Lessons for a newbie veg grower to learn

Raised bed - 9 May 2011. Ooops looks like I should have mowed the grass before I took this pic.

In March I wrote about my new raised bed and sent out an SOS because it stood out like an alien in the garden.  I thought I would provide an update on its progress.

The wood that was so bright, so yellow and so new has, fortunately,  matured a little, and it’s blending in with its surroundings.   No longer do the neighbours, when looking out of their upstairs windows, ask  “What is it you have in your garden?”.

Raised bed cover

I bought a little plastic raised bed cover, so effectively, my vegetable seedlings have been growing in a semi-greenhouse.  Lately, because of the great April weather, I have unzipped the cover during the day and tucked them back into their plastic environment at night.   It has served me well, because I now have very lush looking vegetable plants.

I don’t and never have proclaimed to be knowledgeable about growing vegetables.    I have only been growing vegetables for one year.  Last year, they were in pots up against the house wall facing South, an area that is best described as a microclimate.  I bought one or two established,  baby plants and had several others donated. I grew  two tomoto plants, three mange tout, one dwarf runner bean, one courgette plant and a chilli.

My Apotment May 2010
My apotment - July 2010

After preparing the bed, I sectioned it into 9 squares with string.  Great idea, I thought, misguidedly, I can sow different crops in each square with runner beans in the middle.  I put Pak Choi, spinach,  borage and broccoli around the edge, with a few empty squares for later planting.

Valuable tip 1 : –  Whatever you read on the back of seed packets, follow it.  They really do mean what they say.

I fell into the trap of sowing more seeds than needed and recommended.   I suppose I was thinking not all would germinate and anyway it would be fun to have a veg bed packed full of good food for the Summer.

Valuable tip 2: A one metre square raised bed is NOT an allotment.

Hindsight is a great thing.   I should have divided it into 6 and more sensibly 4 squares, not 9.  How rediculous can you get!

I don’t know about you, but I have an aversion to thinning out seedlings.  They are living, growing, little vegetables and I hate throwing them on to the compost heap, it makes me feel uncomfortable and cruel.

The pak choi have been thinned out, and the larger ones given away; they now take up two of the squares.  The broccoli has also been thinned out,  I think probably only 2 should remain in situ, so more will have to go.   I cut fresh baby leaf spinach and bag it for the girls at work, although it does seem to be growing faster than I can chop it.

Mixed Vegetables

As for the carrots, I have read so much about Carrot Fly I am getting paranoid and scared stiff of pulling some out, in case a squadron of them arrive, and dive bomb my precious crop.

Not much room between my carrots

No guesses as to what is on my “jobs to do” list for the weekend.   A spot of serious thinning out, but now they are more than seedlings, I hope that I can pot the individual plants up and sell them at the next Fete at my Mum’s care home.

Therefore the valuable lessons I have learnt are:-

(a)  Read the packet and take serious note of what it says.  Seeds don’t all have to be sown at the same time, they will keep until next year.

(b) Don’t be too ambitious, two or three vegetables will be quite enough to start with.

(c) It’s ok, even with a raised bed to use pots too, they were very successful for me last year and one plant per pot prevents over crowding.


  1. I have the same difficulties thinning out seedlings. Sometimes I plant more than I should thinking that they’re not all going to come up, but they do. Then they’re so close together that many die anyway. From now on, I’m going to thin as needed.


    • thank you for dropping by to read my blog. Yesterday I read an article about Square Gardening, suggested by Janet/Plantaliscious. It says that if you plant very closely it does act as a form of mulch and prevents weeds – so, not thinning out too much, does have its advantages!


  2. Your vege plants are growing like mad Ronnie, wonderfully healthy! I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to thin them out, I struggle with it too, but like you have concluded there tends to be value in following the instructions. Have you looked at square foot gardening at all? If you divided the bed into 9 equal squares that would be close to 9 square foot areas, and then there is loads on how many of what you could plant in each square. You’ve also perfectly demonstrated the value of growing under cover – which is why I would dearly love a polytunnel… Enjoyed the update!


  3. Don’t be afraid of the dreaded carrot-fly! The best time to thin is in the morning but make sure you clear away all the thinnings as it’s the smell that attracts them. I grew carrots between onions last year and had no pests. I imagine garlic spray would work just as well (a crushed clove or two in a spray bottle of water). Otherwise it all looks lovely – but beware because broccoli grows very big! Love the look of the raised beds on the (unmown) grass… very au naturel!


    • Thank you, I will certainly try the garlic spray. Yes, my daughter warned me broccoli grows large, looks like it will be have to thinned drastically!


  4. Ronnie I have had the exact experiences..this is my second big year with raised beds…last year we started with one and some pots..this year we added a few more and I have learned so much and am still learning…I equate it to raising children. There is no forgiveness and you really have to care for them daily. Your recommendations are perfect…I have been a bit behind with our weather but the seeds were under a white row cover for about a month in the very cold and we will harvest this weekend I hope…love your mini greenhouse…seems a bit better than my row cover..


  5. My goodness…you have lots growing in your vegetable plot. All of it looks so healthy. I think you are doing very well. I also hate to thin out plants….I feel it is somewhat of a waste, but I usually have to thin out carrots and radishes or they won’t have room to grow.


    • Hi there. Thanks for leaving a comment, its always nice to read what people have to say. I do have some radishes in amongst my heavily populated crops so they will be pleased to see some daylight soon! R


  6. WOW! look at all that yumminess going on there! I am so excited you did a follow up, can’t wait to see your carrots, those are my faves. Great tips by the way, there is just as much going on in this post as there is in your garden…love it!!


    • Hi there, thank you so much for following my blog, it makes it all worthwhile. I will be sure to take photos of all the veg I pull, no matter how small :-))


  7. Thank you Jono – I was suffering from allotment envy 🙂 Your advice is valuable, as is your blog, which I always read, but am remiss in leaving comments. R


  8. Tip B is definitely a good one Ronnie.

    I grew cauliflowers and aubergines in my first year, which all died pretty quickly, leaving me deflated. Fortunately I was saved by easy stuff like the onions, curly kale, garlic, lettuce and perpetual spinach. These all grew well without having to spend every waking hour watering and tending them.

    I think its important to ease yourself in with a few reasonably undemanding veg.


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