… at last!
Being such a fair weather gardener when off duty, my own garden tends to be a whole lot more messy than the garden at the Towers. In fact as I completely over stretched myself when we first moved in, the back garden has now been divided into sections. Once we’ve got the kitchen garden section near the house into shape, I’ll move onto the ornamental borders and until the kitchen garden is in order I’m afraid the rest will just have to make do with being mowed now and again. I have definitely learnt the lesson that my own garden is for fun; somewhere to enjoy chilling out, having a beer in summer, harvesting some tasty bits, sunbathing, reading a book, growing something odd because I want to, throwing the colour association manuals out of the window in favour of a riot of colour and developing a blind spot as regards weeds. It should not be Job #2.
I admire Christopher Lloyd no end but he was of the opinion that low maintenance gardening is for people who really can’t be bothered. Well, it’s all very well to say that when you’ve got an army of people willing to sell their souls just to weed your garden, but us mere mortals have to squeeze our own gardens in around our lives so our little veg patch has gone low-maintenance:
The raised beds aren’t particularly necessary on our light soil but they make things nice and neat and delineate the paths. I cover the soil with weed suppressing fabric (not polythene – the fabric lets air and water through) whenever the soil is not in use. The cane and net cages prevent the cats from wreaking havoc and I intend to leave them in place, as far as possible, all year round with the possible exception of winter when the fabric will keep the cats off anyway. Of course there will have to be some wrangling when the tall plants come up. We shall see how it works.
We really have limited space with three 4’x6′ beds and so I’ll be experimenting with catch-cropping and other space saving methods. As an experiment I scattered spring onion seeds among the onion sets I planted today; they should be harvested before the onions get to any size. This was inspired by an American friend who scatters carrot and radish seed among his onions. He then gets radishes first, followed by baby carrots and finally the onions from one patch of soil. Of course it’s still far too early for carrot and radish seed here, hence the winter hardy spring onions.
Taking the low maintenance theme a little further I’m considering automatic watering systems and using grass clippings as a water retaining mulch in the summer. The latter could be a problem because using fresh plant material in mulch causes nitrogen levels in the soil to drop as it gets used in the first stages of decomposition. I’ve tried it before and results were positive, so I’ll give it another try and keep a sharp eye out for problems.