Sunday, 24 January 2010

Making progress

What with the snow, the sub-zero temperatures and the delights of Christmas we'd almost forgotten what our garden looked like! My aching muscles will testify to the fact that we've certainly made up for our weeks of neglect over the past two days, with the garden structure coming along in leaps and bounds. We've gone from this very overgrown and weedy vegetable patch when we moved in in the summer:

Like this...

To this ...

To finally having the whole plot (10mx3m) cleared just before Christmas.

This weekend WH has gone from the fairly dull and destructive process of digging things up, to the excitement of building. Having read a lot of different advice about growing your own, we decided to opt for raised beds, to keep the cultivated area to a manageable size and assist with crop rotation. We're squeezing in six 1x2m beds, the first four of which we set up this weekend. They're from a company called linkabord, and are made from recycled plastic, so as well as being environmentally friendly, they help to keep the soil insulated from severe temperature changes. We've been setting down weed-suppressant fabric around and slightly under each bed, but our soil is so good we're leaving the beds without a base, which will also allow for good root growth, where required. We'll top up with some compost before covering again until the beds are ready to be planted in the spring. The paths between and around the beds are going to be gravel, which should help to deter slugs (fingers crossed).

Very smart!

You may ask what I've been doing for two days whilst my other half slaved over the garden construction. Well, I've been creative, destructive and organised:

Creative: My parents gave us a maslin pan which apparently belonged to my great-grandmother. Now that is definitely what I'd call an heirloom and I duly christened it this weekend with a batch of marmalade (seville orange and earl grey). 2.5 jars from 1/2 a kilo of sevilles.

Destructive: We've ambitious plans for the pergola area of the garden, including the planting of four grape vines, due to be delivered next month. Unfortunately, this means having to remove the existing plants (some of them were more dead than alive, but still). I've wrestled with two honeysuckle, one clematis, one unidentified bush and a sturdy horsechestnut sapling. I can barely move my arms to type....

One third cleared, two thirds to go.....

Organised: I placed most of my seed order for 2010 before Christmas, with a small top up earlier this month after I spent a happy hour with squared paper and colouring pencils producing my physical plot design and realised I'd missed some things out. Despite the impressive catalogue collection, I actually purchased all the vegetable seed from Thompson and Morgan this year - I'll branch out next year as some of the companies we bought our fruit trees and bushes from were very good too. With the seed packets all lined up, it struck me that I won't be doing much beyond sowing, planting, tending, harvesting, cooking and preserving this year. Oh well - happy growing everyone!

This collection doesn't include the fruit (raspberries, strawberries, morello cherry tree, sweet cherry tree and blackcurrant bush already planted, grapes still to come), potatoes and shallots (still to be delivered) or the garlic (planted in the autumn) ...!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Ten things for 2010

I don't really go in for New Year's resolutions, however, I do find January a good time to identify my aims for the year and to start planning how to meet them. Some are large and some are small, but hopefully all are possible...

(ok, so you may think that there is a thin line between my 'planning' and having 'resolutions', but I'm afraid to my mind NYR's tend to be about things we should be doing anyway, but often can't quite stick to (I will eat less, I will quit smoking, etc), rather than setting out achievable goals with a plan for how to reach them.... oh, alright. I suppose you could have a resolution and then plan how to keep it. Whatever. It's a list of things I plan to do over the next 12 months!)

  1. Have our very own vegetable garden: so although we've been growing some of our own veg for the last 12 months, 2010 sees us in our very own home, with our very own garden to play in. We've already done some planning and preparatory work, but there is still quite a lot to be done before we can start sowing this spring, followed by growing, harvesting, eating and preserving. Yum - can't wait!
  2. Waterwise: we've already bought a water-efficient washing machine, and we're currently in the process of getting a dishwasher to similar low-energy and low-water specifications. However, given that our garden plans will require quite a lot of the wet stuff, there is a lot more we'll need to do if we want to reduce waste, from the installation of garden water butts, to a new shower head (fewer showers not an option!)
  3. Make: I got an amazing present for Christmas - the Cath Kidston 'Make!' book, which includes 48 applique projects. More than that, it has inspired me to get crafty over the next 12 months. Needles of all kinds at the ready!
  4. It's a wrap: A relatively small aim, but I plan not to use shop-bought wrapping paper for any gifts this year. I've already started collecting tissue paper and pretty sweet wrappers from Christmas, so people can expect to start receiving interesting looking parcels! Plus, there will be no sticky tape, either - standard tape includes PVC and solvents which are damaging to the environment and their use also makes the re-use of wrapping paper difficult.
  5. Charitable giving: I'm going to increase my charitable giving this year to help support causes I feel strongly about.
  6. And I'm going to Become an activist: by doing something myself to make a difference. This could be volunteering, or joining a local group or network that campaigns about an issue I feel strongly about.
  7. Skin deep: I've gone a long way to reducing the parabens that I'm ingesting through toiletries, etc, but there are still a couple of products where I can swap to a more natural alternative, which I'm planning to do this year.
  8. Buy recycled: I want to be more inventive than just the usual recycled toilet roll and refuse bags. For that reason, I'm going to be actively searching for recycled alternatives rather than buying something new, from glassware to clothes.
  9. Plastic. Less than fantastic: So I almost never accept a plastic carrier bag in the supermarket now, but I don't always think to do this in other shops (and I don't think I'm alone, judging by other people I see in queues). This year, I plan to significantly reduce the number of bags I accept in high-street shops.
  10. Wild about Britain: finally, in addition to spending lots of time in our garden, I want to get out and see more things in the countryside this year and maybe try some new outdoor activities... canoeing, anyone?!