The Veg Patch
Back to my roots

During lockdown, I have been reconnecting with the dirt and learning how to tend homegrown vegetables at our shared family allotment.

Back to my roots

2 min read
The Veg Patch

The fresh smell of tomato plants has all but disappeared from my window sill as the Solanum Lycopersicum (Latin for tomato plants) have been reassigned to their new vantage point outside.

It's time for them to make their way in the real world alongside the other veggies we've got growing in our communal allotment.

As I tap away pm the keyboard to write this post, I can't help but notice the dirt beneath my fingernails. This is now a regular occurrence, as I spend more time pottering around in the garden in preparation for growing season.

Tomato seeds scattered in the palm of an outstretched hand.

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Three small tomato plants on a wooden table ready for repotting

One of the major lifestyle changes I made during lockdown—which I am happy to say has stuck—is reconnecting with my roots and learning how to tend homegrown vegetables at our family shared allotment.

I’ve always helped my parents out and about in the garden, but this usually consisted of ‘chores’. I have never regarded myself as a ‘gardener’. This lockdown has been the first time I have grown a range of vegetables myself for the first time.

It all started with growing tomatoes from seed.

My dad keeps a little bank of seeds of tomatoes of different varieties, that he keeps going from season to season. I turned some old Oatly cartons into mini planters, cut them open and filled them with soil, and watched the magical progress as the seeds grew into plants and eventually began to fruit. I’d say this was when my connection to growing homegrown veg began.

I am now scaling it up to the raised beds. After weeding out the horsetails, adding compost (from our home compost bins) and manure (delivered from a local friend who owns horses) I planted rows of Swiss chard, beetroot, sweet peas and kale.

One barrier that we always face in our garden is horsetails, an invasive, deep-rooted weed that has been causing us grief for years. They spread quickly, crowding out our raised beds, so it is an ongoing battle. However, I did learn that these relentlessly resilient weeds are in actual fact relics from the Ice Age. This fun fact has helped me slightly reframe my dislike for them. Slightly.

I am gradually learning the fundamentals of gardening, and with it comes a quiet contment of growing vegetables from seed, and eventually serving them up at the dinner table. The whole process of weeding, composting, watering, and watching the veg grow has been a therapeutic, mindful process. It's truly from ‘farm to fork’.

Man in a garden holding a bunch of weeds in an outstretched hand

This year we've got beetroots, potatoes, peppers, runner beans, mangetout (the purple kind), broad beans, courgettes, swiss chard, and chillis.

Here’s a snap of some of the veg that came out last week. It seems like purple is the colour of the season so far...

Two hands holding a bunch of beetroot and mange tout in a garden.

There is something oh so satisfying about taking a pack of seeds, nurturing, watering, watching them grow, and hardening them to the elements before eventually harvesting them and reaping the rewards in the kitchen.

In today’s super-connected and fast-paced world, slowing down can seem like a thing of the past, of times gone by. As a freelancer and small business owner, I’ll put my hands up and say this can be tough. But the act of slipping on my wellies, picking up a spade and getting out into the garden helps me slow down and appreciate nature on a different scale, and at a different pace.

In today's society, there is also often a disconnect with where our food comes from. The majority of the time I'll put my hands up and say I don't even think about it. But the act of growing my own vegetables has got me thinking about food and nutrition on a deeper level in day-to-day life. I am gradually becoming more mindful of the food and coffee I consume, even if it's not grown from home or bought locally. I am making an effort to contemplate the country of origin, farmers, and processes that go into making and transporting the food on my plate.

What's more, homegrown produce tastes better—much better. Why? The vegetables simply hold far more nutrients. Vitamins and antioxidants in local and homegrown crops may be more than 100 per cent higher than imported ones, which often travels huge distances before they even land on supermarket shelves.

A graphic illustration of rows of beetroot being sliced open by a kitchen knife

My day now starts with one ritual and ends with another.

Each morning, I start the day by plunging hot water through an Aeropress, filtering coffee into a mug to slowly sip whilst reading a book.

Each evening, I end the day by showering the dry soil with a watering can, filling my nostrils with that nostalgic smell of wet dirt before heading back inside to hit my head to the pillow.—

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