A Novice in a Walled Garden
by Graham Elliot
Graham In A Home Garden In Sri Lanka
In March 2008 I was invited to take a plot in the walled garden of a 17th century home called Prehen House on the outskirts of the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland. The original house, now a barn, dates back to the 1600's at the time when the English and Scots brought 'plantation' people to settle in the land.
Enough of history and politics. The walled garden fell into disuse until a few years ago, but the soil seems dark and rich. A drought last May, my first year as a novice vegetable grower, taught me a few lessons.
For instance, my cauliflower plants, bought from the local garden centre, went to seed but the flowers stayed within the outer leaves. Occasional flowers, which tasted very sweet, poked through but I didn't have the experience to read the signs. But my sprouts are just coming to an end and my leeks are still doing great. (Very tasty cooked in olive oil and grated ginger.)
This, my first full year, should be a better year.
I'm planning my raised beds and I've started my garlic and cauliflower, although I'm now beginning to panic in case I'm leaving things too late. I've a good pile of well rotted horse manure but now I'm reading that my root vegetables won't like freshly manured soil! It's going to be a steep learning curve, but a very enjoyable process.
I'm too long in the tooth to expect perfection but I reckon my wife, Elizabeth, and I can look forward to some tasty home-grown vegetables.
My work takes me to Sri Lanka where we support an organisation that provides, among other things, micro-finance and training in organic agricultural practices to rural women in poverty. Now that I too am growing vegegatables I feel a nice connection with our friends out there.