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Growing your own veg / herbs?


You are quite right, only one of the varieties I grow is mainstream, Shirley , which is better than the standard supermarket fair, all the others are not available at supermarkets.
Re Yellow Brandiwine, I have grown several yellow varieties simply because they have a better taste than the red ones and the colours give a nice look on a plate, but Yellow Brandywine also is very fleshy, not in a course way but simply denser and more tasty, that one in the photo was big enough to feed a dinner party on its own, one slice constituted a meal, there is a red version that is also very good, but the field in this genus is enormous though many really only replicate others.
Of all the veg grown at home the other best bet is cucumbers, most supermarket cucumbers, in fact all, are tasteless and very watery, whereas certain seed grown varieties are much more fleshy and tasty, I have been growing Diana an F1 hybrid for awhile but others are very similar and are nothing like supermarket cucumbers.
Soft fruit falls into the same category, as all the supermarket varieties are grown for keeping qualities and prolific production, there is no comparison with home grown varieties.

In fact the supermarkets here more than on the continent have killed off many of the fruit and veg we took for granted some years back, the vaiety of Apples for sale in this country is disgraceful, when did you last see James Grieve, Worcester Permain, Beauty of Bath, Reverend Wilkes a magnificent cooker /eater and hundreds of others, I used to deal witha nursery in Kent that supplied over 700 different Apple varieties, you are lucky to see more than half a dozen in the supermarkets and most have been in store so long they taste of cardboard.

I think I will sign off under a different name for these comments, will Percy Thrower do !
but it is a fact whilst our choice of wines continues to expand and encompass the world with more and more grape varieties coming onstream, our fruit and veg contracts evermore.


We allowed our food culture to be damaged in the post-war period due to the need for efficient farming practises, though maybe it was not sufficiently embedded and therefore not resilient. The cultural link between growing, cooking and consuming was damaged; maybe this is a natural outcome of urbanisation. Things are getting better, I think, but I wonder whether today’s gastronomy is more focussed on smart looking plates of restaurant food, rather than a deeper understanding of ingredients and cooking techniques. I suppose there’s a danger of making a virtue out of a necessity, with many recipes arising from the need to use every scrap and needing time to prepare and cook, however the result is a culinary diversity underpinned by ‘seasonal’ eating. The lack of resilience with respect to the range of crop strains may also be an issue; the fewer we preserve, the less resilient we are. I suppose time and space are the limiting factors for most of us…


Ah the decorated plate rears its small ugly head again, I haven’t totally foregone restaurant eating but if I see on a website a plate with a small stack of vegetables balancing on a minute square of meat accompanied by a carefully placed lettuce shredded to make it look 'interesting" and a fancy drizzleof an unknown exotic sauce plus a blob of foam, all on a very big plate, then I don’t go.

As to the preservation of fruit varieties thisplace that has the National Collection is worth a visit with over 4000 varieties, the place has become rather commercial over the years but that is a price worth paying to keep this invaluable collection going, you can sample varieties as they become available.

This is the nursery I used for fruit trees for many years, not quite as many for sale as in the past but no one has more .


Sadly you are right as to time and space, especially space, the current building trends are to have no outside space worth talking about at all.


Yes indeed, this is a big issue - something between 40 -60% homes in many cities don’t have gardens (it’s hard to get good figures sometimes the % might be higher)

Luckily it’s possible to grow a surprising amount in a small concrete space like a balcony - particularly if you focus on high value crops like salad, herbs and soft fruit. I discovered this by accident (I grew £900 of food on my balcony and windowsills one year)… and since then I’ve dedicated my working life writing and running workshops on how to grow food in small spaces!

I know many people who find it very rewarding to live in the middle of a city and grow some of their own food.


That’s great, whilst I know what can be done in a small space few do, tomatoes, climbing beans, lettuce etc can all easily be grown in tubs in small spaces, in high rises the sun can be a plus though wind is a problem but barriers are easily put up, and people lucky enough to have a roof garden can really go to town.
My old mum used to grow all sorts of things on her balcony in central London, as she got older, in her nineties I would have to come in and cut stuff back for her as it became difficult, but it did not stop her growing all manner of veg fruit and flowers, though she did have a good background as a florist before the war, doing the displays in the Ritz and other top hotels, I always wondered when I was little what all the bundles of wire were for.


We really like tarragon and have tried with mixed success to grow it in a raised veggie bed for the past 10 years. The Russian variety ( both “French” and “Russian” appear to originate in Russia) has survived a couple of relatively mild winters but needs loads to infuse much flavour in a dish. So we tend to plant French tarragon and accept that it will only last for 3-4 months. Seriously yummy under the skin of barbied chicken. Awesome match with


Sorry, not really on topic, but do any of you horticulturally minded folk have any idea what’s wrong with this sunflower? All the others nearby are mostly fine (some have a tiny bit of browning on leaves)


Looks like some form of leaf blight, @Mooble. A fungicide should sort it out for any new growth, though it won’t clear up existing infected leaves.

By the way, having moaned earlier about my lack of success in overwintering tarragon, I have discovered that three of my four plants have made it through the winter! I spoke too soon.


Sunflowers don’t really have many problems they are inherently hardy, but the lower leaves look as though they may well have a virus, they do occasionaly get stem rot in very wet weather ! but that does not look like stem rot, this looks like a form of leaf spot, and if your other sunflowers are in good condition the best thing is to remove the deseased one and burn or destroy as the desease can spread, it is not worth trying to spray one plant .


Thanks @Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis and @cerberus . I think I’ll sacrifice that one for the common good, and cross my fingers for the others!


Hi Mooble - The newer leaves look fine, so I don’t think it’s serious. To me, it looks like water damage in a hot environment - has it been germinated and grown so far in a greenhouse or propagator? Otherwise it might be a splash from a (perhaps strong) plant food solution?
I would just take those two leaves off - it won’t mind - and see how it goes. At least yours are much more advanced than mine, which have only just germinated!


I couldn’t bring myself to kill the poor sunflower so have done as you suggested and removed damaged leaves and, as a precaution, replanted the sunflower in a more isolated area.

They’ve grown incredibly quickly - no propagator, but they did spend the first two weeks on a very sunny windowsill enjoying the good weather. They germinated really quickly (within 3 days of planting) and are mostly now about 15 inches high, 4 weeks after the seeds were sown. I wish my herbs would show the same enthusiasm!


Sunflowers are VERY fast growers. I think it will be fine as long as the new area is reasonably sunny (ideally as sunny as possible). Although the cold winter has delayed the season, it’s all catching up quickly with the warm weather recently.
Is it a tall yellow one? I have just germinated yellow, red and mixed varieties - probably the first year I think I’ll get plants out in enough time!

I wish you all the best with your Sunflowers!


This our veg patch. Panning from left to right there’s a gooseberry and a black currant bush with sickly onions and more sprightly sweet corn plants. Then beans, French and runners, a couple of tomato plants and last year’s spinach gone to seed. Also some rampant marjoram, small rosemary seedlings and you can also see the flowers on the chives.


Thought I’d add my contribution here (no pictures at the moment though). I have a moderate little veg patch and good sized fruit cage:

Fruit Cage: Blackcurrant, redcurrant, blueberry, loganberry, tayberry, blackberry, gooseberry. All underplanted with strawberries. I generally make jam from the periodic gluts.

Herbs: Indoors: Basil, flat leave (Italian) parsley. Outdoors: Oregano, Thyme, mint.

Veg: Tatties, carrots, cabbage, brussel sprouts, sprouting broccoli, courgette, peas, French climbing beans, broad beans, leeks, hardneck garlic (I just love garlic!).

Currently the tatties are all up, the peas and broad beans are finished (surplus in freezer) carrots are slowly being lifted but stay in the ground until needed with some straw to protect them from frost. The French beans and courgettes have gone batty this year with all the sun and I can’t keep up with them. And the Garlic is all lifted and dried (and lovely). With the Highland climate anything much more exotic than that lot doesn’t really stand a chance. Tried sweetcorn a couple of times but the growing season is just too short for them to ripen. Some years the French beans fail completely if it’s a cold winter and the frosts come too soon but not this year!

There’s really nothing quite like having a meal where everything comes from your own garden which is mostly feasible if you’re a veggie like me!


Peas are the one thing we struggled with this year. Most of the rest has gone nuts. I’ve been searching for courgette chutney recipes this week and making batches of tomato sauce for the freezer - there are going to be some cracking pizzas this autumn!

Cucumbers are nearly done now and it won’t be long before we start on the butternut squashes. Also more sweetcorn than we know what to do with. The Kent climate lends itself quite nicely to that but it takes a bit of space

I was chatting to a neighbour earlier saying how hard it was not to be smug as you pick your own dinner :wink:


Must be the same with home harvests over here as well: the other half came back from work the other day with a courgette the size of a magnum of claret - one of her colleagues had a glut and was offloading them. Chutney was my first thought too!


That is a marrow and chutney is a good idea. Turn your back on them at this time and they go from finger size to er…magnum size!

Nearly everything has done very well for me this year. Epic crop of french beans and although my sweetcorn went in late it might still be ok. Best ever tomato crop both in greenhouse and outside. Latter especially good fof Scotland.


My peas did alright but I guess we have the benefit of not having much issue with watering even in a year like this one. As in we had no hosepipe restrictions.

In fact my peas usually don’t finish cropping and start dying back until we are into October but this year I have already finished harvesting a bigger crop than usual and the plants are all dying back. Exhausted I guess, but I’ve never seen it happen so early up here.


A short-lived frost a week or so ago has finally done for some late planted Dwarf French beans. These were sown direct into a raised bed in the first week of August and cosseted so that they quickly germinated and grew in the warm, but not hot weather we had after that. The seed packets all say sow by mid July, but I have tried this trick before - climate change is real and is extending the growing season well into October, IMHO.

This is the third picking and there’s enough for 4 good portions - deliciously tender and string free. Next year, try growing Dwarf French beans - easy, trouble free and productive - better than those flown in from afar.

Ripening chillies and the last of the cherry tomatoes are still being picked - lovely colours and shapes…

These Howgate Wonders are hanging on - trying to pick as late as possible. The protective netting has been essential to prevent bird damage; it’s been a good apple year!