A race through time

Welcome and brace yourselves – this is going to be race through about nine years to set the scene for things to come.

The first thing I grew myself were Tomatoes and this started in 2008/9 (from what I can find through older pictures). This came about after a conversation with my dad, who said that he was giving up on tomatoes, as he was not getting enough back from what he grew. Apparently I decided this is something that I could improve upon and took up the task. It did not change much (maybe a few peppers and odd things) for about four years and I also dabbled with growing onions, garlic and a few salad leaves with limited success.

This changed, slowly at first, in 2012 when I bought my own home and inherited an overgrown jungle with massive potential. I should quickly explain at this point that the garden is on the north side of a low hill/mound and slopes a good foot in its 30 foot width. It adds some complications like full sun through summer but in the winter I get a bit less sun than average due to the slope and neighbours sheds etc. This is something that primarily affects the flowerbeds and will be a continuing challenge to balance.

Job one (as we all know) was clearing the decks. This involved repositioning two greenhouses already on site, bringing in my own polytunnel and removing a completely run down fruit cage (called this as a courtesy only!). There were also three sheds in need of work (which happened later) and an old pigsty styled block shed which was taken down. The blocks from this were re-used later as path edging in some places. During this phase I was introduced to the plant of nightmares – Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) although that realisation came later.

With a clear deck the digging started – lots of grass and general weeds to remove so this was a tough slog and the first strip about 1m x 7m took a day. The first year only saw about half the eventual main plot ready and in use, but it was the start of bigger things. The polytunnel played host (as it always had) to Tomatoes – filled with 20+ plants most years. The larger greenhouse started off largely with Chilli’s and Peppers as well as being used to start off some veg from seed before planting out. While the smaller greenhouse is still my shamefully dirty potting space – a project for the future in waiting. The veg patch is now in its fourth year and has seen several varieties – carrots, potatoes, beans, peas, asparagus, beetroot to name a few.

Initially the space that is now occupied by my flowerbeds and small pond was just grass, that only lasted about a year.

So in 2014 I started to cut out the beds and think about what to plant – as simple and random as ‘Oh I like that plant’ and in it went. Having never grown flowers before I suppose this is a common approach and it has at least allowed me to gain some knowledge of what will and will not grow well in my space. Luckily a few that I now call favourites do well; like geranium, sedum, salvia and echinacea.

In 2015 I made my pond with wildlife in mind, so sloped sides and a couple of shallow ledges. I have a slug problem most years so was also hoping to find some willing predators; which arrived in the form of newts. These bred successfully in 2016 and I hope for the same this year. There has also been plenty of other wildlife visit in the two years since it was dug – water boatman, pond skaters, various dragon fly and water beetles. The planting surrounding the pond is not doing so well and is another smaller project in the pipeline.

We are just about up to date now with this crash course in what I have done over the last four and a bit years. There have been several other things happen including the starting of a small orchard, a chicken run and a mild obsession in capturing rain water brought about by the drier weather and sandy soil.

Getting onto Twitter has opened my eyes beyond my own garden and spurred on my gardening drive to new levels. The variety you see from people on Twitter, and through the various blogs, show the interesting ways that various tasks are approached and is inspiring. Couple that with some recent garden visits and my garden fixation has been well and truly boosted; I am definitely ready to move on to new and greater things in my own space. These are the things to come with a couple of big plans I hope to implement over winter and will be no doubt the subject of subsequent blogs.

Hope you enjoyed the history lesson & hope to see you next time.

Steve

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