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New veggie plot

We’ve finally finished the raised beds we’ve been working on – they’re all filled with many barrow-loads of wonderful organic stuff, ready to receive all manner of veggie plants in the spring. Before then, we’ll put paths in, set up a tap, and at some point next year we hope to put up a greenhouse too, plus benches to sit and drink tea and gaze in pride at the cabbages of course!

My aim is to have veg growing here all year round. Lots of work and growing know-how will be needed. I’m definitely up for the work, and the know-how, well I’ll get there. I guess there will be successes and failures, but I think that’s what it’s all about, right?

I also hope to share the beds with a few friends or neighbours, to invite 2-3 folks to borrow a bed for the main growing season. I’m a social animal so I love the idea that I’d wonder out to my garden to find a friend there, weeding their bed, collecting a few veggies for their dinner. I’ve never had an allotment, but I imagine people gain so much from the chance to meet other growers, share tips and learn from each other. I suspect that there are plenty of people out there who like the idea of growing more of their own food, but don’t have room in their own gardens, or can’t get an allotment as the waiting lists are so long. And perhaps too, for some people, it would be appealing to have access to a ready-made bed just for the main growing months, rather than the commitment of an entire allotment space, with all the work that entails.

So, I’m going to see if anyone I know likes the idea of borrowing a bed for next year and see how that goes. If it goes well, I’m toying with the thought that we could develop it further into a kind of community garden, or raised beds for hire business. In any case, the idea of growing my own food, while surrounded by members of my community who are doing the same really excites me! Let’s see what happens…

Saskia and some (rather small and measly now I look! there WERE better!) veg from this year

Making and filling the beds

Designing the layout – The design was really Brian’s baby – he sat with his iPad sketching and measuring and came out with a plan inspired by Victorian kitchen gardens, with a wider central walkway and a water feature of some kind in the centre. It will be linked to the kitchen too, once we get round to that (in about a decade!). My main input was to keep reminding him that the bed width had to be short enough for my small arms to reach the middle! The biggest are 1.2m wide and accessible from both sides.

Brian’s precision planning

Building – So, Brian got his trusty digger out, levelled off the area, then set to constructing the beds from 8 x 2 inch pine timber planks. They are open to the ground at the bottom, and have a lip around them so they’re comfy to sit or lean on when working in the beds. Hopefully the wide paths and not-too-wide beds will also make them more accessible for the less able-bodied and small children too.

Loving to have all bases covered, Brian has also run pipes into each bed so that we could set up automatic irrigation if we want at a future point. That’s the blue tubes you can see in some of the pictures.

Lining and Staining – To protect the wood, we lined the sides of each bed with thick polythene (I usually avoid plastic as much as possible, but I think this thick stuff will last many years). It was cut to size and attached with a staple gun. Then Frances gave it several coats of stain.

Frances did all the lining and staining for us

Filling the beds – This was my bit, and it was no small undertaking. The volume of all the beds together is 11.2 cubic metres, which didn’t mean much to me, but apparently it’s a LOT! They’re filled with a mix of hay from our meadow, horse manure donated by our neighbours, top soil that we had piled up from other ground works, and finally a layer of bought-in half manure/half peat-free compost. The order of things was half pre-planned (pooled together advice from a couple of gardening books), and half adapting as I went along, reacting to how much manure we were given, and how a massive pile of topsoil just seemed to disappear to nothing when put into the beds! But they’re finally full now, and with a good few months before spring to rot down enough to be ready for planting.

1. Hay 2. Cardboard as weed barrier (maybe unnecessary this low down) 3. Horse Manure 4. Top soil followed by second batch of manure 5. Final layer of bought-in manure/peat-free compost 6. Cardboard to suppress any weeds that grow from the topsoil

Naming the beds – I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my mind. There are so many that it makes sense to name them. I like the idea of naming them after native trees, as we’re really trying to focus on natives in all our new planting. So, for example, yew, ash, rowan, silver birch – with their names and a leaf design painted on each bed. Would be nice hey?

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