Home farming – nul points

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As October approaches, it’s time for me to take stock of 2008’s home farming efforts. Without wishing to be too harsh on myself, it’s fair to say that they were pretty unedifying.  Not for want of enthusiasm or commitment, you understand.   Far from it. I’ve braved driving rain to construct a support for an alarmingly large squash plant; I’ve painstakingly staked and tied lovely tomatoes that are now, thanks to a rotten summer, doomed to remain green and inedible; I’ve rushed out in the dead of night, fresh back from Cornwall, to inspect my beloved plants; and I’ve mourned for the broccoli ravished by slugs and the 6 foot sweetcorn plant that had fallen over and perished while I was away.

Still, there were the highs.  Like the surprisingly fecund cucumber plant, the plentiful salad leaves and the treasure trove of potatoes that I unearthed to cheers from the kids.  Last week, I picked the one fully formed squash to be produced by the monstrous plant and roasted it with thyme.   Although I stubbornly polished off every last bit myself, the truth of the matter is that it was absolutely disgusting.  Why? After so much love and organic compost?

And yet, I already find myself drawing up more ambitious plans for next March – maybe jerusalem artichokes this time, maybe a different type of courgette to the bizarre and strangely tasteless yellow fingers that I’ve been proudly stir frying.

It’s time to face facts: I’m a vegetable-growing anorak.  I can pinpoint the exact moment when this realisation dawned on me.  It was at a newsagents in Cornwall, where I was stocking up on light reading to enjoy while sunning myself on the beach (Ha!).   I’d passed quickly over the Heats and Hellos, lingered over Eve and Red – and then I spotted it …Kitchen Garden!!!!  Maybe it was the picture of the windswept woman inhaling worm-ridden compost, or the headline that screamed “Reaping the rewards – time to bring in the harvest!” but I just knew that this was the magazine for me.  And so it was that, huddled behind a straining windbreaker, I read up on the latest compost shredders, commiserated with Lesley’s problem of rusty leeks and marvelled at Des’s impressive squash.

Now where’s that organic seed catalogue…