Archive for February, 2009

Bulbs in the back

It’s been a busy couple of months.  I’m sure that’s an excuse for everyone, so I won’t accept that and I’ll say the real reason I’ve not done my garden homework is because the house is nice and warm whilst outside it’s been cold and miserable.  No that won’t do either.  I’m sure the truth of it is laziness.

Well, the back garden isn’t looking like a nice place to spend time at present.  The lovely green lawn in the back garden is a façade, it’s anything but grass.  It’s mainly moss doing a good job of looking like grass.  The real grass having been forced to retreat from our two rabbits and guinea pig who trim any greenery that isn’t a relation of an allium or a perennial weed.  Their chewing capers are rich source of amusement, although I often feel more of a McGregor than a McGovern in my attempts to obviate their overindulgence in my plants.

As Sunday was a good enough day, and as Abi needed to clean the pets out, it seemed like a good, if belated, idea to plant the pink, deep dark red and white tulip bulbs that we bought last October/November.  Yes, very late I know.  The shame of it is that the same thing happened the year before.  October and November just aren’t the season to be in the garden, it’s the season to be making hearty soups or some-such in the kitchen.

The bulbs, unlike me, were clearly eager for compost, having started sending out root shoots.  I managed to squeeze them into the few pots and planters that are out of trampling range of rabbits, making room by removing some late lavender seedlings and a small rosemary plant to the safer spot of the front garden.  I guess I’ll see what happens with the bulbs, hopefully we’ll see a mass of colour in May.

There’ll be a lot of change in the coming months with the back, with operation Repel Rabbit gearing up for deployment.  Full plans coming shortly, just don’t tell the pets please. 


Where on earth did I get the idea to start growing fruit and veg? I guess the proliferation of cooks like Nigel Slater and HFW in the UK media talking about edible plants was the start, with my colleague Simon’s enthusiasm setting the stage. I think being given Sarah Raven’s The Great Vegetable Plot at Christmas culminated in the clapping of the clapperboard.

This is all moving ahead of the start though, and that’s what I turn to.

We had moved onto our first rung and had started the tidying and general renovation of the house and with the back garden, it was summer after all. A year later we pondered the front garden. It had been left alone because the deed diagrams seemed to indicate that it wasn’t technically part of our property. Eventually though, when it ended up waist high in grass and with little indication of council interest, we started sketching out our project.

The grass was all hacked down and put in a compost heap. Simon advised us to carefully remove the turf from the garden, using an awkward slicing motion with the spade. This he said, once rolled up and left, would turn into a lovely loamy soil in about 6 months. I have no real idea of what loamy meant, but it sounded like a good soil to have. Another task that he and the books suggested was the arduous effort of double digging. This they all insisted would make it easier for plant roots to search within the substrate. It was a very tough couple of weekends, and I see why it’s done only once or twice – there was a staggering amount of bricks hidden beneath that claggy clay. We lost two prongs on a garden fork to the resistant rubble. So, in Veg Garden Mk1, we went a bit ‘Wombley’, ‘making good use of the things that we find’…and so on. Weeds and muddy shoes were all suppressed with compost bags and a torn carry mat covered with the bloody brick bits that had come out of the depths.

Out of our paltry 5.5m x 4.5m plot, year 1 and year 2 saw purple sprouting broccoli, tomatoes, rainbow chard, pumpkins, early and main potatoes, beans, a few handfuls of raspberries, a handful of blackcurrants, redcurrants, courgettes and more zucchini. These were all impulse seeds or special offers, spotted at nurseries and garden centres.

We didn’t see onions and shallots, beetroot, or carrots despite repeated attempts.  The stunted gooseberry bush was kept on out of pity rather than productivity.

Overall, it was a good start, but slightly scruffy. On the horizon lay better ideas, and for Year 3 a firm plan.

Circles in the top right are compost bins, the lower circle is a water butt, grey squares are the picturesque manhole covers, the largest being 1 sq metre.

Building details to follow…

the idea

I converted my front garden into a vegetable/fruit garden a year or so after moving into our ground floor flat. Living in a slightly less than salubrious area of north London, many of my neighbours took me aside for a kindly, “I wouldn’t grow things in your front garden dear, people will steal them”, a sincere look of warning in their eyes. The thought of scallys scrumping through my plot certainly sounded ominous, but then, judging from the fox strewn scraps of their bin bags I’m sure that they’d only recognise a vegetable if it was frozen or wrapped in polythene.

The garden over the last few years has been so splendidly productive that I’ve barely noticed the effects of scrumping. In fact, the odd passer by has stopped to own up to the nicking of a handful of ripe raspberries. An Italian neighbour rang my doorbell late last summer to ask if she could use my courgette flowers, I agreed with the proviso that she drop me the recipe. I never did get it, but maybe she’s eager for more next year.

I’ll shortly be sticking up some of the ground work photos, and I’m happy to elaborate on where I got the materials. Abi was adamant that it wasn’t to be made of odds ‘n’ ends, but should look nice. Keeping up apperances and all that.

Back to thoughts and dreams though, I’m intending on photographing as I go, and doing my best to put in some recipes or ideas of what I make out of what I’ve grown. Hopefully this will bolster my pitiful attempts to use the current crop of spring greens, I’ve not been wanting to cut down the small amount of greenery that’s left in the broad areas of brown.

There, that’s good for a start I think.

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