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Plots and scheming

by Simon Cox

2013-11-14

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Garden


Plots and scheming

We have always wanted to grow our own vegetables - not to a 'good life' extent but we both grew up in families that were in 'make do and mend' post war mode. Everyone grew a bit of food. Our previous home didn't really have the space in the Japanese style garden for any veg though we managed to squeeze in a couple of tomato plants.

A new small raised bed in the garden to provide fresh produce.

Plans

In our new home we have a much big­ger gar­den — in fact, it’s a bit daunt­ing, to be hon­est. Paula would real­ly like to com­bine a cut flower and veg­etable gar­den so we vis­it­ed Sarah Ravens home/​garden/​enterprise to see how she had achieved this and are plan­ning some­thing on the same lines — but not quite so grand or com­mer­cial! How­ev­er, it is appar­ent that it’s going to take a while to get there so we decid­ed that we need­ed a small­er raised bed to grow some food this year. We installed a new green­house in May and that spurred us on. So the posi­tion was cho­sen — next to the green­house where we had tak­en out a rhodo­den­dron bush and it was next to a laurel.

Build­ing

I marked the plot out with some chalk line spray and some old bits of pipe to a size of 2 by 1.2 meters wide. It could have been big­ger but we want­ed to be sure that we could reach all parts of the raised bed with­out hav­ing to stand on it. Then we start­ed dig­ging. We had read that we need­ed to dig down about 2 to 3 foot but it was appar­ent that the whole area was a mass of roots. The fork came in very hand to break up the soil and expose the roots which we then cut or sawed through. It took a cou­ple of long back­break­ing ses­sions to ful­ly dig this out and we prob­a­bly did not go down 3 foot in the end, but we did remove two bar­rows of roots and three of builders rub­ble. That’s a pet hate of mine — builders who sweep the dirt under the car­pet. In this case, it looks like the whole lawn had been turfed over the rub­ble left over from build­ing the exten­sion. We also removed a small pile of brick bits and stones that the builders had buried in one big hole. With all this removed and the earth dug over, we then set about build­ing the raised bed.

First I cut some 2″ square pres­sure treat­ed tim­ber to length — height of the side boards was about 120mm (note I reg­u­lar­ly work in inch­es and mil­lime­tres — nev­er cen­time­tres because that was how I was taught doing Engi­neer­ing and wood­work) and I made that 25 of the height of the peg. I then cut the peg to a point. Next, I cut the boards to length. I keep read­ing that scaf­fold­ing boards are good for this but I had some left­over roof truss­es in the gar­den that were per­fect. I then ham­mered the pegs into the four cor­ners of the plot, as marked out, and nailed the boards to them mak­ing sure every­thing was lev­el and square(ish). There are sev­er­al good tuto­ri­als and videos online on how to cre­ate a raised bed.

We know the ground under the raised bed will have had most of it nutri­ents sucked out by the lau­rel and rhodo­den­dron bush but rais­ing the bed means we give the plants a good start before they get there and we can water them eas­i­ly. At the bot­tom of the bed, we placed some large pieces of card­board cut to fit. This acts as a bar­ri­er to any plants we don’t want try­ing to grow up through the bed and also as a mois­ture trap so that the raised bed doesn’t dry out too quickly.

Fill­ing

We need­ed some good top­soil to fill the bed so had some deliv­ered that had been pre­mixed with manure and oth­er good­ies. It was also guar­an­teed not to have any weeds in it and we didn’t want out veg fight­ing for nutri­ents with unwant­ed weeds. This was pur­chased over the Inter­net and next day a small truck arrived with an onboard mini hoist that lift­ed the bag into the des­ig­nat­ed spot which we chose near­by so that it was handy to shov­el direct­ly into the bed. An hour of shov­el­ling and tea breaks saw the bed full of the new soil and raked flat.

Plant­i­ng

We sowed two rows of let­tuce and put it under a black net tube, six run­ner beans with A-frames made from hazel rods and strength­ened with a bam­boo cross mem­ber and string. Under that frame, we put two cour­gettes plants and every­thing was watered in. Each edge has a row of marigolds grow­ing to fight off pests. So far every­thing is grow­ing well, we have already picked some of the let­tuce. We have had a vis­i­tor though — a pheas­ant has used the mid­dle emp­ty spot as a dust bath!

End of season

Most of the above hap­pened ear­ly sum­mer but it is now Novem­ber and I have caught up a lit­tle. We had love­ly let­tuces all sum­mer and the only rea­son the let­tuces didn’t go on quite as long as hoped was that one of the cour­gette plants grew over it and the leaves are quite big! The run­ner beans came on quite late but we have had too many to eat so have let some go to seed in the hope of prop­a­gat­ing them next year. The cour­gettes went mad! We must have had 30 or so and have been cut­ting them off every few days else they grow too big too quick­ly. The last cour­gette I cut was in the first week of Novem­ber — I need to check again in case there are any hid­ing! Over­all a bumper har­vest in a small­ish space so we are of course plan­ning big­ger beds else­where. We prob­a­bly haven’t saved a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey on pro­duce but that was not the point — these are fresh veg­eta­bles with­out any pes­ti­cides or treat­ments for the super­mar­ket shelves. A success!

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