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.

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Rainy Day Activity

Rainy Day Activity

Other than puddle hopping, there’s not much to be done outside when it’s bucketing down, so on a particularly wet day I turned my attention to sorting my seeds. I’ve discarded most of those that are out of date ( but tomato seeds last forever) and written a list of what I need to buy, so that I can get busy planting in a few weeks time. I store my seeds in a sealed plastic box in the cool of the garage which means that those I have saved remain in good condition.  Inevitably the box was in a bit of a muddle, so I’ve now sorted them into months – starting with a few including spinach, rocket and cut and come again salads that I will sow with bottom heat in the greenhouse in February.

seed packetsmonthly seed packets

Then I sat down with the seed catalogues and tried very hard to stick to my list and not be waylaid by the many tempting new varieties. Going through the old seeds definitely helps with this – coming across seeds I have succumbed to that have failed to thrive (or never planted) does curb my inner spendthrift – seeds are far too expensive these days to order with abandon.seed catalogues

I’ve also realised that it is worth checking how many seeds there are in a pack – this can vary enormously, often with little difference in price. With anything you sow successionally it is worth choosing a packet that offers three hundred rather than thirty, but on the other hand if you only need a maximum of five (for example courgettes) buy the smaller packet to avoid the temptation of sowing more than you need. Nearly time to start sowing!

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Starting as I Mean to Go On

I have to confess to being a serial secateur abuser – I should know better, and I certainly advise better, but somehow when it is the only tool to hand, it gets used in ways for which it wasn’t designed.  Fortunately both (left-handed) pairs I own are Felco Secateurs, which means that I can send them away to be spruced up and serviced for £19.99 a pair.  They will come back looking brand new and I hope that – for a while at least – I will mend my ways and treat them with the respect they deserve. They will be a joy to use as I get on with my winter pruning.  If your Felco secateurs are looking equally sorry for themselves they can be sent to Burton McCall for similar treatment – just be sure to include your name and address so that they  can send them back to you!  I post them by special delivery, so that I can afford to replace them, should they go astray.felco secateursenvelope with address

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Winter Gardening

With rumours of (the probably temporary) arrival of cold weather, I decided that it was time to tuck up my evergreen agapanthus – Agapanthus africanus. The weather has been so mild that any frost could do quite a lot of damage since many plants have continued growing lost past their usual season. Most will have to take their chances but the large pots of agapanthus have now had a deep mulch of Strulch – the wonderful mineralised straw mulch which will hold air and insulate the plants – and protected with fleece covers that will keep them cosy from now until spring. They may not be very decorative, but the pots are far too big to move undercover, and it’s better than losing the plants.agapanthus and strulchplant fleece covers

The lime tree that has been in its winter quarters in the kitchen is smothered in flowers and young fruit, but close examination revealed that it was also smothered with greenfly and possibly red spider mite. It is too large to treat in situ, so we carried it outside where I sprayed it down with the hose, dislodging most of the pests and then treated it with SB Plant Invigorator which feeds the plant and deals with the pests. It’s now back in the kitchen and looking much happier.lime tree indoorsclose up on Lime Tree

Finally, in preparation for the year ahead, I gave the greenhouse a thorough tidy and cleaned all its windows – this will make all the difference when I start seed sowing in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I finally got round to transplanting some hardy spinach plants into the border – with the extra light I’m hoping they will give us some fresh greens very early in the season.hardy spinach in borders

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