I have been meaning to do this for a while, and now the seeds are sown, weeding has been done, and the toddler is asleep I have time to myself to write about our progress on the vegetable garden.

Here’s a before and after photo:

After clearing the area of weeds we found a number of unused decking boards. Despite them being buried for however many months or years, they were in good condition. We used them to build three 7m x 4m, 12” deep raised beds. The optimum width you should make your beds should be around 4m to allow you to reach all areas within the bed. Repurposing the decking boards was a huge help financially. They just needed a good brush down to determine which were too rotted to use. I am particularly frugal when it comes to spending money, so anything I can repurpose for free is ideal!

I knew I needed to improve the soil from its current state from pitiful attempts at growing over the last 2 years. I also discovered that Laurel bushes, which surround my patch of land, are known to strip the soil of nutrients. This is where raised beds are ideal. By adding organic matter over the course of a few years the soil within the raised beds will improve. I used three types of organic matter. The first was that from my lovely compost bins. Oh, how I love my compost bins! Secondly, I bought several bags of multi-purpose compost. All from different suppliers as this is meant to add variety to the mix of organic matter. Thirdly, horse manure. I somehow managed to convince my husband to collect a whole load of well-rotted horse manure from the local horse riding school. You know it’s love when you can send off your other half with a list of characteristics of what is good well-rotted manure.

The general characteristics to look out for to determine if it is well-rotted is for it to be uniform in texture; More like soil and compost and less like manure and straw. It must be crumbly to the touch, and won’t smell or still be steaming. The time of year to add organic matter to your ground is Spring (March and April, UK), 2 weeks before you plan to plant any seeds. If you find manure which isn’t well-rotted, stick it in your compost bin anyway because 6-12 months later it will be ideal for your garden.

All in all this variety of organic matter filled the raised beds by a third. Which is perfect as I can just add to this over the next coming years to improve the soil further. I’ve set out 18” wide pathways around the beds and laid bark chippings on top of weed matting. 18” is sufficient space for kneeling.

This is where we are up to now:

Vegetables growing include potatoes and rhubarb outside of the raised beds. Mange Tout on the tepee, Chard, cut-and-come lettuce leaf, radish, beetroot, carrot, spring onion, rocket, spinach, courgette and Kale. Plus a gooseberry bush which I’ve had for 2 years. Last year it did start producing berries, so with any luck we should get something from it, that’s if my toddler doesn’t munch them all before we spot them. We don’t have a greenhouse, yet, but I’ve found a perfect little hot spot on our bedroom window cill, which I have now lost to seedlings. Despite courgettes being one of the easiest vegetables to grow, I killed most of them through neglect, but the great joy of sowing is I can plop more seeds into a pot and more appear in a week. The Kale plants should be ready to harden off this week to get them into the ground.

I find solace in my vegetable garden. It has also become my toddler’s favourite place. Watering is her task, which she loves. The garden allows me to think and gives me something to focus on, even through the winter when I’m planning the season ahead. I know the food which I grow has not been covered in pesticides, and not wrapped in unrecyclable plastic and flown half way across the world. It is an element of my life where I feel I am doing my bit for this planet.


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