Taming the veg and fruit garden!
We bought our current house in June 2008. In the winter of 2008 and early 2009 we made a herculean effort of clearing, burning and digging the sloping garden. We managed to grow some veggies that year which was a great success.
The rear garden is North East facing but because it rises up at the back it starts getting the sun over the house roof in the morning. Last year all the plants grew sideways laying along the ground and pointing South West!
The soil is very chalky and free draining. In some parts it has only about 12 inches of top soil covering a thick vein of chalk. Being on a hill the water flows into the topsoil then straight out at the bottom of the slope pretty much, so watering is a daily 3 hour trial when veggies are growing in full summer. This year I am trying raised beds in semi terraces -semi because at some point in piling up the earth for the beds my strength and back gives out and I decide to stop shovelling and just build the wall!! I had Simon scouring the area for bricks and anything else that might do for holding the soil back.
This year we won’t bother growing sweet corn again. I tried Mini Pop sweet corn last year. The plants grew to about 8 ft tall but all the cobs stayed rock hard and inedible. I didn’t get one worth using. Sugar snap peas failed to grow well although I sowed 2 packets in succession. I am trying again this year in a different spot with a lot of preparation and so far so good. Each pair of seedlings is now planted out under a mini cloche made of half a lemonade bottle. Hopefully I haven’t trapped any slugs inside! I’m also growing french bean Blue Lake again this year – a resounding success which gave us kilos and kilos of beautiful beans and a continous display of flowers all season. Butternut squash also did quite well although there were few fruits and a whole lot of leaf. That will be grown on the front garden’s garage roof in the sun this year for a better crop as I think the rear garden was too cool and shady for it.
I planted turnips, swede and curly kale during the autumn and planted them out to overwinter, but all these crops have failed. The turnips have all gone to seed without the roots swelling and the swede and kale have been eaten. So I shall plant something else in their spots this spring. There’s lots to choose from. Our windowsills are full of veg seedlings!
For the fruit beds a friend has given us some strawberry plants so I am hoping for one or two fruits but I’m not sure if they fruit in the first year. We have lots of wild strawberry plants around the garden and the flavour is incredible. This spring I have put in our first gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes in a moister spot near the base of the slope so hopefully they will do ok even though it is rather shady there. It’s a toss up between getting enough water and getting enough sun. Water won. If they don’t do well I shall just have to move them in a couple of years.
Last year we discovered a huge overgrown shrub with strange fruit in the garden. After research online we discovered it was probably a jostaberry, a cross between a gooseberry and blackcurrant. This gave us a reasonable crop last year and I made jam which was delicious. There are 2 rhubarb plants in the garden, one of which flowered with a massive flower spike last year. There is an overgrown raspberry patch that had a very long season and I ended up freezing lots of the fruit. We also have 5 small apple trees trained in a cordon and two stand alone larger apple trees.
I made a lot of jam and marmalade using apples as a base to use up some of the fruit. I hadn’t made jam before so it was a learning experience. Not all of them were a success! The most successful in flavour was the green tomato and apple jam – surprisingly similar to greengage. Also autumn spiced fruit jam was a good flavour (it used up everything I had left including rhubard) but I couldn’t get it set well so it ended up a bit runny.
Simon’s babies (his cacti and spiky plant collection) are in the greenhouse. He has had some of them 35 years! They flower every year for him. However this year yobs threw stones over the fence and smashed most of the greenhouse glass during March which was a bit early for exposing them to the weather. We tried to cover them with bubblewrap but the windy weather kept blowing it off so we may lose some of the most sensitive ones. Still, that means I might get some more space in there this year for my tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, sweet peppers and chillies…….;-))
- 27 Apr, 2010
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Next post: The second house and garden project.