Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Secret Garden

Or perhaps not quite so secret, considering how overlooked it is - and how happy I am to plaster pictures and details of it all over t'internet.  But hey, I have a plan - once we move.... Assuming we have a bit more garden than we have now - and frankly, it would be hard not to - but once again, I digress.

Anyway, I got asked in the comments for some more details about my garden, so of course I am happy to oblige :o)  As my OH said, it's not the size that matters, it's what you do with it.... Men, eh ?  They'll believe anything :oP

My back garden - traditionally the area where you'd grow your fruit and veg, assuming you grow any, and haven't gone big guns and got an allotment, is 8m x 5m  (26 x 16ft).  The growing area is far smaller than that, as you can see - there's grass, and paving, and sheds, and water butt, and all sorts taking up space.  When we moved in, it was all conifers and heathers - very low maintenance, very suitable for acid clay (which is what we have, funnily enough), very seventies.  And can you say booo-riiing ????

I started off by clearing the middle bit of the border down the bottom - this is now my strawberry patch, which is also home to a couple of tayberry plants and a grape vine - total tally from the latter, one tiny bunch of grapes that never ripened. Think that in my next garden I will need a) a different variety, and b) a better position for the grapes.  Dead useful if you like dolmade, though - plenty of leaves throughout the growing season, and you can lacto-ferment them to make them probiotic.

The strawberry patch measures 1.5 m x 1m (5ft x 3ft 4in)  To the right of it there is a cherry tree and some straggly gladioli - to the left, a robenia pseudoacacia, also known as "that tree I really like, but was ever so silly to ever think that our garden was big enough for it", as well as a couple of hardy fuchias.  The rest of the space just gets covered by whatever annual or biennial seeds I score for free - this year I had Sweet Williams growing there.

Now, if you look  to the left of the photos above and below, you will see - just past the waterbutt - some sweetcorn at different stages of growth -  the bed where I grew them this year used to be shrubs until last year, where our old cat spent most of her summers dozing away. I wanted that space, but did not have the heart to deprive her of her favourite spot.  Unfortunately, she passed away in March, so later on this spring the shrubs went up, some manure went down, and corn went in.  In betweebn the corn I planted yellow dwarf beans - both cropped prolifically, keeping us in sweetcorn and beans much of the late summer, and there is still a fair bit of corn on the cob in the freezer.  The length of the bed is 2m (6ft 6) and it's 1.2m (4ft) at its widest point.  

Here's a close-up of the bed - and you can just see the plum tree to the left, squashed in between the shed and the neighbour's fence.
This is what I'd consider my main growing area - the border down the right-hand side of the plot, 7m (23ft) long and 1m (3ft 4in) wide.  That little bit of fencing down the bottom of the picture ?  That's the edges of the asparagus bed (yield so far - none, should start cropping from next year, just in time for us to move, lol).  The long tall and straggly is chard gone to seed - I'd cut it back shortly afterwards, and it came back a couple of times already.  Runner beans in the foreground - I had a couple of bean tepees, 4 poles each.  The rest of the space has been used from various things from lettuce to peas throughout the season - as one crop finished, the other went in.  There was a small square of potatoes (I got about 5kg of spuds all told) and a couple of rows of radishes, but that was it for the root crops - they just don't do well in our soil. 
The rest of the back garden is a few decorative (ish) shrubs in front of the sheds, on the left; a few Echinacea plants, and herbs galore - if you can only grow one things, and have no space for more, and like to cook.... It's just got to be herbs.  I have a couple of bay shrubs to the either side of the rose arch
Oregano and chives at the edge of the main border, where it narrows then disappears:
 I have camomile wherever it chooses to self-seed (by far the easiest way to handle it, just let it grow where it wants)....
....and then I have a couple of 60cm x 60cm (2ft x2ft) little beds either side of the conservatory door, which grow just herbs.  Lavender and parsley to the left (I also had thyme in there but it froze to death last winter and I didn't get around to replacing it)  
Apple mint, spearmint and sage to the right.
For a few years, I tried valiantly to grow tomatoes in the back garden, until I finally twigged that, no matter where I stick them, they will just not get sufficient sunshine to ripen, ever, in the back garden.  So I pulled up the hedge shrubs down the side fence in the front and stuck tomatoes and marigolds (for pretties and to keep pests away) all down the side.  This side border is 7.5m long (24 and half ft) but only 30cm (1ft) wide.  And believe it or not, despite snapping away in the garden all day long throughout the summer (and much of the rest of the year), I have no decent picture of it.  This is the best I can do:
The tomatoes I grew there last couple of years were "Yellow Sunrise" and "Tigerella"  for no reason other than having bought the seeds in a sale - and wanting some of them to be yellow, because where I come from we call toms pomidori, after Italian pommodoro , which literally means "golden apple".  So really, they ought to be golden, don't you think ?
And that's pretty much it, apart from the bit  - 3m (9ft) long and 1m (3ft 4in) deep that I cleared (mostly) of heathers and stuff, and where I stuck my courgettes, cucumbers and squashes.
The rest of the front garden is shrubs and flowers and paving.  Oh, and a pumpkin, just the one each year ;o)

As for how much food I manage to grow.... I'm afraid that this year, in order to concentrate on growing it, I didn't keep any sort of tally, so the best I can offer is "quite a lot".  Nowhere near as much as someone with an allotment might, I'm sure, but I bought no salad stuff, no courgettes or beans or sweetcorn throughout the summer, and had plenty to spare for the neighbours, lots got frozen and even more chutnified and pickled.   Verdict ?  Well worth doing, even if you have not clue what you're really doing.
I still don't..... But I don't let that stop me :o)



  1. What a wonderful post. Your garden is lovely, and I am so impressed at how much you have growing there and how much produce you have harvested. And it all looks so healthy and attractive. All in all, very inspirational. You have reminded me to grow more herbs at home next year.

  2. Any person have any kind of smart ideas for outdoor storage?
    We have some great outdoor patio chairs yet I'm sick and tired of the cushions getting
    drenched in the rain and I don't have any place to keep the buying furniture.