Top 5 – The bottom 5

There are some things that I really struggle to grow.  Things that are generally regarded as easy, things that are kitchen garden staples and yet I often fail dismally to produce reasonable specimens.  Then there are the things that simply aren’t worth growing, the things that take too long, are too hard, or are too susceptible to pests to really bother with.  This is my Top 5 this week.  The things that I have given up on growing (until you convince me otherwise), the things that I’m just not sure I can be bothered struggling with anymore.

1. Carrots – Does anyone grow good carrots in Melbourne?  If so when and which varieties?  My family eats a lot of carrots – about 2kg a week – so even if I managed to find a decent variety I would have to devote the whole garden to them to keep up supply anyway and frankly I’m not quite willing to do that, not when there are easier and more exciting things to grow.

Personally I have two basic problems with growing carrots:

1. Getting them past small seedling stage – either they get eaten, dug up by blackbirds, smothered by other faster growing plants or I simply forget I’ve sown them and walk all over the part of the bed I put them in.

2. I can’t seem to grow ones that taste better than shop bought.  I’m not sure whether this second issue is a product of not enough sun throughout the day, a relatively mild climate or simply varietal selection but I just can’t seem to grow really yummy carrrots.

2. Peas – I have had two disasterous years in a row with peas.  Don’t get me wrong, I like peas and would love to grow them well but for the last two years my seeds have germinated and then growth has stalled.   I think that this is in part because they keep getting eaten by slugs & snails but I think there’s more to it than that.  I have been sowing out of date seed – perhaps some new seed would resolve this particular issue.  Even once I do get them going though I’m never going to be able to grow as many as we eat although I do value having a few fresh to supplement the bags of frozen ones.

I will keep growing sweet peas – I seem to be able manage them:

3. Leeks –  is there any vegetable that grows slower than a leek.  If so I really do not want to meet it.  For my current crop I sowed leek seed in January and they are still less than a cm in diameter – in fact many would struggle to be half that.  Once again this may be a lack of sun issue but even in partial shade surely they should be a bit bigger than this.  Even these that I grew last year took over 6 months to reach a semi decent size – still not that big as you can see when you compare them to that worm.

4. Melons –  I have tried growing melons a few times but without success.  My general feeling is that I need more room, more sun, and more warmth to grow then really well and successfully.  Once again maybe I’m wrong and I chose the wrong varieties.  I have tried both watermelon and canteloupe but in both instances I used seed from a Queensland supplier, maybe I should have chosen something closer to home?  Is it really worth persisting with Melon?

5. Coriander in any season other than winter – I have written on my battles with coriander previously, in fact I’ve devoted whole posts to my battles with this lovely but petulant herb.  In a nutshell though unless its winter it seems to be pretty pointless bothering with in Melbourne, it bolts just too quickly and isn’t even good for seed as the plants are too small when they bolt to produce anything useful in that respect.  For me now is the time to be growing it and for once its coming along nicely.

Now I like to think of myself as an optimistic person (with pesimistic undertones on the odd occasion) and yet I’ve written a post full of negatives.  So now what I need is for you all to convince me that I’m wrong to abandon these Fruit, Veggies, and herbs and to share your successes with them with me.  Of course if you can’t convince me then that just leaves room for more tomatoes and there’s nothing negative in that!

And once you’ve finished here then head over to The New Good Life and check out what she has come up with this week.  Or indeed enjoy Garden Glut’s Top 5 Garden Friends , a post that I just realised that I completely forgot to link to when whe wrote it a couple of weeks back.  A thousand apologies!

This entry was posted in Top 5. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Top 5 – The bottom 5

  1. Frogdancer says:

    Pumpkins. People who say they’re easy to grow “like weeds” are dirty rotten liars.

    • Liz says:

      Do you know they do grow like weeds at mum & dads place – They give them a lot, and I do mean a lot of space and full sun and they do really well for them.

  2. I have had trouble with watermelons, too, and they are supposed to grow like weeds in this hot part of the world. I will keep trying, though, because my son *loves* them and I sure would like to get even one to help interest him in the garden. (My daughters are easy to interest in the garden, but not my son.)

    • Liz says:

      My son is a watermelon fan too – I use bugs to interest him at the moment but I like the idea of using watermelon to keep him out there.

  3. Daphne says:

    Well I tend to grow melons here in the North were the heat isn’t good enough to make a good melon and sometimes not enough to make a melon at all. But I do it anyway. I ripe from the vine cantaloupe is to die for. So I keep doing it. However I never try to grow coriander out of season. For us the season is spring though sometimes started in the fall. It just can’t grow well any other time. I freeze it. If I need the flavor for something I’ll use the frozen leaves. They look terrible and have turned to mush, but the flavor is still there. I can’t put them in salads, but I can put them in dressings. Mostly I use them for beans and rice or soups though.

    • Liz says:

      I’ve never tried freezing it – for some reason I thought it wouldn’t freeze, silly! I have to say I keep reading about how wonderful fresh melons taste, and after eating some beautiful melons in North Africa I do want to keep trying, but for how long…

  4. Jenny says:

    I have very hard time growing melons too for some reason. Carrots are easy as long as you keep them moist and cover with a board or flat carton to germinate. I used Grany’s seed map method this year and it worked wonderfully. My favorite so far is Purple Dragon for both taste and look. Nantes comes close second for taste and size. Peas are super easy for me and I use my fencing for them to climb. First year I did make a mistake and planted them in fertilized soil and too much nitrogen stoped them from growing (they produce their own nitrogen). But after using dull soil they seem to thrive in it. Corriander was an easy too but then I grow it for seeds more than leafs so bolting is not an issue.

    • Liz says:

      Ah that is a good point about the nitrogen as I did fertilise with chicken manure now that I think about it, not so much that I thought it would be an issue but perhaps it has been.

  5. Bek says:

    Oh no! I think carrots, peas and melons are some of the best things to grow! I don’t get big carrots, but I find the flavour is so much better than store bought, but it is variety dependent – my favourite so far is St Valery from Diggers. For peas I find sowing in autumn means they are less likely to be attacked by bugs, but I do have to sow a heap of seed to get enough plants for a decent crop. Melons are tricky, but I have found more success with watermelons than cantaloupe – I’m not sure if your melon comment encompasses both or specifically the latter. Colder climate watermelons have done best for me – Sugar Baby is my top variety for taste and its one of the fastest to crop. Cantaloupes for me need early sowing, lots of feeding and water/mulching to crop and is dependent on a hot summer, but when its good its so good its worth the effort. But I agree with you on the coriander, I have never been able to grow the stuff.

    • Liz says:

      I have tried both canteloupe and watermelon – neither with much success. I will look out for Sugar Baby though – when do you sow? I will try peas again next year and take your advice on perhaps sowing more seed and being more diligent on snail/slug round up and hopefully things will change. I will look out for the carrot variety too – thanks for the tip.

      • Bek says:

        I sowed all my watermelons in September, and I ate my first one (which was a Sugar Baby) in February. It seems like a long time, and in hindsight it didn’t feel that long, but it was worth it!

  6. Dave says:

    We seem to have a similar ‘bottom 5’ list. Peas are a real problem here, and I’ve pretty much given up. And I agree, leeks ARE the slowest veggie! I’ve worked real hard on carrots this year and it has paid off, though it’s impossible for me to grow enough of them. Yaya has been tasty here.

    As for coriander/cilantro, I’ve had a new one called Calypso growing in a greenhouse bed for about 3 months now and it has yet to bolt. Mind you, with the long days of summer and daily 100F+ temps in there, this has to be some kind of record. We have really been loving it. I grew Santo before, but Calypso seem to be a big improvement. I don’t know if it’s available to you there but it might be worth trying, though it might not be good for seeds if it doesn’t bolt!

    • Liz says:

      Now Calypso is something I will definitely look for, I can grow any of the other varieties for seed – I want leaf and lots of it. Sounds like a great tip!

  7. I find coriander bolts too.
    Usually we have lovely carrots although last year was a failure – they certainly knock spots off shop grown ones.
    Peas seem to be a bit hit and miss – some years great other years poor.
    Leeks are slow but provide a great harvest over winter.
    As for melons we once got one fruit from a plant in our greenhouse but it was very small but delicious.

    • Liz says:

      Oh yay for a melon in Britain – I bow to your gardening prowess!!!! I think maybe the key to leeks is forgetting that they’re there and perhaps then I can get excited by suddenly discovering that they are ready.

  8. Little Beek says:

    I LOVE “little finger” carrots. This year I placed them in a grow box and put a floating row cover over them with something to hold the sides down. They grew amazingly well and the taste was fantastic. Whatever I’ve grown in the past had a bitter taste to it. We have clay soil. The grow box was a mix of perlite, coconut husk, compost, etc. It seems to be doing really well. I think I’ll grow 90% of it as carrots next year with 2 cabbage and 3 lettuce and I’ll be in heaven.

    • Liz says:

      That’s really interesting – we have clay soil too so I’m wondering if it affects the flavour. Perhaps a grow box is in order….now for somewhere to put it…

  9. Julie says:

    I seem to have problems with melons too. Its definitely warm enough here, but the critters keep destroying my crop. I was excited to see a Banana Melon was starting to ripen and then noticed that the bottom of the melon was rotting.. boo! I also have problems with cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Carrots are ok. I think they do better in the fall/winter than spring, but they are slow and I get impatient. I had my best pea year this spring when I planted the seeds really, really early. I can only grow coriander in the winter too. And right now I’m making salsa and have no cilantro to go in it. I might try freezing it next year.

  10. Sarah says:

    I only grow a few carrots, but like the variety ‘Chantenay red cored’ for flavour. My coriander has bolted even in the rubbish summer weather we’ve had here this year, so I’ve gone for a ‘little and often’ approach to sowing, and harvest the leaves while the plant is still too small to even be thinking about flowering. On the whole though, I like your approach of thinking positive and using the space for whatever grows best – less stressful and more productive!

    • Liz says:

      I think your right about using the space for plants that are happiest – I’d probably save myself considerable amount of heartbreak… I might hunt out Chantenay red cored and have one last try at carrots though…

  11. Mark Willis says:

    Several of those are on my Bottom 5 list too (coriander and carrots particularly). But what about Celeriac? I tried growing it 3 years in a row and got marginally better results each year, but even in Year 3 it really wasn’t worth the (considerable) amount of effort I devoted to it. I also suggest Hamburg Parsley, which claims to have roots as good as Parsnips and foliage as good as regular Parsley, but in fact does neither.

  12. Louise says:

    Great post. There are always those things that we haven’t mastered yet, I have some of the same problems. I can’t get a decent sized carrot. I can get them up and get them to small garden munching stage, but never get a decent sized one. I have tried coriander before but many years ago, and I must say I have the same problems as you do. I had much more success in England where I grew them in a glasshouse. I haven’t ever tried melons ( or pumpkins for that matter) , but that is a space issue really. If I had more space they’d be things I’d try.

    Peas – I haven’t ever tried the shelling varieties, but I ALWAYS grow snow peas and love them to death. I am also now tempted by sugar snaps after seeing Daphne’s hauls! ( Love your purple sweet peas!).

    Leeks – I have to encourage you here. I have grown leeks pretty successfully in both Melbourne and Sydney. I must say that I started with seedlings rather than raising my own. I plant them into a trench and fill them in as they go along, handily the soil will also wash off the humps beside the trench and fill the trench gently too. ( But your baby leeks look lovely and will be really lovely steamed.)

    I have so enjoyed others comments – thanks everyone – very helpful. (And no need for apologies!)

    • Liz says:

      The slugs ate my snow peas as well as the shelling sort but I will sow again next year and perhaps the small boy will be old enough to deploy on slug patrol – I would ow except for the lingering doubt that he might eat them…. OK I will keep going with the leeks – I clearly respond well to peer pressure…

      I have grown pumpkins before and they were pretty successful – remarkably I’m thinking now after reading all the comments.

  13. Bottom 5: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, slicing tomatoes, scallions. Would love to grow these but our season is either too short or too cold to make these worth our while, at least at the moment. Am happy to patronize the farmers that grow these way better than we can.

  14. Jodie says:

    Hi Liz-
    Maybe you won’t feel so bad when you see the photo of my carrot/s in my next post – “whats been growing in July”- its a work in progress.
    Ditto for me and coriander and leeks….. (note- I am just ignoring that fact that there are even leeks in the garden as they are doing nothing and have actually been there since this time last year).

    • Liz says:

      I too have leeks that I planted last spring and are still approximately the size of a spring onion. Why they are bothering surviving is anyone’s guess… Looking forward to your carrot photo.

  15. Andrea says:

    It can be so annoying buying seed,preparing soil etc etc to have crops fail …………
    I think it happens to us all and we probably need to stick with what grows best in our area. Spending a bit of extra time preparing the soil and rotating crops works for me and of course lots of water at the right times and plenty of sunshine and airflow around the garden beds. Carrots, fine and moist soil.
    Peas …erk not so good with those.
    Leeks, average soil, full sun and lots of time.
    Melons, Hot summers and lots of water. Only ever successful one year !

  16. Nina says:

    My top bottom 5 are: Brussel sprouts (I’m sad about that), pumpkin (people do lie, FD!), cauliflower (I’ve only tried once, though), cabbage (who can’t grow cabbage??) and limes, I suppose! I’m sure the list will grow as I try my hand at more produce!

    Now to convince you to keep trying with at least one of your bottom 5. Carrots! I’ve been really pleased with my carrots (just not enough of them) and I grew them in a raised bed which made a difference, I think. A friend (who doesn’t grow veg) said that she couldn’t understand why I would bother with things like carrots and celery when they are ‘cheap as chips’ in the supermarket. She just has no idea, does she?? It’s not just about the cost. It’s about the taste, knowing they are fresh and organic and the thrill of growing ANYTHING that ends up on the table.

    Back to convincing you. I grew ‘Havana’ and one simply called ‘Purple’, both by Goodmans seeds and I found them very tasty and fuss-free. You are right, though. Growing enough for all your needs would be almost impossible but still worth a bash.

    Oh, and parsnips I reckon take more time than leeks to mature. But well worth the wait.

    • Liz says:

      Nothing but nothing takes longer than my leeks…..but then I haven’t tried parnsips recently…. I reckon have another try at both cauliflower and cabbage as I’ve grown both successfully without a great deal of planning, thought or indeed special treatment. Cabbage is another one that takes longer than you might think though.

  17. L says:

    I struggle with brussells sprouts, citrus, leeks, capsicum and pumpkins. Coriander is also an issue for me, but I’ve found a place right up against the Southern side of the house where it seems to grow in Summer.

    I’m hoping melons will be OK because I’ve had a special request for watermelons this year – I’m planting ‘Sugar Baby’.

    I’ve never had any trouble at all with carrots. I grow the baby carrot varieties and Nantes. I sprinkle the seed randomly in a block and they germinate all over each other, then I thin only by picking them. When a few are crowded I’ll wait until the biggest is a usable size then pull it. Then the others have more room. I guess the main thing I can see is that I have fairly deeply cultivated raised beds with no stones or debris.

    • Liz says:

      I like you carrot technique, perhaps I should try again… Capsicum I find takes longer than you think it should be otherwise mine do OK. Brussel sprouts I plan to try next winter and I’ll get back to you on that. Pumpkins interests me – not sure why everyone is having problems.

  18. I’m with you on the leeks, they take forever! I gave up and picked all mine at “baby” size because they just weren’t going to get any bigger. I have however just planted out some more seedlings to try again, but have taken them out of the main bed system and am trying them in polystyrene boxes under some plastic. They seem to be growing quicker than previously, and if they don’t do anything at least they aren’t taking up precious real estate!

    As for carrots, I think you need to change your thinking from home-grown carrots being a staple to being a luxury item! I’ve had quite a good harvest, but can only pick a handful each week that get used fresh in salads etc where their flavour will be really appreciated, and then I buy a few carrots that I use in soups and cooked dishes. Keeping your family in 2kg of carrots each week sounds like a big ask!

    My big never-again items are scarlett runner beans (or maybe just for the flowers, the beans are rubbish) and soy beans. Actually, soy beans do take even longer than leeks!!

    • Liz says:

      Oh no I really wanted to try soy beans. I planted scarlet runner beans last year but very late and assumed the lateness was the reason for a lack of pods – perhaps there were other reasons? I like the idea of leeks in polystyrene – I’ll just need to wait until my latest carrot attempt is harvestable… You’re right about carrots being a luxury item, maybe I’ll just pinch a couple from mum & dad each week and eat them – theirs at least taste good.

  19. Hi Liz,

    Yep I too have had little luck with leeks and carrots. So disappointing when you seem to have lots of green tops only to find when you harvest there is scant anything underneath…

    • Liz says:

      I have some in at the moment that were looking promising until I dug around them a bit and I think they need a lot more time…

  20. Rebecca says:

    Carrots are totally hard to grow. I also have a hard time getting my pumpkins to produce pumpkins. I have no problem growing lush green pumpkin leaves.

  21. we can not easily grow carrot because it can affected by insect from inner and outer. Also it is hard to grow a plants. you need healthy manure to protect your plants. Take advise from garden experts.

  22. Angela says:

    Oh cilantro/coriander is my NEMESIS!! I love it so much but have never been able to grow it. I guess it’s lucky for me that I can buy it very cheaply at a Latin market nearby. I also didn’t have luck growing carrots in containers. I like when gardeners share some of their difficulties growing things. Makes me feel better about my struggles!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *