Z’s homes – Seaview – the kitchen gardens – part 3

Just some brief memories of what was grown and how, because I don’t suppose it’s done this way any more.

Cucumbers were grown on the bench, with a base of chicken wire. On that, was a generous heap of manure and the seedling was planted onto that. The plant was trained up wires. In those days, a greenhouse cucumber had to have all male flowers removed so that they didn’t fertilise the female ones – if one were missed, the cucumber would grow with a bulbous end and taste bitter. All-female varieties put an end to that necessity and it never was needed for outdoor cucumbers, the ones with little spines on.

Tomatoes were planted straight into the ground in the big aluminium greenhouse, except for the early ones, which went into terracotta pots in the greenhouse.

My father liked to try something different, and he grew loofas one year in his greenhouse, the one that the gardener wasn’t involved in. I’ve grown them a few times and they’re just like a vigorous cucumber. You leave the fruit as long as possible and then harvest it and dry it out. It rots easily so you have to take care of it. The flesh gradually desiccates and the skin can finally be broken off, leaving the fibrous ‘skeleton’, which is full of black seeds. I remember childhood baths, when we had to pick those seeds out of the water before pulling the plug. He also grew aubergines, peppers and chillies, when they weren’t easy to buy in the shops, back in the 1960s. I remember a huge crop of chillies, far more than we could ever use. I suspect most of them were quietly composted.

Melons needed quite a deal of warmth, so they were likely to be grown in a hothouse. I’ve grown melons too, the aroma of a ripe one is fabulous. Walking into the greenhouse, smelling that a melon is ready to pick and then searching for it is a joy. They sometimes need some help for fertilisation and it’s traditional to use a paintbrush, dabbled first in a male flower and then a female one. I’m a bit lazy, so generally just broke off the male flower and performed the introduction to its partner.

Mr Weavers left us in the end, because his son Frank was starting up a smallholding and wanted his dad’s help. He lived, with his wife and younger daughter in the cottage, known as Seaview Lodge, on the other side of the road. Because the soil was sandier there, root vegetables were grown in that garden. There was also a paddock, where our pony lived. First our horse Tom, that is, then the pony Snowball. The Lodge has been hugely enlarged and is unrecognisable – though I never remember seeing a photo of it in its original state – and the paddock was sold for another building plot.

As I said yesterday, a basket of vegetables was delivered to the house every day. There must have been a vast amount – I don’t know if my mother said what she needed or whether the gardener brought what was ready, though I suspect it was a mixture of the two. And I don’t know what happened to the surplus, though of course, he’d have lived off the land too. We never kept chickens, funnily enough.

I’ll write another post after dinner, probably, just as a diary entry, because we’re heading for Wales tomorrow and I’m likely to be offline – I won’t have the computer, at any rate, and only an occasional connection on my phone. But right now, LT is cooking fish.

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