Six things I've learnt since trying to grow my own vegetables

One thing I have fallen completely and utterly over in heels in love with is growing my own vegetables and fruit. It's something I've been meaning to do for a couple of years as I've become more passionate about food. But there was always an excuse on why I never took the plunge. Having to fill my time after being furloughed finally gave me the kick up the bum to do it. Now I don't think I will ever not grow food in my garden. I'm already planning what I'm going to grow next year! I have been completely making it up along as I go but here are six valuable things I have learn along the way.

1. Keep an eye on cats
Connor kindly built me a gorgeous raised vegetable bed using railway sleepers. But I noticed as soon as we put the soil on top we had a sudden influx of cats deciding to take an interest in our garden. We had never had a problem with cats going to the toilet in our garden before! All of a sudden I had a lot of number twos on my veg patch. It was so frustrating and completely destroyed my vision of living the good life! We ended up buying one of those cat alarms which send off a high-pitched noise to help scare them away. I also put down some lemons and oranges cut in half as cats don't tend to like citrus. Keep in mind cats are creatures of habit so it will take about seven days before anything starts to work.

2. Be patient
I am not a very patient person by nature but you have to be when you're growing veg. You won't get edible food overnight! I specifically grew vegetables I knew didn't take too long like radishes and lettuce. This kept me interested as I could see the end result quicker. It kept me keen to try other vegetables.

3. Google is your best friend
Growing vegetables is a minefield! Soil, sunlight, pollination are just a few things you need to think about. Treat Google like your best friend. I can guarantee there will be an answer to every single one of your questions. It really isn't as simple as planting a seed and hoping for the best. But that's part of the fun!

4. Don't be afraid to experiment
I really didn't have a clue on where to start so I bought a few seeds  of my favourite vegetables from the garden centre. I planted them in pots to begin with and waited to see if they decided to grow. I had some which took off and others which didn't even get started. Some didn't work because I didn't water them enough, some got completely destroyed by birds and some didn't have the correct soil. You won't have successes 100% of the time. But that just means the successes you do have will be even sweeter!

5. Grow in pots before planting
I found it was easier to start off vegetables in little pots on my windowsill. It stops the seedlings from being eaten by critters and it allows you to keep a close look on how they are faring. I usually transplant them around three times in different sized pots before taking the plunge and planted them outside. Make sure you acclimatise them before you fully plant them outside. I tend to leave them outside for a few hours in the sunshine for a couple of days before leaving them overnight.

6. Make sure you have lots of flowers in your garden
You will need to rely on bees to help pollinate your vegetable so it grows successfully. Bees won't come to your garden unless you have lots of lovely flowers. Something I found out the hard way! I invested in a gorgeous lavender bush and a few wild flower bombs to help entice them.


Three food deliveries to try from London restaurants

Working in London means you're completely spoilt for choice when it comes to top class restaurants. It wasn't until we went into lockdown that I realised just how much I enjoyed the capital's food scene. So I was very excited to discover that some of my favourite restaurants had started to deliver their iconic dishes.  Sadly not all of them deliver outside the M25, I curse living in Essex sometimes! Here are three we've tried over the past couple of months.

Pizza Pilgrims
Pizza is life. I love pizza and would eat it as my last meal if I ever had to choose. I am a massive fan of Pizza Pilgrims. In fact I think it's my favourite pizza chain in London. We ordered their DIY kit, priced at £20 including delivery, which consisted of two ball of dough, mozzarella, olive oil, basil, tomato sauce, parmesan and 00 flour. Online you'll find a PDF of instructions. If you want a pizza different to a margarita then you'll have to buy the toppings separately.  I absolutely loved it and it was so lovely to enjoy restaurant-quality pizza in our home. It couldn't be simpler to recreate at home as all you need is a hot frying pan. You really can't beat the simplicity of a margarita pizza. The basil came a bit floppy but that was to be expected as it arrived through the post. I wasn't too bothered.

Patty & Bun
This is so delicious that we're already on our second batch! Patty & Bun is our favourite burger restaurant in London. In we have spent many a night dashing into the Liverpool Street branch after a few drinks before catching the train back to Essex. I honestly cannot rave about their DIY kit enough. It's superb! It seems pretty pricey at first but it is 100% worth it. For £32, including delivery, you get two beef patties, smokey mayo, four brioche buns, four slices of red Leicester cheese, a tub of pickled onions and a tub of caramelised onions. You have enough ingredients to make two Smokey Robinsons and two Ari Golds (my favourite!). The quality of the beef you get is fantastic and they're pretty generous with all of the portions. No scrimping here!

A bacon naan doesn't really sound like much on paper but in reality it's one of the best things you can eat for breakfast. There is just something about the cream cheese paired with the delicious chilli tomato jam. Dishoom does the best selection of breakfast in London and it's always my first choice when someone asks me for a suggestion of brunch. For £23, including postage, you get three balls of dough (one for an experiment), a tub of child tomato jam, cream cheese, coriander and all the ingredients to make a cup of chai. It might sound a bit overpriced but it was such a lovely treat on a Sunday and I would definitely recommend it. We loved it!

The joy of discovering new hobbies in your thirties

Leopard print shirt dress: Asos (similar)
Brown and gold sliders (similar)

I have been talking for years about taking the time to learn a new skill but I have never gotten round to it. It's the same old story. I'm just always too busy doing other things and never have the time. As we get older we sometimes stop learning and using our brain as much. We become comfortable and stuck in the same routine. It almost becomes like ground hog day.

Since we went into Lockdown I have realised just how important having a hobby is. It's incredible how much it can enrich your life and bring you joy. I realised I just never made the time. My priorities were different. Well that all changed when I was furloughed and suddenly had all the time in the world.

The running joke is that I am trying my hardest to love the good life. I have started growing my own vegetables, constantly baking cakes, taken up cycling and am utterly obsessed with making fresh sourdough at least twice a week. Thank God flour is becoming a bit easier to find. These are things I have been meaning to attempt for a while but always made out I didn't have the time. I can't tell you how much joy they are all bringing me.

Cycling is giving me a much needed dose of fresh air and I'm discovering places nearby which I had no idea existed. I love those afternoon cycles along our local river. Baking is giving me the chance to flex my creativity which I usually get at work. I'm loving testing myself in the kitchen and attempting things for the first time. They don't always come out exactly how I envisioned but it just means I give it another go. I joined The Puff Bakery pastry school which has been fantastic. Pastry was always something I couldn't quite grasp but now I'm making delicious bakes! I feel so proud of myself! Growing vegetables is giving me such a sense of accomplishment. Who knew growing a pea could bring you so much joy? I have realised that I really do enjoy being out in the fresh air and maybe I'm not as much of a city girl as I say I am. The slower pace of life and the chance to enjoy new things is bringing me so much joy right now. The fresh air really does sooth my soul and I have such a longing to be outside. I find myself craving it.

Have you discovered any new hobbies during lockdown?


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