Thursday, 21 August 2008

Some progress, some problems

This growing year has been a short one for us. We built the raised beds in the garden in May, on several hot, sunny days, shovelling soil for hours. Plants were grown from seed, bartered for with friends and relatives, and bought from a local nursery. By the middle of June, the first four beds were full, and the brassicas were carefully netted against the marauding cabbage white butterfly. Eventually, two further beds were constructed and we have a total of six, in a good position in the middle of the garden so they are in the sun for most of the day. The soil is thin, though and does not seem to hold moisture very well, so they need to be watered on dry days, although there haven't been too many of those this summer!

The best crops for us this summer have been courgettes, dwarf beans, peas, and mixed salad leaves. The brassicas were a complete disaster - the nets were touching the leaves so the butterflies were able to land and lay eggs, which then hatched into a vast, hungry army of caterpillars. They pretty swiftly munched their way through cabbages, cauliflower plants, calabrese, etc and the lot have been left as spiny plants with no leaves. They have had to be pulled up, needless to say. Tomatoes have grown well in troughs in a sheltered position, and we are already planning to grow more next year.

Next year, we need to make preparations for successive plantings after the first crop has been lifted - we haven't planned far enough this year and now we have areas lying empty.

One of the beds should end up holding soft fruit next year - we are hoping for strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries. The latter will be for jam-making and the others for eating fresh and for freezing. Two generations ago, my family never ate bananas or oranges, which I found strange, but now I understand - they had a very productive garden where they grew soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants) and tree fruit (apples, pears, plums) and so with careful preservation, they had their own fruits available to eat in one form or another all year round. This is a plan that I am hoping to get some way towards.

Enough about the garden. Tomorrow I will talk about the chickens and the rabbits.

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