Tag Archives: vetetables

Garden up-date ~ January

It’s been a fair few months now since I gave up my allotments and that time has been working well for putting in the ground work and planning my garden at home; now I don’t feel guilty for making time to spend at the allotments there are so many “half hours”, “spare ten minutes” or even “an hour before I go out” that I have spent out through my back door being followed around by the cats who thought that the jungle was theirs.

The plan for the whole garden has been developing for a while but I already knew where I wanted my main vegetable beds to be. So that’s where I started;

The start of my vegetable garden ~ 22nd August 2012

The start of my vegetable garden ~ 22nd August 2012

This is the very top of my garden and it is a nice 14′ 2″ by 15’4″ sized space. When I started work on this area the weeds where higher than me! The part of me that hates anything to go to waste even weeds started the work and so I was careful cutting everything, sorting it and putting into sacks and taking what could be home for the goats and setting aside the rest for compost or burning – this was taking an age and so in the end I just went in with a pair of hand shears and a hedge trimmer.

The back garden is on a steep-ish slope, it’s by no means the most sloped garden I have seen but still has a good incline especially when carrying sacks of manure up or anything more than hand tools really and the access to it is up through the front garden, through an alleyway around the house and up a set of 11 steps to where the back garden is at almost the same height as the first floor of the house. The soil in the garden seems lovely; dark and rich and crumblerly but is full of old bonfire patches with the rusty nails and springs that go along with them and many pieces of black plastic where it has been covered over for so long the plastic has split and broken up. It has also been left to it’s own devices for many year I would guess.

The top part is now mostly cleared now with just a heap of weeds and hedge trimmings I thought it would be quicker to burn than gather up, carry down through the garden, down through the front garden and to the car to take to the recycling center. I can see why I thought that was the quickest way but I forgot fire and water aren’t the best of friends and it just hasn’t ever dried out long enough for this to work. Time to put Plan B into action I thinks…

Vegetable garden some months on - Decmber 2012

Vegetable garden some months on – December 2012

Above is what it looks like at the end of last month; the first bed is in, filled with manure and covered and has been for the last couple of months now and work is well underway with the second. There is still the bonfire heap in the way of most of it but it is taking shape. I am leaving a path all the way around all the beds apart from the top one and below the second bed there is room for one more and then it is down into the main garden.

When I was first planning this bit of the garden I pictured the beds running down the slope towards the house, I don’t know why but it took a good few weeks of pondering how to make them before I realised it would be much simpler to make them running across the garden instead of down.

The lower part you can see in the photo has also been cleared and cardboard laid in readiness for a row of raspberries.

Raised beds - January 2013

Raised beds – January 2013

Carrying on down the garden a lot of it is under weed suppressant and thick black plastic sheets but there are three raised beds in and filled. These I put in and filled whilst carrying on the clearing work at the top; I have a late sowing of beetroot in one (middle bed) that was just a little too late to come to anything, one (top bed) I have tried growing cabbage and over wintering onions in but the slugs ate the cabbage as fast as they came up and the birds have had the onions sets out that many times I have put them in pots to get going and plant out later and the third (bottom bed) has just been filled ready for spring and is being used by blackbirds as a worm feeding station. I think there will be room for one more raised bed below the last one but need to have a proper look.

The area that is currently covered over I think I am going to turn into a main crop bed that can have rows of things put in that can be more or less left to it between planting and harvesting; squashes, kale, etc.

The other place I have worked on is the bank outside the kitchen window;

Kitchen Bank: before (left) and after (right) being cleared - October 2012

Kitchen Bank: before (left) and after (right) being cleared – October 2012

It took almost a whole day to clear it of the ivy, brambles and other things that were completely covering it. The bank runs along side the steps up the garden, doesn’t get much light at all and is even steeper than the rest of the garden. It’s now been planted with wallflowers, which seem to have had it in the first frost, and crocuses. I’m not really sure what to try in this bit as it is so hard to work with and so shady for most of the year. I might try some salad low enough down it to be reached from the path but it would be nice for something further up that would look nice/be useful/keep the weeds down. Mints maybe?

I’ve got lots of ideas and gardening projects planned for this year. I think it is one of the more important things I should be concentrating on, the more I read the more I mistrust mass produced food and I know I probably will never be able to cut it completely out but growing more of my own is step in the right direction and I enjoy it.

Seed saving

Over the past year or so I’ve been more and more interested in where the seeds for the vegetables, and next year flowers, that I want to grow actually come from. And it really isn’t easy to answer questions like where was this grown, how was it grown and will it actually produce anything if I grow it on my wind-swept allotment plot.

Horse chestnut seeds - 21st November 2010

The answer to this is something that I have been developing and refining for a while now, last year I tried to only buy seeds from The Real Seed Company and if I couldn’t then I made sure I found a non-F1 varieties, in fact I think I found The Real Seed Company when searching for a non-F1 variety of sweetcorn so my thoughts and actions about the subject have criss-crossed a little.

My reasons for stopping using F1 varieties was something a long the lines of by growing F1 varieties I wouldn’t be able to save my own seeds and have them grow ‘true’ again, my reasons for buying seeds from The Real Seed Company was that I would be able to save my own seed, with a little work, and had a postcode for where the seeds were grown.

Bobby (french) beans; hopefully the start of next years crop - 19th of November 2010

 I failed to do that ‘little work’ this year and so had set myself up to buy next years seed again. That is until I went to a Seed Saving talk given by Jude and Michel who set up The Seed Savers Network 25 years ago, The Seed Savers Network coordinates a network of seed saving groups across Australia and now works in 20 other countries across the world as well. 

I very stupidly didn’t take any notes like I had planned to but the most important message that I took from the meeting is to just go for it. Seed saving is something that the majority of people no longer feel they have the knowledge or skills to do in this country and that also seems to be spreading now to third world countries too. 

So I am going to stop making excuses as to why I can’t and just go ahead and do something. I have a few beans left at the allotment that were missed and so now hopefully have seeds big enough to grow from next year, I have my lovely squash that I grew this year, a courgette that turned into a marrow that i picked before the first hard frost hit and some squash seeds saved from squash ‘bought’ at the last LETS meeting and there are pages and pages of information and seed packet templates on Google.

And the answer to my excuse about not doing the ‘little work’ so as these seeds grow true again next year; well we all like to try growing new things and so long as it tastes good what does it matter if they are not the same as last year. I may even end up with my very own local variety in a few years time.