56. A tale of two vegetable patches

by | May 14, 2012 | Bulgarian life, Food & recipes, Gardening bore | 0 comments

On a break from gardening…


Our neighbour’s garden is entirely devoted either to raising animals or growing food. Every inch is maximised and, in a garden the same size as ours, he has sheep, a donkey, chickens, turkeys, and enough vegetables to feed two households. He is growing tomatoes, garlic, strawberries, onions, beans, peas, potatoes, chillies, gooseberries, blackberries, sweetcorn and a selection of small fruit trees.  There is not a single weed. Weeds just wouldn’t dare grow because he would shout at them in Bulgarian until they cried softly and died.

There’s no table and chairs under a sun umbrella. There are no cheeky gnomes or meerkats. There is simply no space for lazing around in Svilen’s garden. There’s no time for lazing around because, well, his garden is a full-time job.

I have a full-time job already.

So, it’s no surprise that we are cultivating an impressive patch of weeds. And mint. I hate mint. It’s my least favourite herb, and it’s bloody rampant in the garden. This is our first year growing veg and the results are mixed. The biggest success is our potatoes. The potato plants are doing exceedingly well. But the neighbour planted those, so they don’t count.

Of the stuff we planted, our radishes and courgettes are flourishing. And we’ve got tiny little carrot tops and sprout plants coming up, so that’s exciting. There’s very little activity from the parsnips and leeks. I really hope the parsnips get a move on as it’s very difficult to buy them here and I can’t face another winter rationing parsnips.  But the real disappointment has been the lettuce. We planted one row of rocket and one row of mixed salad but…nothing. Nada. Only some weeds and more poxy mint.

The tomato plants are coming up now too. They’re much smaller than next door’s tomato plants. To be fair though, Svilen was growing his indoors in advance while we just chucked seeds in the ground and said a quick prayer. He obviously feels sorry for us and our inferior tomato plants. He came around today with some of his and planted them in our patch! He does stuff like that. He also thinned out our sprouts while he was at it. Then he bought us round some pork and rice for lunch.

Luckily we’re not looking to be self-sufficient or anything (browsing the local market on a Sunday is the highlight of our social calendar, after all) but we thought it’d be nice to dabble a bit. Rob was weeding the patch today and I heard definite grumbles about not really needing to grow our own veg when the food here is so cheap. I tried explaining that we were doing it for fun but he didn’t seem to be having fun. Probably because he was the one doing all the dirty graft while I pranced around in my slippers going “oooh look, a courgette, yipee!”

At least the garden has some established fruit and nut trees already. No matter what happens we know we can look forward to pears, quince, apples, plums, grapes and walnuts this year!

Will the parsnips ever grow? Should we try again with the lettuce? Will we even get to keep the potatoes that, erm, we didn’t plant? Stay tuned this summer for a gripping tale of two vegetable patches.


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