Elma Family Garden Kitty Photography Pip

Mud and Garden Expansion

20/04/2016

Last year, for the very first year, my experimental gardening resulted in some actually edible fruit and veg.  We had strawberries through the summer, beans on into the autumn, and the garlic and onions kept us going in home-grown all the way until the first touches of winter.  There was no way that I wasn’t going to try again this year; I’ve been well and truly bitten by the grow-your-own bug.

Last year our two little veg beds were affectionately known as the Pocket Handkerchief Garden, because as veggie gardens go, especially ones supposed to be supplying a family of five, it was really teeny tiny.  This year though I think we’re going to need a new name, because as I filled up one bed with garlic and two colours of onions at the end of last year, and weeded and replanted the blackcurrant bush and the strawberries in the other bed it was clear that we were going to need more space. And by we, we mean me, and possibly Pip, who I think would rank playing in the soil right up there on his top 5 things to do at the weekend.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

So this weekend we roused H from his post-race snooze, told him that even a new PB was not getting him out of helping, and set out to expand the garden just a little.  The aim is that this year we will at least double the growing space; we’ve bought two new beds, and I can easily see us adding in a third, or possibly just sinking a bean and pea wigwam into the lawn to make a little edible tent for the children.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

It turns out that constructing veg beds, digging up the turf and underestimating how much extra soil you will need to fill them, takes a lot longer than you’d think and so our progress from Sunday is just the one extra bed.  But it’s in, despite tree roots, it’s got some lovely new soil dug into our existing mud, and it’s even planted up.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

This years’ seeds have been sat on the dresser for a few weeks now, waiting for their new homes.  All seeds for things we eat, and things that should grow well and grow easily (I hope); carrots, parsnips, beans, peas and spinach, as well as a couple of packets of wild flowers that were just too pretty for anyone to resist and will go to join out butterfly and bee haven in the back garden.  The new veg garden bed has got parsnips at the south end (Albion F1) and three rows of Amethyst purple french beans at the north end, which I hope will taste as nice as they look, and after that the bed was full up.Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

It made me wonder how much of anything everyone else plants.  I’ve always sown all the seeds in the packet because my success rate is so very (very very very) low, so sowing everything I’ve got means that I might at least get something, but do people who actually know what they’re doing just sow half a packet and save the rest until next year rather than risk a glut?

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

Hopefully we’ll get the other bed made up sometime in the next few weeks and then the carrots and spinach and peas can get to growing.  I really want to try courgettes again this year, I’ve not quite given up on them, but I think I need to give them a bit more space, which makes that third new bed look increasingly likely, unless they’d like growing in a nice big flowerpot all to themselves.

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

But if I’m going to go all out and have five veggie beds then it really really isn’t pocket handkerchief sized any more – what do you call a ‘used to be pocket sized but now keeps getting bigger with every leap of my imagination’ garden?       Space for the Butterflies - the next stage of the growing garden

The Growing Garden?

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  • Mandycharlie 20/04/2016 at 7:41 am

    Would it not be simpler to dispense with the raised bed gardening and just dig out that part of the garden and devote it to a veg patch, possibly with a tiny white picket fence as a mental barrier for the children. The trouble with raised beds is they are all well and good to potter about in, but and this may well be why you have such a low success rate, they dry out too quickly, especially the corners, and generally speaking plants don’t seem to like that. I’ve seen on the allotments people strive to make their raised beds work, but it is difficult to dig them over in the winter to the full spade length that is required to make plants truly love you. Anyway, happy digging!

  • Sally 20/04/2016 at 11:12 am

    I’m just off out to my garden expansion projects but thought I’d fit in a quick couple of posts in my ongoing catch up with the end of a late breakfast. And given my garden preoccupation, I had to just jump into this one instead of going back to where I last left things. I have to say I’m all for raised beds, I wouldn’t (and never did) keep on top of the weeding and general upkeep without the raised beds principles making it feel more manageable, more bite sized and contained really. Especially as I know I’ll spend less time out there in the Summer weeks as the beach draws us more and more. Plus, we don’t generally have to worry much about anything drying out here! Did you by any chance see any of the ‘Big Dreams, Small Spaces’ series recently? It was a program with Monty Don going off round the country ‘helping’ people turn small garden areas into their ‘dream’. And there was one episode in which the person turned her smallish front garden into a ‘community’ veg patch, (just checked, it’s series 2, episode 5, here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0756435). She had a multitude of small raised beds crammed in, and loads growing in them all. Personally I found it quite inspirational as well as interesting. And the other gardening story in that episode was good as well I think, so I would say well worth a watch. Not sure how long programs stay on there though, this one is going back to 26/3, might need to watch it soon if you’re interested? Anyway, good luck with your expansion, however it goes, looking forward to following your progress. (I find tyres work really well for extra, sometimes slightly impromptu planting too, if you’re not put off by the appearance of them then they’re very handy, if you found a largeish one -tyre places are a good source! – then that could help with a bean wig wam, although not so easy to get inside it as if it were flat unfortunately, much easier on the weed control front though)

    • Sally 20/04/2016 at 5:12 pm

      Been thinking whilst I’ve been out digging today, the other idea that you might find useful is one I saw over on Yanic’s blog last year – https://familyfaithfoodfabric.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/around-our-home/. She started off a new patch by putting down newspaper, cardboard etc and then having a bag of compost over it and planting directly into that for the first year – so it’s very immediately doable and you don’t have quite the same issue with needing masses of new soil straight away. I used that idea last year, but put the bags in lined beds as well because I knew I needed it contained in a manageable way if it was going to work long term. And it was great, I’ve added more soil gradually this year, as well as compost and local manure. And I’ll probably start off at least one bed that way again this year, otherwise it does feel like you’re having to buy in too much soil all in one go. So that could be an option for bed 2 or bed 3 possibly?

  • sustainable mum 20/04/2016 at 12:23 pm

    Courgettes do fine in tubs that is how I grow mine outside so that if it turns cold I can move them into the polytunnel ;). I usually sow seeds in stages, a few at a time by the end of the season I may well have run our depending on how many are in the packet to start off with. I do it in stages to try and get less of a glut and because our weather is incredibly changeable here and can turn from hot to cold and back again. Quite often one set of seeds will not germinate at all as it coincided with a cold spell. I keep a record of the weather and what I have sown each year so that I can look back and remind myself when it is best to plant what. It will be different for different areas of the country depending on your wind, temperatures, rainfall, how high you are above sea level and your soil type. I have learnt through trial and error and writing it down! The important thing is to enjoy it and now be too upset by your ‘failures’. 🙂

  • Kim 20/04/2016 at 12:43 pm

    So happy that you are in full gardening mode Carie. I am looking forward to watching your garden grow this season. As for seeds, I succession plant. So this week I planted a little chard, kale, spinach, salad greens and peas. In two weeks I will do another planting of them. It means that you will have a continuous harvest instead of all of it being ready at the same time.

    Good luck, and enjoy your time in the the garden.

  • Claire @ Clarina's Contemplations 20/04/2016 at 7:37 pm

    Pip looks like he’s loving every minute of it! How exciting! I, like you, gave no idea and rend to just throw the whole packet in… Excited to see the developments! Above comment advice looks sensible!!