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…


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