon seeds.
It was a cold spring in Kent so the plants were a little late however, that didn’t matter as through a series of delays the cage was not built until very late spring (on a side note: we had a baby that summer so I was very heavily pregnant so was reduced to sitting and instructional pointing – no pictures but he arrived late in mid-July so you can imagine).
It was very warm in London and although plants like the warmth, too hot too soon can confuse some plants into thinking they have no time left so they skip straight to growing seeds. This is a problem if that is not the part of the plant you eat; however, the radish and beetroot grew tiny roots and then bolted into two foot plants with a plethora of flowers.
We suffered through consecutive heatwaves in London all but the tomato and the melon perished due to lack of water.Tomatoes and melons love the heat so grew rampantly however, with a new baby there was time for pruning. We ended up with tomatoes vines up in a tree and a melon with minuscule melons and a lot of vine. (unfortunately no pictures of tomato vine tree) but we did end up with copious amounts of tomatoes all the way until October when I cut the
trees vines down (luckily I have a lot of chutney recipes).
This year we have had the chance to start from scratch as there are many things that we would like to change and improve on – including squirrel proofing. So hopefully third time lucky…