Despite the incredibly slow start to spring that we’ve had this year (it’s May people!) gardening season is very much upon us. This year our garden is very much our preoccupation, we’ve been talking about it all winter long and now the season is finally here we are keen to get going.
During our winter deliberations we laid out the priorities for the farm and for our family for the growing season. We have an ever increasing number of animals that take up a lot of our time and resources, but neither of us felt that we’d really got a handle on how the garden was going to work. The first year we lived here we put in some seeds and were lucky enough to get some lovely crops. Despite the drought it was a bumper year for tomatoes and salads and we felt that we’d done well.
Last year, however, was a washout, literally and figuratively. The constant and pounding rain washed away seeds, rotted potatoes and drained away the last of the life in the soil. The mud was sodden under our feet and with early frosts and some late season blight carrying away a good part of our tomato crop, it was not a successful year.
This year we have several (and may I say cunning) plans afoot with regards to the garden. Firstly we will be building the first several in a series of raised beds, these will make it easier to garden earlier in the season, will lift plants out of wet ground and will give us the chance to use row covers to create early and late season plants. Secondly, we will be bringing in a few tonnes of soil to fill the beds with. The soil on our land is a mix of clay and loam and has never had any improvements added, it really needs some tlc if we are to expect any nice produce at all. We will begin with fresh compost and will continue next year adding our own rotted cow muck. It takes about 18 months to 2 years for much to rot down enough to plant straight into, so next year we’ll be using the deep piles of poop from this long winter. It’s nice to think we’ll be able to provide our own soil as well as our own meat, milk and veg from our wonderful cows.
Thirdly we’ll be using our polytunnel to bring on seeds and transplants, making it much more likely that our crops will do well outside. We’ll be able to bring things on more quickly and ready an autumnal crop while the summer garden is still in full bloom. I really would like to have plants providing at least some of our food from June to November, not including the preserved foods which will last us right into winter. And fourth (but not least) we are bringing in perennial plants that will continue to grow and provide for many years to come. As well as fruit trees (cherry, pear, elderberry and apple) we have fruit bushes that should begin cropping next year. Though I love going to local pick-your-own’s during the summer months there are fruits such as blackcurrant, blackberry and gooseberry that no one grows in quantity in this area. I’m very much looking forward to making a wide selection of jams and conserves in future years!
With all that in mind we’ve begun our seeds indoors, placed by one of our big, south facing windows they’ve fairly shot out of the earth. With the help of my trusty gardening assistant (see above) I’ll be potting on tomatoes today and through the weekend and hope to begin hardening them off soon for a late May/early June planting. We’ve also started peas, beans, leeks and onions. Once the seedlings are potted on, I’ll be planting our indeterminate varieties of tomatoes (I have a bit of a tomato fetish) and some herbs that will be the beginning of an extensive herb garden.
Though each weekend always brings more work than it does hours or energy, we hope to do a bit of a clear out on the polytunnel so that we can begin using it in earnest. I have plans for pots of zucchini and pumpkin as well as some direct sow peas and beans (as well as the transplants that have done so well indoors, in addition to salads and spinach of course. Once the outside beds are in we can begin sowing in earnest and hopefully soon enjoy the green and tasty fruits of our labours. I literally cannot wait, but wait I shall.
So there you go, plans of such ambition and scale that the mind boggles at how we might possibly achieve it all, but with a steady pace and mud firmly packed under our finger nails I believe that we will. Wish us luck my friends, and if you feel like doing a spot of weeding please feel free to drop by. Anytime. Seriously.