The Little Veg Bed

Finally, got around to writing this blog post about my gardening exploits this past weekend.  The weather was delightful, dry and sunny and it was the perfect opportunity to set to and put my plans for a vegetable/fruit bed into action.  I reported in previous posts how I had decided to convert the ‘Big Border’ in the middle of the garden to grow produce and I have moved a few plants but it really needed a concerted effort and focus to progress it properly.

I did managed to buy three bags of farmyard manure before the lockdown and I have been saving them for the vegetable border.  I spent Saturday working through the first section of the border, just over a third of the border.  Many snowdrops were lifted, luckily its the ideal time to move them in the green; perennials were moved mainly to the border on the other side of the grass path; some camassias were relocated to the slope and I have to admit that a significant number of camassias have gone to the great compost heap in the sky.  Now some might be shocked by this but the camassias were taking over the border and their large leaves and bulbs make it challenging to grow much else so the time was rip for a cull.

This is the border at the end of Saturday.  I add two of my precious bags of manure, dug it all over and raked it.  I’m going to try to not walk on the border having worked so hard on the soil.

Sunday was planting day which was very exciting.  Raspberry canes went in along the top of the border by the grass path.  I had bought a couple of pots of canes before the lock down but then realised on Sunday that I now had 10 canes and if I placed them the appropriate 1ft apart I wouldn’t be able to fit them in.  So I have thrown caution to the wind and have planted them in a double row with the canes planted at 45 degrees to the ones in the adjacent row, so its a kind of zig-zag, if you see what I mean.  The fruit section was expanded with a rhubarb, some relocated Sweet Cicely, a Gooseberry Invicta and half a dozen Strawberries.

The Veg are represented by four Potato Sharpe’s Express, three Broccoli, Shallots started in pots, some Lettuce Little Gem seedlings.  In addition I have sown Rocket, Beetroot and a salad leaf mix.

Here is the Little Veg Bed at the end of Sunday all planted up and no space to spare.  I’m now planning on extending across the border as I will hopefully have Courgette, more potatoes, and Sweet Peas to plant as well as other salad seeds.

And to just finish off my happiness we have good steady rain on Sunday night so the border has had a good soak.

I can’t believe how much I have enjoyed pulling this border together.  I’m really excited about the prospect of finally making veg growing work so watch this space to see how I do.

 

The 20-30 Something Garden Guide – A Book Review

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Hells bells my shoddy compost making has been immortalised in print in my friend Dee’s new book – The 20-30 Something Garden Guide.

I met Dee last summer at the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling in San Francisco.  We seemed to click with a similar sense of humour so when she put out a plea for photos of compost heaps for her new book I was happy to help – strangely not many people have photos of their compost heaps, I can’t understand why not.

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This is Dee’s first book and an ambition she has had for a while.  The premise is that Dee acts as a garden coach for the reader, coaching them through their first few years of creating a garden, mainly for edibles.  I like the idea of a garden coach and I think it is something which is quite prevalent in the USA but to the best of my knowledge not here in the UK which is a real pity.

The tone of the book is chatty as if you are standing considering your plot with Dee by your side.  The pages are full of asides and stories to illustrate Dee’s points. We learn that Dee’s grandparents survived the Great Depression in the Dust Bowl through growing their own food, the battles US gardeners have had to be allowed to keep chicken in an urban setting and to plant their front gardens with edibles rather than grass.  These are of course all asides but they add colour and flavour to the text.

The book is basically divided into three garden plans. Starting with a balcony/patio garden with everything in pots, going on to a slightly larger space with raised beds and then ending up with a larger garden.  This isn’t a book that has pages devoted to this veg or fruit but various plants are discussed in relation to different projects.  There are sections on pests, diseases, deer, two-legged pests, watering, compost making etc.  She covers all the topics that we encounter time and again in the garden media such as community gardens and heirloom v hybrids but in an easily digestible format.

Despite the book being written primarily for a US audience it is completely transferable to the UK.  As the US has such a wide range of growing conditions, many far more extreme than anything we experience here in the UK, Dee hasn’t been very specific about timings of sowing etc but given more wide-ranging advice.

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Throughout the book you are: encouraged; reassured that all gardeners have failures; given little projects and ideas to keep you inspired – everything a new gardener needs to hear.  Unlike many How to Books this book does not take a superior tone, it does not use strange horticultural terms and lingo, it does not dictate rules about spacing, timing, planting etc, and most importantly it does not extol a council of perfection – hence the inclusion of my shoddy compost heaps!  Instead it encourages you, not only the 20-30 something in the title, to have a go.

This is a book I would have liked to have had by my side when I first started trying to grow veg.  Maybe instead of going for a large allotment straight away I would have followed Dee’s advice and started small and manageable with some pots on the patio.  Despite giving up my allotment (which is in the book) two years ago I am now reconsidering the possibility of growing some veg in pots on the patio.

I would recommend Dee’s book to anyone toying with starting to grow their own or to anyone with a friend or relative who they think might appreciate some words of encouragement and good advice.

 

Update on the slope project

Back in August I wrote about how I was developing the slope at the end of my garden.  Previously this slope had been covered with a vast laurel bush and a pruning exercise got out of hand resulting in the laurel being removed.  I was left with a lovely expanse of garden to develop but on a steep slope.  As funds are tight I couldnt afford to have any serious landscaping done so with the help of my father and sons we built a series of raised beds with timber.

It did remind us of the trenches in the first world war though and my son whose bedroom overlooks this part of the garden kept expecting someone to pop up from behind the wooden shuttering!

Well a month or more has passed and I have filled in the top two beds.  The third section is for a path and we have filled this with hardcore and earth.  It will eventually be finished off with gravel or bark – the jury’s out at the moment.  I’m in favour of bark as its lighter to carry up the garden.  Being on a slope a wheelbarrow is pointless! I have emptied my compost bins into the wider bed and topped off with more compost so the soil is very very rich. 

Finally I have started to plant up the beds.  The one in front of the fence I have used for shrubs.  Not the most prepossessing group of shrubs I know but I already had them dotted around the garden and some of them desperately needed a new home.  I have a Buddelia, a Hydranga, a Berberis, a Cornus and another golden leaves shrub that I cant remember the name of.  I think this combination will mean that most of the year there is something interesting be it the bark of the Cornus in the winter or the flowers of the Hydranga and Buddleia.  I have interplanted these with some Geraniums and Hechera which will cover the ground while the shrubs are bulking up. 

More importantly, I have decided to have a go at growing veg in the second bed which is much wider and has the most compost in it.  I have never had a veggie bed before so I am quite excited at the prospect.  This week I moved my Rhubarb to the far end of the bed and have planted Japanese Onion sets.  I also gave in an bought some seedlings of Purple Sprouting Broccoli.  This is something I have scoffed at in the past as buying the plants as seedlings is an expensive way to do things and defeats the idea of growing your own but I was so desperate to have some veg growing!!  I have also sown some Pak Choi which I had success with in pots earlier in the year and some Corn Salad which is meant to be OK during the winter.

I am now excitedly planning my veg plot for next spring.  There is so much I want to grow and so little space so I have decided to go for things that are expensive in the shops or are best eaten as soon as harvested. – so no potatoes.  I’m thinking of sweetcorn, fennel, pak choi, courgettes, mangetout at the moment.

Hope to get some more inspiration tomorrow when I go to the Malvern Autumn Show which will have an emphasis on growing your own – planning to meet VegPlotting so that will be good too.