As the season is closing down, I’m starting to think about next year. Since we moved here I’ve been gradually getting things in order and increasing the growing space, so I think it’s time for a review of what we have available.
Helpfully, Mr Google’s satellite took a photo of us on 28th June 2018. It’s scary how much detail shows up – thank goodness I wasn’t sunbathing in the all together!
We’ve a lot of space here but not so much usable space for vegetable growing. Steeply sloping land isn’t much use for veggies unless terraced and that is very hard, heavy work. Beyond me.
Sloping land is fine for trees, I’ve a mini-orchard on the sloping land down to the walled vegetable garden. One day we might even get fruit if I can keep the blasted sheep out until the trees are grown larger. So it comes down to what we have that is fairly level.
The Field Plot
This is top left on the Google photo. It slopes fairly gently to where the raised beds end and then turns a bit steeper. You can make out the raised beds easily by the woodchip paths between them.
Right at the top of the field you can just make out the willows I’ve planted. I’m hoping they’ll take off this year and start to help breaking the wind. The trees on the right of the field, especially the Leylandii are already at a useful size.
Above and to the left of the raised bed area is the square comfrey plot. You can just about make out the 4 compost bins on the left below them.
There are presently 8 raised deep beds 1.2 M by 3 M (4 ft x 10 ft) with a similar sized low bed under a mini-tunnel that can be set up as a brassica tunnel. That’s 32.4 M2 of growing area. Plus an area I can easily bring into production for my narrow no-dig bed experiment.
A little down on the left is the large 16×8 shed. Further down, on the house side you can see the base where the greenhouse that blew down was. I’m thinking about getting another greenhouse for there but it will need to be a pretty strong one to cope with our winds.
The House Area
Adjacent to the house on the right I’ve my 14×10 Vitavia greenhouse and my 10×8 solar potting shed from Swallow. Behind is a grassed bank with a few so far unproductive fruit trees. The blackcurrants are in a row between the shed and greenhouse. There’s a small border at the back of the greenhouse where I planted a blackberry but it’s not been very happy. I might replace it with a more vigorous variety.
The Chicken Patch
To the right at the top is the chicken’s patch. You can make out the top of their secure run that helps shelter them in rough weather and provides bio-secure accommodation when there’s an avian flu alert. This was steeply sloping but has been terraced to provide a level area.
Below that is a two tier decorative border besides the path. Below the path is a small area with a couple of cherry trees yet to give any sign of fruiting. The redcurrants and jostaberry are there too and they do well. The shiny white square is the roof of the old pig-sty that we converted into a stone built store shed.
The Walled Vegetable Garden
The walled vegetable garden on the other side of the house is 20 M x 10 M (60 ft x 30 ft) but actual growing area is about that. I’ve 2 large beds giving giving just over 80 M2 of growing area plus a side border giving about 20 M2.
There are some hedges (useful windbreaks), a large tree-trunk left from when we felled the huge ash tree that overshadowed everything and an overgrown area still to sort that I’m told was a lean-to greenhouse many years ago. That’s got a totally unproductive apple tree, some saplings, brambles and lots of bits of slate. It could make a good area to grow a fan-trained cherry. To the side is large fuschia that I’d like to keep.
There’s also a fixed path that runs up the plot to the polytunnel which gives strip to one side between 1.5 M and 2 M wide. It’s raised in part as the orchard to be slopes down to the vegetable area. On the open to the sea facing side (base in the photo) is the long tall wall, near 2 M (6 ft) high and growing right by the wall is difficult due to shading and large rocks at the base.
Moving the Compost Bins
The compost heaps are currently in the centre of the plot, up against the tall wall. This is logical in terms of access but in hindsight I’m using prime space I would be better growing on. If I moved the bins to the L shaped hedge area it would free up 6.0 M2 of good growing space at the expense of some poor growing space shaded by the hedge. The pallets the heap’s constructed from are at the end of their life anyway, so rebuilding in a new spot is probably less work
When we moved here the walled vegetable garden was totally overgrown. The large ash tree overhung half the plot and the privet hedge was around 8 M (26 ft) high! It’s a helpful windbreak but 2 M (6 ft) is high enough, thank you. It’s only now I’m really getting to grips with it.
Drawing it up on a plan has been a big help. Perhaps just the way my brain works, but on paper things do become clearer to me.
In total that gives me 132 M2 of outdoor growing land, about 157 square yards or just over 5 poles. That’s only about half of a standard 10 rod allotment but with the comfrey plot and composting areas in addition.
Finally on the far right is the large 16 x 24 polytunnel I got from First Tunnels It makes a huge difference to my growing. The only problem working in there when it is raining is the noise of it pattering on the skin.
By the time I’ve taken the paths out, this provides nearly 24 M2 of growing space. Initially I was going to have a crossover path in the centre bed but decided against it in the end. I’ve also found the hanging baskets provide masses of strawberries without using the land below.
It’s great when a plan comes together and your basic plan seems to be doing just that and as you say the wind breaks consisting of willows and leylandii I presume you get very strong winds coming off the sea. Are salty conditions a problem? I suppose it depends how far you are from the sea.
Your soil looks black and probably cultivates quite well, although having spent many years down West Wales if I remember the soil where we were had many pieces of slate to remove when sowing, sometimes a real pain but it was good growing land and there was plenty of cattle dung to be had.
Well plans have had to alter from the original – but things are coming together now. The winds tend to be worst from the south west rather than directly in from the sea.
We’re 3 miles inland and 200 metres above sea level so salt isn’t a problem, thankfully.
The underlying soil is thin, very stony and lacking in nutrients and organic matter. What you’re seeing in the photos of the walled veg garden is the layer of windrow compost I bought in the beginning of October: Compost Mountain Arrives!
Enjoyed the mail,always do!
Getting ‘brass monkey’ weather up here in Durham – all tools cleaned up and locked in shed.
Now to find that bottle of single malt!
its not that warm down south a bit brass monkey damp and cold but no snow yet with all the tools cleaned and locked away in the shed that is it till spring.
That single malt should warm you up. Have one for me but remember to save a wee dram for Christmas
cheers Dave have a good Christmas
For a strong greenhouse I would really recommend a Rhino greenhouse from greenhouses direct. They are very strong and have a 25 year guarantee, or did when we bought ours. Not cheap but probably worth it. Weve had ours (12×14) a few years now. Everyone we spoke to on the phone was very helpful. We live in the Conwy Valley and get very strong winds too although the greenhouse itself is probably in a relatively sheltered position
Thanks Louise – appreciate the recommendation