When Middle Mudlet asked me if she could have her own patch of garden this year, little did I know that this was to prove one of the most challenging growing years of my short home growing experience. What a year for my middle child to dip her toe into the vegetable growing world!
First we had a long drawn out cold and wet winter/spring period when everything struggled to get going. Young plants, grown too big for the greenhouses, weren’t happy being planted out into the cold soil and sulked massively, refusing to spread out their roots, preferring to remain huddled where they were, rather than boldly going where no roots had gone before ….. well not since last season that is.
Then the sun arrived ….. and stayed. In fact it stayed for a whole eight weeks, or more. To be frank as hot dry days turned into hot dry weeks and then hot dry months, I lost count but I do know that we had absolutely no rainfall whatsoever for at least eight weeks! Not since the mid 70’s could Mud and I recall such a prolonged period of hot weather and bit by bit the green areas began to turn brown.
It became a nightly chore to water the vegetable beds, the pots, tubs and greenhouses and nothing outside grew! Carrots and beetroots struggled to energise themselves, using what resources there was on offer to put on a small amount of growth each day. The heat was too much for the bean flowers who refused to set and the mange tout, usually a prolific stalwart of the garden, struggled to produce even a small handful of pods across eight plants. The potato bags were copiously watered every day but our harvests of the first planting of Pentlands proved this wasn’t enough to produce an abundance of tubers. Only the green house plants thrived and we are set to record a bumper chilli harvest this year.
When rain finally arrived, it arrived in style, as a deluge of much needed rain slammed down on to ground, baked so hard by the relentlessness of the suns’ heat over such a long period, that the initial impact merely bounced off the ground, flowing away, causing flash flooding on the road outside our house. After a while the rain began to permeate through the soil and you could almost hear the collective sigh from lawns, flower borders and vegetable beds and by morning the first change in colour on lawns and verges was just discernible. Rain has put in an appearance once or twice since but we seem to be missing out on most of the rain showers with local towns being hit by torrential downpour while we consider ourselves lucky to get a couple of errant raindrops.
Yet throughout this Middle Mudlet and I have worked on our garden, tending our crops, watering and weeding and today it paid dividends for Middle Mudlet, as she proudly entered some of her produce in a local village show. First thing this morning she was rooting about in the bag she had planted her second lot of Pentlands in and pulled out nine specimens for consideration. Three small but perfectly formed purple carrots joined the potatoes, then ten tomatoes, two runner beans and finally a trio of long slim Curry Chillies.
The carrots were washed and their tops were trimmed back to a tidy couple of inches. The tomatoes were compared and the best six chosen, along with the straightest of the chillies. The longest of the two runner beans was selected for the ‘Longest Runner Bean’ class and finally the potatoes were washed, with Middle Mudlet taking great care not to damage the delicate skin that newly dug potatoes have. Three of the potatoes were immediately discounted as they were either too small or had blemishes on their skins which left her with a choice of six. As it happened these divided easily into two groups of three, one set slightly larger and more elongated than the other but it was the smaller, rounder trio that the Mudlet decided to exhibit in the ‘Three White Potatoes’ class.
As there are no childrens vegetable classes at this show, Middle Mudlet entered her produce in the adult classes and after setting everything out in their correct class areas first thing this morning, we headed for home and waited for 4pm when judging would be over and exhibitors and members of the public would be allowed back in. Both girls were counting the hours down as Little Mudlet had entered three of the childrens craft classes (post to follow) and at last it was time to return to the show venue for the results.
Even as we walked back into the village hall Middle Mudlet let out a delighted “Look at my potatoes mum!”
The potato classes were just inside the village hall and my eagle eyed daughter had immediately spotted the red 1st place card on her plate of tubers ….. and as we approached the plate she was thrilled to see a ‘Best Novice Exhibit in Vegetables/Flowers’ card also with her potatoes. To say that she was delighted would be an understatement. Her first year growing and she had won with her potatoes. None of her other produce entries placed but she did also get a third on the Childs Painted Rock class behind her sister who got a second.
Her places meant that she would be in line for prize money (£1 for the first and 25p for the third), and as exhibitors aren’t allowed to take their items until after prize giving, we needed to wait until all prizes had been given out. A beaming Middle Mudlet went up to receive her prize, closely followed by her equally happy sister but as prize giving moved on to trophies she was absolutely stunned to be called up not once but twice to receive trophies. One was for the potatoes and the other was for the best novice exhibit award.
Smiling she turned to me and said “I guess it makes wasps, centipedes and woodlice a little easier to bear.”