New no-dig plot

Lawn is, essentially, a pain. It’s more work, it needs to be fed and watered regularly in summer to look half decent (ie unsustainable, bad for the environment), and needs mowing on a regular basis too. To me, that’s just unnecessary extra work with no real benefits for me or for wildlife.

While I’m happy for Rich to take care of the lawn on the “flower” side of our Smallest Smallholding, on the veg side the super-poor soil under the lawn means that weeds rather than grass tend to thrive. There are ants nest aplenty, and mowing it regularly is arduous. It’s essentially unproductive land that could be doing so much more.

(Its only saving grace is the fact that we have a LOT of clover, and the bees love clover flowers. So we let big patches grow and do a sort of mowing rotation system so that there’s always an abundance of fresh clover available for them.)

How to make no-dig plot

Laying out the no-dig plot

Given that I am always struggling for space, it seemed such a simple solution to just reduce the amount of lawn and increase the amount of available veg bed space. In the past we’ve opted for traditional wooden boards to line our veg plots, but with my new-found fondness for no-dig vegetable growing, it’s just a case of compost/manure dump and go.

I’ve outlined where the new plot will go and put down some compost I had to start to suppress the grass. We’re off to a local stable to collect some fresh horse poo and hopefully by late Autumn we can start winter planting. I’ll keep you posted with some “how to advice” if  you’d like to give no-dig beds a go. In the meantime, check out Charles Dowding’s No Dig approach on YouTube.

Keeping Busy

Rondo Pea Pods

Rondo Pea Pods

I haven’t wanted to post in a while simply because I’ve been dealing with grief and getting on with life without Mindu. I miss my little girl every day. I’m seeming better and happier on the outside, but deep down I’m still so sad. It’ll just take time, I guess.

Keeping busy has helped me just get on. Luckily my no-dig plots are doing fantastically well compared to what I’ve achieved in recent years, so there’s always been something to do and lots of tasks to catch up on. The sweet peas are out now, and I’ve been harvesting my Rondo peas for the last week or so. The fresh pods are fat and long, and the peas inside are so fresh and sweet that they can be eaten raw, or blanched within seconds.

Rondo Peas

Rondo Peas ready for harvesting

The Cristo garlic was a bit of a letdown this year again. I have a feeling that they went in too late and a lack of any real cold spell meant that quite a few of the bulbs didn’t split. It doesn’t matter, I still use garlic in abundance but I was just hoping for a bigger, better yield. There’s always next year though. That’s the beauty of growing your own. Another chance, another crack at it. Always learning.

This year has also been the first year that I’ve grown shallots. They’re so much smaller than I hoped so I might have to do a bit more research next year before planting them in. The Hercules and Red Baron onions, on the other hand, have loved the hot weather and (very) intermittent showers so I’ve had my best crop in YEARS.

I’m pretty sure it’s all down to my new no-dig approach.

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Seedlings aplenty

purple tulip

Spring has well and truly sprung and the days are so much longer, meaning we’ve been spending more and more time outside and getting ahead before everything explodes into life. The recent bout of unseasonably warm weather has accelerated us out of the arctic-tinged days of early spring and right into the belly of the season that kick starts the growing year.

In the past few years I’ve been making a concerted effort to fill our borders with plants for every season, and this year we’ve enjoyed even more daffodils, hellebores and the most sumptuously jewel-coloured tulips in the borders. It’s a kind of therapy that has lifted me out of my winter-induced slump – the colour, the scents and the warmth gradually weaving threads of joy through my veins.  Already the alliums are shooting up and in a month or so we’ll be getting ready for the stunning display of purple sensation that should complement the bees’ favourite, Himalayan crane’s bill along with the round-headed allium sphaerocephalon.

Cristo garlic

Usually at this time of year I’m lamenting about how far behind I am with the planting, but even despite Spring’s early surge, I’m keeping up. I have really high hopes for this year. Really high hopes. The onions are already in and looking strong and healthy, the shallots are in and looking promising. We’ve got parsnips on the go, and in the greenhouse – which was completely out of commission last year – is crammed with seed trays and pots.

Each morning, as the sun swings round from the east, higher into the sky and bathing the garden in a watery light, I take a trip down to the greenhouse to see what’s unfolding. The day to day progress of my little seedlings is astounding. In the course of one day I’ve seen squash and courgette plants almost literally burst into life, casting aside the hard cases of the seeds as the thick, sturdy seedling leaves push through the soil. They’re now growing and growing into strong plants and I’m actually where I should be in the growing season.

Rondo peas

Seeing my greenhouse and veg plots come to life after a quiet winter… well, there’s a certain special kind of satisfaction in that, isn’t there? The next job is to get the polytunnel up this summer. We will get there!