I like to think I am the Queen of the Courgettes. Every year, without fail, I have managed to produce bumper crops of the produce. Our fridge overflows with the vegetable, I spend hours inventing dishes so they can be eaten at every meal, and I give them away to all and every summer visitor. That is I used to think I was Queen of the Courgettes… until this year! This year, my little courgette seedlings were either destroyed by snails or sun or both.. leaving one lone plant in the vegetable patch. That one lonely courgette plant had a slow slow start, and is only now just producing it’s first offspring. Luckily, this year I have become Queen of the Marrows instead… they’re just like courgettes only much much bigger! Win! And my invented yummy ‘marrowagna’ (lasagna made from marrow instead of pasta 😉 ) has become a firm favourite in our dinner repertoire.
I love growing vegetables. Growing up I showed no interest in the activity, except for occasionally enjoying picking the beans off my Mum’s crop. However when Phil and I bought our first home, it had an enormous long garden. Phil was working abroad during the first spring in our house, so to amuse myself one weekend I decided to splash the cash in our local garden centre. I returned home with pots and seeds and trays… but not much clue. Luckily google taught me everything I needed to know! Phil and I spent a fun weekend digging up some trees in the garden to make a vegetable patch… and by the summer we had plenty of vegetables to make us proud. I was hooked!
Ever since then, the start of Spring has signalled the start of the growing season for me. I love getting out my gardening books and planning what to grow and where. I get excited when I find the first little seedlings sticking their heads through the soil. I’m delighted as they get bigger and stronger and taller. Potting, pruning, picking. Watering, waiting, watching. I mother them, I protect them.. and I even shed the odd tear when the mean snails munch on them! I love gardening. I love the cycle of watching something grow from a tiny seed into a plant into a vegetable into a dinner.
Over the last 9 years, I have attempted to grow a long list of vegetables. There have been some successes: Squash the length of my arm. Drinking homegrown mint tea. A competition winning pumpkin. Buckets of tomatoes. Bowls of juicy strawberries. A 2m high sunflower. Daily cucumbers. Eating dinner made entirely from my garden! And there has been some downright failures: Hanging baskets that forgot to be watered. Cucumber plants put out early and killed by the frost. Raspberries eaten by the birds before we had a chance to eat any. Mini carrots so overcrowded they were smaller than my finger. Lettuce and chard bolted in a heatwave. But for every sad mishap, there is enough success to stoke the fire in me and determination to make next year even more successful!
And then I got ill, and suddenly growing vegetables no longer seemed manageable. It seemed to be too physical, too tiring, too breath-taking an activity for someone with a lung condition. Luckily we’ve spent the last few years, working out strategies to allow me to continue with the hobby, albeit with a lot of support from Phil. So here are my top hints for gardening with dodgy lungs:
- Get vegetable beds that you can access all around -Phil made me wooden beds that I can sit next to and easily weed all of, without needing to reach across or stretch, which makes me breathlessness.
- Do everything over a long period of time -Prior to being ill, re-potting my tomato plants would have taken only one afternoon. Now it takes me a full week as I only allow myself to do a little amount of gardening each day (30 mins), to stop it making me ill or exhausted.
- Get someone else to do the digging -Digging was hard work when I was well! Now with my lung conditions, it is impossible! It steals my breath and makes me feel breathless and ill for the rest of the day. Luckily Phil likes digging!
- Get a hose -Since being ill, I’m a lot weaker. I can no longer physically lift the weight of a watering can, and if I do try, it steals my breath, and makes me feel breathless for a long while after. Nowadays I use a hose with a variable nozzle (so I can control how much water to give each plant). Much easier!
- Have chairs everywhere in the garden -I have a lot of chairs dotted all around my garden, so I can rest (and sunbathe!) wherever I need to. I also have a chair in my greenhouse so I can sit down when I’m working in there, or when I’m feeling cold in the garden!
- Get someone else to carry all of your heavy equipment for you -Phil gets out all of the soil and pots for me, so I can expend all of my energy on the gardening and none on the preparation.
- Get a trolley for your oxygen -I used to garden with my oxygen in a backpack. However it’s hard work carrying the heavy oxygen canister, whilst trying to sort out the plants. Now I have a trolley for the garden, so don’t have the extra weight to carry.
- Be strategic about where you put your produce -Our herb patch is by the kitchen door, so I can easily go out and retrieve herbs even on my most tiring days.
- Don’t be a perfectionist! -If I’m too tired to water the plants, then I won’t. If I’m too ill to prune the tomato suckers, then I won’t. If I’m too weak to weed the vegetable beds, then I won’t.
So despite everything that has happened to my health over the past few years, I love that we’ve found a way to let me garden still. A way to be the Queen of the Marrows! However if my reign is to continue next year, I’m going to need to google some new marrow recipes … I think Phil is getting tired of ‘marrowagna’ for nearly every meal!