Kitchen garden: Umming and ahhing (list alert)

Our back garden from halfway down the garden (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

One of the new regular features in Baggins Bottom will be our new kitchen garden, which we’re starting from scratch.

This picture was taken from about halfway down the garden and I think there’s a lot of wasted space there. (There’s even more grass behind this picture, about the same distance again to the fence.)

The houses (you can see 2 of them in this picture, but there are 5 here and another across the courtyard) are 17th century. They’re not quite Jacobean, as they were built in 1629, 4 years after that period. I think they’re classed as Carolean, which is also referred to as Caroline – I think. The manor house (the one across the courtyard) might be a little older.

So while “Elizabethan knot garden” screams at me, it’s actually miles too late for that period. But I think that Carolean/Caroline gardens are far too grand. And while the “potager” garden is probably perfect, I don’t believe that’s strictly historically accurate either, and it’s French – but I think it’s what we’re going for.

Now then, I’m a bit loathe to spend a lot of money on this plot of land as it’s unlikely to be our “forever” home. Or, then again, it could be. Who knows? So one of our quandaries at the moment is how much to spend and how permanent to make the features.

The garden is very, very wet too. You can see it’s on a slope and it’s part of a larger hill. So all the water runs down through the land, making it very boggy at this time of year. Next door have had lots of sophisticated drainage put in, but we don’t want to spend that kind of money.

Here, then, are some of the decisions we need to make:

  1. Because of the drainage, or lack thereof, we’re going to build raised beds. But do we make them regimental? Or do we put them on the diagonal? Or do we make an architectural pattern of them? Or do we make one big one …?
  2. For crop rotation, we need at least 3 raised beds. But I have a hankering for 4 … for some reason (OCD?). The raised beds will be one of the poet’s many projects. If we don’t go for raised beds for the moment, we might consider a series of pots, barrels and herb wheels on the patio instead …
  3. We need to move that washing line as it blocks our view from the living room window. I don’t like rotary washing lines, I’ve always preferred a long line, but I like a path for the line to follow, so I can hang out and fetch in washing without my feet getting muddy. But the garden is 100 feet long, and a path will not only slice it in 2 but also cost a lot of money. Opposite the kitchen window might be the ideal place for another rotary line, one we can bring in when not in use (this one doesn’t fold down). But we might have other plans for that area …
  4. To greenhouse or not to greenhouse? There’s an ideal spot for one, opposite the kitchen window, in the top right-hand corner of the “lawn” (I use the term loosely, it’s actually “grass”). But we need to build up the floor so it’s level with the patio, and that means shuttering and concreting … and that means more money. If we don’t go for a greenhouse, we can put a temporary part-greenhouse against the wall …

And something else for us to consider is that this is a grade II listed building, so we have to be careful what we do on the outside. The patio is crumbling, so if we put up a retaining wall, it has to be “in keeping”, and anyway, we’d prefer to do that in any case.

So we have lots of things to consider, and we need to get started this month. We’ve started by taking the “before” pictures, we’ve measured the garden, and we have a pad of graph paper so we can start drawing and playing with (loose) plans. The next step is to make some of those decisions.

Product tests: As we find our way around we’ll be using all sorts of equipment, so watch out for product tests and reviews too. And if you have something you’d like us to test, use the contact form to get in touch.

Wish us luck. 🙂