Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Re-thinking the veg garden.

When we first moved into this cottage three years ago there was no garden and no evidence of there ever having been one. We had two one acre fields both surrounded by low well maintained mixed hedges and a couple of very old and mature beech trees, a couple of ash trees and some sycamore trees. Although surrounded on three sides by forestry we had no idea just how windy the area was. This we discovered in the first month that we were here so we planted a new hedge half way down in what was destined to be the production area, the new hedge itself had to be protected by wind break fencing. We had planned how the veg garden was to be set up, but as they say, 'The best laid plans'.
We have always gone for the raised bed system for ourselves, but not  when we were growing a commercial crop. Although it takes time to make raised beds it does cut down on the work once installed providing they are in the right place to start with and the right distance from each other which we have now decided ours are not. A couple of the existing beds will remain, the strawberries and the Asparagus, but the new beds will be at the start of the veg garden in the area where we had grown the potatoes this year, the timber from the old beds will get re-used for the new beds, the beds will be six inches narrower, Simon is tall and can reach to the centre of the existing beds, I cant, the pathways will be wider and the beds increased in height by nine inches, I will be able to weed sitting down on my gardening stool, hopefully no more back pain,  we will be able to get a wheel barrow down the pathways rather than lugging heavy buckets full of weeds and spent plants destined for the compost heaps. Quite where all the soil and compost is coming from to fill the new beds has yet to be worked out, we are nearly out of garden compost, just enough left to mulch around the Rhubarb plants and top dress the Asparagus. We never seem to have enough compost, hence the visits to the mushroom farm. We do have hen manure and the donkey manure, but none from the pigs as they were free range and pigs don't mess in their houses. If our maths are correct we require ten cu m of soil and compost for the seven raised beds which is a lot! Each bed is eight foot long, eighteen inches deep and three and a half foot wide. We can relocated some soil from the old beds, although that's a hell of a lot of shifting.
Not bad value, they will need a coat of stain.
 We are using old scaffold boards to make the beds, they are still fairly cheap at four euros for eight foot lengths and there is a supplier not too far away. I think we might be rather busy over the next few months, shame we hadn't planned the garden better, but we didn't count on getting older.
There are many reasons for using raised beds.
They are easy to work out for crop rotation.
Once installed correctly they truly are a no dig system, just mulch each year with compost or manure and the worms do the rest.
They are much easier to work as you get older and much easier on the back.
You are concentrating your soil fertility where it's needed, not on walk ways.
It is far easier to pick off the slugs from a confined raised area and slug barriers are easier to put in place.
The are also easier to put cloches over that don't blow away.
There are probably some reasons against them but we cant come up with any cons. 
Felix testing our the roof of the dome.
The first of the hens willow domes has now been tamed and the heavy braches coppiced for firewood, this years new growth has been re-woven, they are strong structures, the cats thought it was great fun to run up the sides and sit on top, just where we were trying to weave the roof.
Woven and tied it looks neat now.
The hens love them and used them to shelter when it was hot as well as sheltering in them from the wind, hens do not like wind.  The willow arches have already been tamed.
Tomatoes are  still ripening in the tunnel and the calabrese is doing well.
I have finished planting up all the winter planters so we have colour all through the winter months, they look very pretty.
 One surprise flower, the  Kaffir lily has suddenly burst into bloom, I had forgotten that I had planted it, it was one of the  plants that we had  from the plant swap earlier in the year, it has lots of spikes on it and hopefully we will not have any early frosts so we should have a bit of colour in the garden for a little while longer.
 Also now showing lovely colour are the Red oaks, we had brought six of these from Spain with us as they are so cheap there; now establish they are six feet tall, they can grow to seventy feet so a long way to go yet.
The Green Tomato Chutney has now been made, I decided that I would spice it up a bit with a couple of chillies, so it is sweet and spicy, ideal to use as a cook in sauce for pork or chicken.
                             Felix had the wind in his tail and tied himself up in the Russian Vine.
Anemones giving a splash of colour.


  1. I think most gardeners suffer from back problems, I do. I would like to build a raised bed high enough so we don't need to bend down to the ground. We grew some Parsnips in a ride on mower grass collecting boxes (like bins) in sand and compost, in the poly-tunnel this year They are enormous. Look forward to watching your progress on your veg garden.

    1. One of our friends has her raised beds at waist height built from building blocks but they have a problem with soil fertility and can never get enough compost. I love their garden even though it's very formal not normally my thing, it is easy to work.

    2. I always feel sad when I see an overgrown allotment or vegetable garden. Especially when the owner gave up because they can't dig it any more. Raised beds made with building blocks are very useful for elderly and people with physical problems. I grow some vegetables in old plastic baths drilled with drainage holes and filled with compost and soil. It's good to sit on the rim when weeding them.

    3. Excellent idea Dave they would be especially good for carrots, above the height that carrot root fly flies at. Herbs would be good in them as well. We will be at 18inch with the new beds, next year maybe another board, would love to think that we will still be gardening in our eighties as Simons mum was but she was fitter then than we are now, she lived to be 99.

  2. OK, new follower from Oz (Melbourne, Australia). Ive spent a lovely evening starting at the beginning (2011 Spain) and now having reached mid 2013. I work full time and must go to bed but i will keep going tomorrow until im up to date. I've had to research a few things as i had no idea what corppicing is and it certainly is a great way to ensure a constant supply of wood. I know that sounds dumb but ive never left Aust and my knowledge is derived from River Cottage and Escape to the Country etc. I have thoroughly enjoyed your little trips around Ireland and since i am a lover of Irish writers (Cathy Kelly is my favorite) i found the images easy to recall. You two are amazing. You have achieved so much in such a short time and it has all been so well planned and executed. I also have raised beds (of iron, which i made) and they are either 45cm high or 90cm high. So much soil !!!! I wouldnt however go back to ground gardening. So much easier to garden standing up and to keep and eye on all that is going on. I made the mistake of making a couple of beds too wide but i did make the paths wide enough for a wheel barrow. Phew!!! I grew up on a self sustainable farm and so have a firm foundation in all that you are doing. I do however, live in the suburbs of a city of 3 million. I ripped up the grass to plant my veggie garden and will soon be espaliering fruit along the fences. I would love to have more land but i will continue to live vicariously through my many blogging friends and enjoy their achievement and some times disappointments. Looking forward to coming up to date and future posts.

    Lynda D - Living In The Land of Oz.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments, I hope you enjoy the blog. I love espaliered fruit trees they always look so good, we had no fences to do it here and we get very strong winds so just using wire was not an option.
      Maybe you should start a blog as inspiration to other people who live in towns to show what can be grown in small spaces. Vertical gardening is always an option if you have little land but you are fenced. Blogging also helps you to keep focused on what you are trying to achieve and to compare what you have done or grown year to year.
      It would seem that people who have little land are the very ones who want to grow, in this area everyone has land, yet between us and our nearest town 6k away there is only one other veg garden.

  3. I do write a blog and my focus in on my garden, though my family bits and pieces sneak in. Im also very interested in self sustainability and so will feature things like (most recently) wind turbines for the home. Wind is certainly something you have a lot of and in conjunction with solar would give 24 hr year round coverage.



    Gosh if i had more land i would do exactly as you have done. If i ever won tattslotto then i would return to the land.


  4. Thanks for that Linda, I have had a quick look at your blog, very interesting about the wind turbines, I will have to look them up tomorrow to see what kva they are. We are very interested in producing our own electricity again, I favour solar, yes even in Ireland, maybe because we have had it before, Simon is interested in wind.
    Once again, thanks for the link.