How the Kitchen Garden evolved … Part Two
Getting rid of the asbestos garages was the most worrying aspect of starting our project. Luckily we had some very helpful council advisers who pointed us in the right direction, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when all the asbestos, timber and metal were safely disposed of.
At the other side of our garages, facing the house, Erik had built a fabulous raised decking area some years ago which looked down our garden, and I had planted wisterias, clematis, roses, and a grape vine which in summer inter-twined around the decking pillars and roof struts.
We wanted to keep all of that, so Erik came up with the brilliant idea of turning what had been an area of about 7 foot of the garage area into fun but useful sheds. We decided to paint them up as beach huts, mine being Swedish blue and candy pink, Erik’s Provence blue and sunshine yellow. Even in the depth of a dark English winter, our shed’s bring a big smile to our faces.
Next, Erik and our trusted friend, John, worked out the tannalised timber and concrete posts needed for the fences and double gate, and the timber for the raised beds. They also decided to line the sides of the beds with strong builders’ polythene to protect it from water damage. I delved into all the articles I had torn out of Sunday supplements, thumbed through magazines, such as Grow Your Own and Kitchen Garden, and re-read for the hundreth time my favourite books to remind myself how to cope with raised beds on a concrete base, and realised that we needed a minimum of 18 inches (about 45cms)of soil on a thick base of hardcore, which aids drainage. Erik thought it a good idea to put a flat plank on the top, to act as a seat for when I was weeding or planting in the beds, and I’m so glad – often on a sunny day I will sit there and plough through my favourite gardening books to work out the next step.
We planned the majority of the planters to be 4ft x 8ft, but because of the constraints of the site also had one 6ft x 6ft, 6ft x 8ft and a big one 8ft x 8 ft. In retrospect, a 4ft wide planter is perfect to reach across to weed, plant and dig up without standing on the soil. If we did it again, whatever the length the width would be 4ft. As I am only 5ft 4inches, I cannot reach into the middle of the bigger beds, without sitting or standing on the soil, which in grower’s terms is an absolute sin! I say the odd ‘mea culpa’ whenever I flatten down the soil, and hope it forgives me.
My poor old greenhouse had been dragged from its previous position, and fitted with an electric cable for a fan heater and for (absolutely brilliant) heated mats, so that I could sow seeds in deepest January. The raised beds were filled first with the hardcore, then with a cocktail of top soil, farmhouse manure, our compost and some John Innes No 3. The hosepipe was extended from just outside our house, a length of about 120 feet, so that I could gradually saturate the very dry soil mix, and Erik fitted up 2 connecting enormous water butts, complete with a motorised pump, so that we could use a hosepipe when the butts were full. Ingenious or what!!
Did you notice our scarecrow, by the way? More about her in Part Three …