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. ūüôā

Weekend workout

Here’s our nuthatch, who regularly feeds on our nuts and fat. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

What an active weekend we had. But the work took us a little longer than we thought it would.

We headed over to the other house¬†but had to go out again to get longer ladders. We had steps with us, but we’d forgotten how much higher the ceilings are in that old Edwardian building than in this Stuart building or the last more modern house. (I thought this current house we’re in was Jacobean but it seems it’s actually from the Caroline era … I’ve never even heard of that one.) We also picked up dustbin liners and some provisions.

Back at the old house we spent the best part of the day emptying the loft, transferring everything to the main bedroom, and identifying what was going with us and what was going straight to the tip. The stuff that was going with us still needed sorting, but there are financial and business records in there dating back to 1985 that need burning.

With no more time or energy to do anything other than that, we came back home with a view to having baths and showers Рwe were very dirty after crawling around the loft and lugging boxes and rubbish around Рa nice tea, and then going out to see friends of ours in their ska covers band. By 8pm, though, we were still dirty, hungry and tired, so we decided to stay in and watch telly.

Sunday morning we were back. First of all we sorted out the garage here, which is still filled with boxes we haven’t gone through yet. We ended up with a full carload for the tip just from here. So we went back to the other house via the tip. When we got to the house we managed to get all the stuff we were keeping into the car first, and we managed to get all of the stuff going to the tip into the car too.

Then we took meter readings, checked everywhere was empty, grabbed a shelf unit we’d forgotten, for the garage, turned off the gas and electricity, left keys and paperwork, and headed home via the tip¬†again. We have one set of keys left, which we’ll be getting to the estate agent Friday midday, in time for a 2pm completion. We have snow forecast later this week. I’m hoping this doesn’t hold anything up.

On the way home we also treated ourselves to a nice lunch, went to the pet shop to get the dog a new basket and some toothpaste, and nipped next door to the home bargains shop to get an incinerator. Then, when we got home, we emptied what was left in the car and put it all in the garage. A lot of stuff went to the tip this weekend, and we can now access pretty much everything still in the garage. We both went out to see if we could find something last night, and we both put our hands on what we wanted straight away. That feels so good.

The poet’s arms and shoulders are killing him as he did most of the lifting down from the loft and then down the narrow, steep stairs. We’re both quite achey and we’re both quite physically weary. But¬†it’s another massive job ticked off the list, and a cracking weekend workout.

This week he’s working between Barnsley and Manchester – Manchester today. He’s going to get some new front tyres on his car because the journey over the Pennines in this current weather can be quite scary and we know the tyres are close to illegal. We don’t want to spend a lot, though, as the car’s due to be chopped in next month or the month after. But he still needs to be safe. And legal. Next week, weather permitting, my car goes in for its first service since I left Corus/Tata. The poor thing will feel like it’s having a birthday and will probably faint with shock.

I didn’t get any work done at the weekend, and I didn’t finish what I wanted to on Friday. So today I’m doing those electronic edits. I was going to take some time out to make some crusty bread rolls, but the poet put the bread machine on this morning before he went to work so I’ll probably make some later on in the week. That means I should also get some writing or editing of my own done too.

The week hasn’t been planned yet – shock, horror – but I know I have 2 more books in to start editing, I have a book of my own to continue editing, I have a new book to continue writing, and I have short writing work to get cracking with.

The poet didn’t get much chance to practise with his camera at the weekend, so the nuthatch above is the one I promised you last week. As you can see, this is already better than Friday’s blue tits.

What’s in your WIP this week?