Thursday, 31 March 2011

How I turned my friend's lawn into a vegetable garden Part Three

The plot is nearly complete!!
Along the back edge we decided to make a marrow/courgette heap. These Cucurbits love plenty of organic matter such as manure. Here I am copying what I used to do as a child on the farm, when I was able to grow massive marrows thanks to the unlimited supply of cow manure on site.
So here I first of all forked the soil over, removing any perennial weeds and turning other weeds back into the soil. I then made a big pile of the horse manure and covered this with plenty of soil.
This can be seen at the far end behind the rhubarb plant.
In due course, when all risk of frost is past, we will make pockets of soil in the top of the heap and sow the marrow and courgette seeds. It will be necessary to protect these from slugs as the seedlings show through. It may be easier to sow the seeds in pots indoors first, and plant them out when the plants have a few leaves and have been "hardened off" outside for a few days (this is the process of acclimatizing them to the outdoor temperature before planting).
The vegetable plot is nearly complete!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

How I turned my friend's lawn into a vegetable garden Part Two

 The next stage in this project was to put up the cane "wigwams" for the runner beans when they are eventually sown. (It is too early to sow these yet - in this part of the country we are far from clear of possible frosty nights, that would be fatal to young bean plants).

In the far right hand corner of the plot can be seen a rhubarb plant. This was kindly donated by a neighbor, and has been planted along with some of the fairly well rotted manure we gathered the day before - that is what is in the various sacks dotted around the lawn!

So the plot is really shaping up now. We have left the lavender plant in the bottom right hand corner. This will attract the bees, that will be good for ensuring pollination of the runner bean flowers. Without plenty of bees, the bean crop will fail - so I have also suggested that a sweet pea is planted at each wigwam. Not only will this be pretty and fragrant; again, it will encourage bees to the site. 

The next stage will be to decide what else will be planted and sown this year. 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Turning a lawn into a vegetable garden!

"I'd really love to be able to grow my own vegetables," she said. "OK", said I, and with hindsight somewhat rashly. "I'll come over next March and dig a vegetable patch in your lawn - you just show me where you want it, keep me fed and watered, and I'll do the rest."
(I would add that said friend cannot do much digging and bending - hence needing me for this heavy work). So last week there I was, looking at this large patch of grass and wondering where to start!!

First we brought out a compass and decided where the sun was going to rise and set in relation to our new plot. It is a good idea if possible to have the rows running North to South so that both sides get maximum benefit from the sun.
Having thus decided upon the best site for our vegetables, we marked out a rectangular plot running roughly West/East with canes laid upon the ground. Then I set to work.
My first joyful discovery was that the ground was beautifully light and sandy, making work very much easier. So I set to with a fork and spade and skimmed off the top layer of grass and moss and weeds. I stacked these turves upside down in an out of the way corner at the bottom of the garden, making a heap. Over the next few months this should rot down well and can be dug back into the plot perhaps as early as next year.
The downside of such sandy soil is that it will dry out very easily in summer, and is readily leached of nutrients. So before we did any more, we went out in search of horse manure. Fortunately my friend lives in a very "horsey" area, with plenty of riding stables, and it did not take us long to find one such establishment only too willing to let us take away as many sack loads as we could manage. And so we came back triumphantly with about sixteen sacks, some well rotted, some quite fresh.
And here you see the trench I then dug where we will sow the runner beans this year. This I filled with some of the fresh horse manure, and covered it with soil. The beans will love this - they are hungry for nutrients and the manure will also help hold moisture if we have a hot dry summer (wish!).

That was all an afternoon's work, and we felt well pleased with progress - but tomorrow will be another day.....