As most of you are aware, my professional gardener of choice, whose horticultural word I deem as law, is Monty Don. I base my decision on the many books of his I have read, the DVD of his visit and appraisal of Italian gardens, and the fact he is rather nice to look when he is presenting Gardeners' World and the Chelsea Flower Show season. And whilst I appreciate that Andy might not see Monty in the same aesthetically pleasing way that I do, I think he is happy to accept Monty's many years of gardening wisdom when we are making decisions about what to do with the garden here at Damson Cottage.
And so, armed with this...
...and a dodgy set of measurements taken yesterday when the weather wasn't quite so Arctic (heatwave? Ha!) we sat around the dining room table this morning planning the area of the garden that shall henceforth be known as 'The Fruit and Vegetable Garden.'
Of course, with several years of allotmenteering under our belts, we weren't heading into the planning completely blind. We were already thinking crop rotation, raised beds (proper ones, not just a skinny bit of wood pretending to be raised but having no more ability to keep the slugs at bay than a postage stamp), pathways, water supply and compost bins. However, having lived here for over two months now, we are aware that the wind is quite capable of whipping across the fields when it fancies making the top garden a bit on the gusty side, and so our priority as the planning committee assembled was to decide on a suitable barrier to enclose our chosen Fruit and Vegetable Garden site.
(I say 'committee' because Flora was helping too...
...and when I say 'helping', she wasn't really.)
The Fruit and Vegetable Garden will be approximately 16 metres by 12 metres. One side will be enclosed by the existing hedge, which is mostly hawthorn, with a bit of holly and a bit of beech thrown in for good measure. One side will be enclosed by the extended fruit cage (the existing cage to be dismantled in favour of our old allotment fruit cage) and the polytunnel. Andy has assembled the frame of the polytunnel. It is now lying on its side at the top of the garden spoiling the view of the beautiful lawn mowing I did on Friday. And this leaves two sides to be enclosed unless we decided to also put up 'something' beside the fruit cage/ polytunnel combo - the jury is still out on this.
But what to put up? Originally, we had thought we would delineate the F & G Garden using box hedging in a sort of fancy pants Tudor knot garden kind of way, but box does not do well itself in gusty conditions so would, ergo, be pretty pants at protecting our crops. Box is also relatively slow growing, and, since moving up here and becoming very aware that every day that passes is a day closer to death (or a day of additional wisdom, take your pick) and, therefore, decisions need to be made with efficiency and acted upon swiftly, we agreed we needed something that will achieve a goodly height in not too many years. Or at least before we become too old and doddery to actually manage fruit and vegetable growing in an efficient manner and curse the day we got a big garden! (Never!!)
The choices then? Fence, wall and hedge.
We discounted fencing immediately. Too much a reminder of the Maidstone garden, where fencing was a way to keep the neighbours at bay. Which then led me to a period of over-excitement when I went all 'walled garden' crazy. 'We could have a walled garden!' I said, excitedly thinking of all the walled gardens I've dribbled over at various National Trust houses. Yes! A walled garden...ah, just think! Great lengths of beautiful brickwork against which to grow peaches and apricots. Great swathes of gravel pathways to crunch the wheelbarrow along. Massive willow or hazelwood structures to grow beans and sweet peas up. A bench here and there, nestling against the warm walls, to sit upon after a hard day of digging and weeding and enjoy a cuppa and a nibble of fruit cake whilst watching the spaniels race up and down and in and out of the 12, nay 16 raised beds all billowing forth a bounty of vegetables and...'Oi!' said Andy. 'Stop with the walled garden imagining. A walled garden would be nice, but we have a quarter of an acre, not 5 acres.'
He was right, of course, his Lordship Malarkey. Sometimes he is, you know. So hedge it was, and is to be. I consulted Monty. 'Monty says hornbeam,' said I. Which was convenient as it grows quite quickly, and will also like our clay soil. We both like the look of hornbeam. According to Monty, hornbeam has the brighest of green leaves in the Springtime, and looking at it is dancing for the eyes. Or something like that. That'll be the first job for Autumn - planting the new hedge.
We shall also need to move the young fruit trees that are slap bang in the middle of the Fruit and Vegetable Garden plan. We tried to plan around them, but it just wasn't happening; by the time we'd allowed for pathways around them, our potential raised bed areas were compromised. There are 5 altogether - 2 apple, 1 pear, 1 plum and 1 indeterminate, but is possibly another plum, it just hasn't fruited this year. The Indeterminate might stay put. It is the tallest of the five and is about central to the plot, so could provide a nice focal point and be home to one of those circular 'round-the-trunk-of-a-tree' benches. The others will have to move outside of the V & G plan and be re-sited. Another job for Autumn. Or early Spring depending on what the weather gets up to.
I am also keen to get Project Permanent Chicken Home into operation as I'd like to get new hens installed before Winter. To maximise their space and minimise the area upon which they will encroach on the rest of the top garden, they will have an 'L' shaped enclosure in the top left hand corner. It's sheltered, they will have trees to grub about under, and we'll be able to rotate the ground they live on via a cunning combination of gates, thus avoiding a complete massacre of the grass. We just need to sort out extra or new housing as the Eglu can acccommodate only 4 hens and is starting to show its age, being almost 8 years old now.
Enough now, though! I'm off to knit some flowers to decorate a blanket I've just completed.
Rantings, ravings, observations and musings, useful stuff, silly stuff, funny, sad and thoughtful guff!