Planning a Broad Bean Bonanza

In the past I haven’t grown enough broad beans, so this year I’m planning a bit of  successional sowing.  I’m already a bit behind on the game – because of the hard landscaping work I couldn’t do an autumn sowing – but starting next week I will sow some in the ground as well as some in pots as insurance against mice predations. I’ve gone for three different varieties – Thompson & Morgan’s ‘Express’ which has an AGM and is apparently the fastest to crop, then ‘Stereo’ from Sarah Raven which produces small tender pods that you can eat in their entirety, and finally ‘Greeny’ from Mr. Fothergill’s which is a late cropping variety that can sown up to May. Bring on the beans!broad bean packets

My Hugelkultur Experiment

Hugelkultur raised bedHugelkultur is a permaculture technique that is usually used to create a raised bed on a flat piece of land by covering the area with logs, topping them with branches and then adding progressively finer materials before topping the whole thing off with about 25cm of good quality soil and compost. It creates a mound that gradually subsides as the lower layers decompose, releasing nutrients and creating a rich organic soil that is moisture retentive and packed with beneficial microorganisms. Find out more about the technique at

One of the results of the hard landscaping to create my new vegetable garden with its deep terraced beds, is that more soil was needed to bring them up to the right level. Instead of importing loads of topsoil, I have employed a sort of reverse hugelkultur technique. With each bed, we dug down about a meter deep on one half, piling the soil on the other half – and then started building our layers, firstly the logs, then twigs and then a thick layer of mixed shreddings, before covering it with the returned soil – and then we repeated the process with the other half of the bed.logs in troughlogs and sticks

HugelkulturThe result was satisfactorily filled beds. Finally, we added a layer of sieved compost to create a rather wonderful seedbed (as well as introducing lots of microorganisms to the disturbed soil) and then tucked it all up with a layer of fleece.soil on top

sheet to cover soil
What a great start to the gardening year.

From Pretty Potager to Serious Plot

From Pretty Potager to Serious Plot

My small potager has expanded piecemeal over the years in a fairly unplanned and inefficient way, adding a little bed here and a little bed there, all the while accommodating the steeply sloping site. In its early years it looked really lovely.greenhouse on plot

Sadly, it had reached the point where it was getting dangerous – with crumbling steps and uneven paths – and I knew it was time to do something about it.

dismantling garden

The plastic bags are full of salvaged soil ready for reusing


The old garden was easily dismantled

When we replaced our old garage with a new weather-boarded one, we kept all the concrete panels and these have been used to build the new vegetable garden.  Although the weather has not been on our side, doughty hard landscapers Ray & Alan have somehow demolished the old beds, created new ones and made something that while it may not be very pretty at the moment (to be frank the words ‘urban-brutalist’ come to mind) is definitely not going to collapse until my gardening days are long over.

raised beds in construction path by greenhouse new raised beds landscaping in progress brick pathplan of beds

There are good size beds, wide paths and proper steps and I’m sure that once I start softening it with planting, it will mellow down – and prove far more productive and easy to work in than its pretty but impractical predecessor. There’s lot to do – the beds need topping up with soil and compost, and the fences need slotting into place – but I’ve got my planting plan to hand as encouragement to get it all done so that it’s ready to plant up as the season begins.

Gimme Shelter

Seems that finally – after this long, warm autumn – the cold weather is about to arrive. With this in mind I have been busy bringing vulnerable plants undercover. The brugmansia was still flowering prolifically, but I took a deep breath and cut it back to about 50cm and have now given it a fleece cover as it is far too large to move.brugmansia

Succulents are hunkered down under a cloche where they will get plenty of light, but no water. Like many hot climate plants they are surprisingly tolerant of cold – it’s the wet they hate.cloche succulents

The really tender plants are now mainly in the greenhouse and conservatory – and one of the citrus trees gets a starring role on the kitchen windowsill. I would love to bring all three indoors as they are flowering prolifically but they would cut out all the light in the kitchen. The other two are on a table in front of the window in the garage – the nearest I get to an orangery!citrus tree

large lemon
I’m very proud of the lemons I’ve grown this year – best ever. Time to pick some I think; I left them on the tree while they were outside because they look so pretty, but they will go unnoticed in the garage.

black eyed susan going rampant

In the garden

I took a few moments to admire the black-eyed Susan that has romped 3 metres up the ivy this summer – it will disappear with the cold. The last time I saw this plant growing so rampantly was in South Africa (see it here)where it grows wild and is considered a nuisance.