It seems that for the last few months I have had a consistent list of “things to get done” which somehow never seemed to get any shorter. Every time I reached the point where an item could be crossed off there were another couple of things to add to the bottom of the list!
Finally I think I can see the end of the current list but I know what will happen when I get there, I’ll just add more things to it again. With luck those new items will related to moving house and starting the smallholding but the housing market doesn’t work on luck so I’ll have to wait and see.
Hopefully I’ll remember to take some time before starting the next list and I must also remember not to add so much on the next list as well!
The chickens are still merrily trashing the far end of the lawn plus (when they feel like flapping over the fence) the veg beds and flower borders.
The compost heap looks to be an excellent “brew” which I will try to take plenty of credit for but of course the success is probably more down to loads of chicken poop, straw and wood shavings.
It might be considered by some to be slightly “chunky” perhaps but I am disproportionately proud of my limited contributions to the process!
Attempting to move house
Some of that lovely compost has already been spread over one of the raised beds although my heart isn’t really in it. I’m not sure of the etiquette when selling a house but perhaps we should have specified that we’re taking our compost with us when we move?
I have big plans for activity on the vegetable growing this weekend so there should be much progress to report next week. For the moment I have posted a page of advice on growing potatoes which contains most of the knowledge I have gathered from various websites, blogs and vegetable growing books.
This will be updated with any additional potato advice that I find and also with further details of my own experiences with growing Charlotte potatoes in a new vegetable bed I’ve started using.
With luck I should be able to plant a lot of my leek seeds in my home-made seed trays using cardboard tubes from toilet rolls. I may even experiment a little bit by filling them with different types of compost.
I also hope to fix my wheelbarrow which has had a flat tyre for ages and my initial attempts at repairs last year using a new inner tube were less than successful. I may end up cutting my losses though and just buy a new one – I can always place the old barrow at the end of the garden and use it as a new raised bed
I thought it would be a good idea to keep some notes on the problems I had when first setting up the new raised vegetable beds. In general the process went fairly smoothly but there were a number of things that on reflection I might have done differently!
As you can see these are just average “low-slung” raised beds (these to be precise) that I ordered from Greenfingers.com once I’d decided to expand the amount of veg growing space in the garden.
The various parts of the flat pack kits were all painted with using the leftover bits from an old tin of wood preserving paint – maybe not the ideal solution for a more permanent setup but in my mind I’m still at the “evaluation stage” so I’ll give things a try while learning lessons along the way.
The first thing I noticed during the assembly was that the wood occasionally split when screwing the sides to the uprights. The wood is perfectly adequate quality for a raised veg bed and should last several years (maybe up to 5 perhaps?) but it would presumably last a lot longer if the construction didn’t leave splits and cracks everywhere.
Best lesson learned: Build them properly so it lasts longer!
Installing and Filling
As I’d found no better information while researching on the web, I order in a load of compost and manure to fill up my newly created veg beds. This combination was mixed (with a bit of digging) into the original top soil plus some extra spare top soil I had elsewhere. I also added what little existing home-made compost I already had so I’m hoping that the mixture will prove productive in the end.
After regularly reading the same point being made by a number of different books I decided to place a cloche over the veg bed which will be getting the potatoes later. This was partly to help keep the frosts off the newly dug area and partly to encourage any remaining weeds to show themselves so I can get rid of them before planting.
Best lesson learned: Use covers in late winter so weeds start growing and you can get rid of them early!
Planting and results
Once the first veg bed was in place late last autumn I gave in to the impatience and temptation to plant something by nipping off to B&Q to buy some cabbage seedlings. I planted them out with great expectation for the future and they were immediately set upon by something which nibbled leaves relentlessly – presumably caterpillars although I never found any. Some netting has since been added but even by February the plants were less than impressive so I’ll just have to give them time.
With so much to choose from it seemed almost impossible to narrow down the options of what vegetables to grow. After a little careful thought I soon realised that my first task was easily identified though – just go through a few reliable gardening books and note down which plants were labelled as “easy to grow” or “good for beginners”.
Predictably there were too many final choices and they were most of the usual suspects that many gardeners tackle when starting out. However that list was easily cut down to size by the simple guiding principle that says “don’t bother growing something you won’t eat”.
As we only have 3 small-ish veg plots, the final list ended up as Potatoes, Leeks (from seed) and Onions (from sets).
This is easily solved because I am only working with 3 fairly small veg beds this year – not much I know but that is 2 more than I’ve ever had before so I’m happy! Two of these beds are wooden sided raised beds from a kit which have been set up on top an unwanted section at the bottom of the garden. These have been carefully prepared over the last few months, filled with nice new compost and left to settle although I did pop in some cabbages last autumn (don’t ask, they’re not doing much) and I also had a failed attempt with spinach when all I got was some more greener for the compost heap.
I suspect that this might be the tricky part because we live on the north east coast of England which is not known for the tropical climate. The growing season is noticeably shorter up here and plants are definitely slower to get going. My main concern will be fighting off the impatience so I don’t start sowing or planting out too soon.
Arguably the hardest of the 4 questions… I’ve grown some veg in the past but never more than one crop per year and certainly not every year so why is this year different? Can it all be down to a mid-life crisis? Have I really not got anything better to do with my time? The most likely explanation is that it seemed like a good idea at the time and now I’ve set myself the challenge I don’t want to admit defeat without giving it a go!
So what should be the first thing you think of doing once you get the idea for growing vegetables and pursuing a vaguely greener lifestyle?
Obviously there is all the planning to be done, preparation of vegetable plots, ordering of seeds, composting, digging/weeding and such like. Not forgetting the multitude of choices available which complicate the decision for what to grow and when to get start planting!
It all seems a little daunting at first so why not take the easy option… start a blog instead! It keeps you warm on a cold winters evening when you can’t get out to the garden (or can’t be bothered) and also focuses the mind on the various issues.
We live in the north east of England in a fairly normal suburban semi-detached house with a garden and neighbours on both sides. Over the years I have dabbled with growing vegetables occasionally with varying results. I can recall a fair success with potatoes a number of years back but if I’m brutally honest last years spinach was a bit of waste of time.
Most of my attempts have generally grown fairly well but eventually things suffer because “real life” gets in the way to stop plants getting watered or weeded. Notice how it’s the plants fault and not mine?
This time though the outcome will be completely different – for one thing I’ve got a blog to maintain as well so my theory is that I have to keep up the garden work otherwise there will be nothing to write about on the blog! I’m sure my logic is sound…