Setting up New Plot in Walled Garden

When we moved here we looked at what was described as ‘the orchard’ and thought it would be ideal for some fruit trees and running some hens under. It didn’t seem very big so I thought it too small for a serious veg plot.

Overgrown Privet Hedge

Overgrown Privet Hedge to the side of the vegetable plot and friend with chain saw

The reason it didn’t seem big was that it was so overgrown. On the west and north there are stone walls with wire fencing to the other sides. The land slopes up to the east providing some shelter although the slope might make a bit of a frost pocket of the plot.

There had been a privet hedge to the south-east corner and some hawthorn to the south west but after 20(?) years they were very overgrown. The privet was well over 20 feet high and the hawthorn not far behind.

Near the north-east corner was a large ash tree which overhung the whole width of the garden so it appeared to be a small tunnel under the foliage. A friend with a chainsaw came over and took down the lot. The ash providing useful fuel for us, it really burns well even when fairly green being a low moisture content.

Vegetable Plot & Brushwood

Vegetable plot covered in brushwood from the privet

The whole garden was full of the brushwood and basically got left alone over winter. Come the spring, useful branches for the woodburner were taken out and the rest converted to potash on the bonfire.

Once cleared, it was obviously bigger than we’d thought and measuring it up I found it was 20.4M x 9.2M (187sq. M) which is about 7.5 poles or three quarters of a standard full allotment plot.

The next problem was that there was a lot of long grass, but not too many weeds. I was lucky enough to have an answer to that problem that most people won’t have. Sheep. With the brushwood gone the sheep were in and pretty soon the grass was munched down low.

The old gate to the field had fallen apart but a couple of hours work and some pallet wood had a replacement blocking access in short order. There’s a number of options for clearing a vegetable plot but I chose the easy one and sprayed off with Glyphosate. Left it alone to die off for a couple of weeks and then started to dig over.

Allotment Plot

The vegetable plot after rotavating with apple trees to rear

Well this is where things went a bit pear shaped. My neighbour told me he remembered digging it over in the past but it seems someone has dumped a lorry load of stones on the plot since then.

Ideally I would double dig it but after an afternoon of hard work had only managed a few square yards, the spade juddering to a halt as it hit stones only a few inches down. In the end I ran the Merry Tiller over it. The way the tiller blades go around just pulls up the stones rather than being stopped.

The main area being done, the plan is to attack the borders and sort the path out next but before that I want to go across the rotavated plot and remove as many of the stones as reasonable.

I tested a soil sample and it’s pretty acid (pH 5.5) so I’ll lime it after getting the stones out, rotavate again and then sow a green manure. Hopefully it’s going to be in good condition for the spring.

We’ve got some apple trees in there as well but they’re grown from pips and we’ve not had any fruit yet so probably best to grub them up and replace in a different position. I’ve also found a couple of rhubarbs which will need splitting come the winter.

Looking at the eastern side of the plot, where the land slopes up, I realised that it’s probably going to mean cold air will roll down forming a frost pocket so to reduce this I’m going to use windbreak netting fixed to the fence.


Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
5 comments on “Setting up New Plot in Walled Garden
  1. BobE says:

    Hi John, Obviously Im talking without seeing the actual area, but I remember reading about how highland farmers would build walls from the stones that they cleared from the land. So I wonder if you could start a wall along that eastern side. As you gather stones from around the farm, keep adding to the low wall. It might be possible to stop or reduce the cold air falling down the hillside.
    The new plot looks excellent and it must be nice to begin to see light at the end of the tunnel.
    Thanks for the diary pages.

  2. BobE says:

    John, whats the plan for the piece between your new plot and the house? It looks flat and clear from my angle.

    • John Harrison says:

      @BobE: Hi Bob – right next to the house will be the greenhouse and herb bed. Probably going to plant some soft fruit bushes as well.
      The next patch with the pig sty that backs onto the walled garden is far from flat in reality. Wondering about terracing it but one job at a time.
      Do actually feel we’re starting to get somewhere with things but there’s a few years work yet.. unless I win the lottery.

  3. Sarah says:

    How about planting something along the eastern side to act as a wind break.
    Some lovely coloured basketry willow might be good then you could sell it to local basket makers! (sadly I am not quite local enough!)

    • John Harrison says:

      @Sarah: Good idea but growing windbreaks take time so getting some net up is fast.
      Goat willow does well here but I’m not sure other sorts will – tough soil conditions to say the least.

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