Mange tout Rodney, mange tout...

Mange tout in Trish's vegetable patch
Mange tout in Trish's vegetable patch
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Last year I thought I was a green-fingered genius. Growing vegetables was a doddle. Plant seeds, watch them grow, pick them, eat them. Any fool could do this.

Unfortunately any fool should have realised that last year it was Mother Nature who was the real grower, not me. Last year it rained after I planted the seeds. It rained a lot. So things sprouted, as if by magic.

This year, I planted the seeds – or should I say, chucked them in the soil with barely a cursory glance towards the watering can. Funnily enough, nothing much happened.

Where were those delicate strands of spring onion? Why were my Little Gems so shy of making an appearance? I was looking expectantly at many rogue weeds for a number of weeks until it dawned on me that my sown seeds weren’t thriving.

It was too late for some which became victims of my ‘casting on stony ground’ approach. But there were others I managed to rescue, thanks to the odd timely downpour.

Of course, with this hot spell, the soil is dry again and I have to faff about with the hose. That’s my downfall. I’m a lazy gardener. It’s too much effort to go into the garage, attach the hose to the tap, pull it out and wind it back up again afterwards. So I put off the watering, thinking there might be the odd shower to relieve me of my duties.

Despite having an attitude to gardening reminiscent of Jack and the Beanstalk’s mother – m‘Beans? Chuck ‘em out the window!” – some plants are quite tolerant of my neglect.

Oriental mixed salad leaves have proved to be surprisingly energetic. I’ve already picked some of the young leaves, together with the nearby spinach, and they look attractive as well as expensive.

You see, that’s another thing. I’ve decided this year there’s no point slaving away over cheap veg. Grow something that would cost you and arm and a leg in Waitrose, that’s my philosophy. I’m enjoying harvesting my collection of tatsoi, mibuna and mustard pizzo (aka fancy lettuce) and thinking a handful of them packaged in a plastic bag would cost a small fortune.

The courgettes look to be as rampant as last season, housed imaginatively in two halves of an old water butt. I’m also hopeful for a good harvest of weird yellow squash, despite having no idea if I’ll like the taste or not.

By far the most impressive vegetable, however, is Dougie’s choice of mangetout. I have to put up with him quoting Del Boy every time he goes out in the garden, but it’s worth it to see the plants rapidly winding their way up the stakes.

I do think these might end up being the crème de menthe of the crop. Mais oui, mais oui.

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In the lap of luxury at Lympstone Manor