Spring is in the breeze. The world is slowly reawakening, that endless cycle pushing green buds from bare branches, sending sunlight to illuminate dark corners and warm our hearts.
Finally, we’re shaking off the cocoon of winter and feeling the pull to get out and about into the garden. We’ve been planning what to do with our garden on and off for the last 4 years. And something has finally shifted and suddenly, we actually started the project. I think it took us both a little by surprise…!
We’ve made do with one compost bin for many years, but it’s always brim full, and we’ve been really lax about turning the compost. Last year a family of rats moved in, and although they seem to have vacated now, the compost just isn’t, well, composting. I’m hold my hands up and admit full responsibility for this, having spent the last few years just throwing stuff in the top and crossing my fingers.
We really want to use as much reclaimed/free/thrift shopped stuff as possible for our garden project. In this vein, we decided on pallet compost bays. We managed to get some free half-pallets, which were the perfect size, and held them together with some salvaged wood which had been piled outside the shed for the last 6 months.
It’s not a thing of beauty but is basic, and exactly what I wanted. Bay 1 is filling up nicely now, far more accessible and having trimmed the overgrown hedge to fit the bays in, we’ve re-discovered the original view and have a lot more light!
Project Veg Patch
For the last few years we’ve been growing veg in a smaller patch underneath a huge holly tree, which isn’t ideal as I think the tree takes up most of the nutrients from around it, plus shades the ground from too much sunlight, save in the early evening.
We have an area of crazy paving outside the front of the house. We decided to remove this to make the space a lot more productive. Swapping stone slabs for abundant veg seemed a no-brainer!
Unfortunately, underneath the stone slabs was a cocktail of cement, shale, thick clay, all mixed with the odd brick or 7. It took a lot of effort to dig just a few feet of space, and with my glute injury slowing progress, we (read: Mr One Empty Shelf, whilst I supervised and made cups of tea) dug out as much as we could and left it for a few days.
Fortunately, rest and time heal all, and refreshed, we set out again with sharp spades and an air of determination. The plan was to lift the paving in its entirety, leaving a 25m square veg patch to grow to our heart’s content. Thankfully, the rest of the earth was easier to dig, with less bricks lurking and a lot less clay!
That was until we hit the road. Literally.
When we moved in, we inherited the original deeds, plans and documents for the house, dating back to the 1860’s. Unfortunately, we’d forgotten the existence of an old road that ran through the garden, now covered up. Until now.
It took an hour or two of hitting solid stone for us to remember that not only did there used to be a road, there still was a road and well, we’d found it! It didn’t take long to decide that there was no way we were digging up an entire historical road, and we figured that we could still grow enough on the plot we’d already dug. Mr One Empty Shelf edged the plot in wood we’d found underneath the shed when we moved it last year, leaving it looking very nice!
We also re-purposed a very, very old half barrel that was left over from an ex-clematis, to make a herb patch. I filled the bottom with rubble and topped this with 20cm or so of compost. I then placed old cobbles (found under an overgrown bush when we moved in) in the centre to create an extra layer. I’ve got herbs growing away in the greenhouse so hopefully they’ll be large enough soon to plant out!
I’d managed to find some fleece tunnels at work, a charity warehouse, for just a few pounds. Originally we’d planned for two, but with the new smaller space, we were down to one.
We used some of the crazy paving slabs to make stepping stones, and we were done for the day!
We’ve had problems in the past as, living next to a field, we get infinite weeds that have blown in on the wind or managed to nip over the walls. The weeds grow ferociously and are quite hard to keep on top of with limited time! We’ve left the back of the house mostly wild, leaving the grass to grow. I plan to keep a part of it a little shorter this year using our guinea pig lawnmowers, which will help create some great compost too!
I’ll leave you with a pic (complete with horizontal compost bin and half-finished pond area in the background – a story for another day) of what we have completed so far! The road is under the slabs to the left!
What are your plans for your garden this year? Any tips?