I love ‘The Good Life’. I continue to watch the odd episode on BBC Gold whenever I feel the need for a quick hit! Like many Middle Englanders who don’t read the Daily Mail, I also aspire in my everyday living to some kind of ‘Good Life for cowards not willing to give up their paycheck’.
The Good Life for Middle Englanders
In 2008 I caved into the pressure from Jamie Oliver’s food revolution, Johnny’s Farm, River Cottage and other similar bastions of ‘living it healthy’. My response was to turn our little suburban back garden – previously a classic square of lawn surrounded by strips of flowerbeds – into a raised-bed vegetable plot. See my new page; ‘My Garden’ , for the full story of the project build phase.
Now, a full three growing years – and one complete rotation - later I can report that I know, in intimate detail, which beds have the highest yield. I can tell you that I am an ardent supporter of companion planting and do include herbs and wild flowers to attract insects. I strive for a potager type look (although the French would no doubt laugh at my attempts), so my poor neighbours are less offended at the allotment they see out of their top floor windows – not that they’ve ever complained.
No fowl, no bees!
I was also very keen to get chickens but sadly the deeds of all the houses in our area include a ‘no fowl’ clause – I remember reading it and not giving it a second thought at the time… DRAT!
My next idea was bees. How cool to have a bee hive! But no, my youngest son nixed the idea. Realistically, with the small size of our garden, I suspect his assessment that there would be a high potential for bees to be continually flying into his bedroom window was probably accurate. So no bees.
No eggs or honey for us when the magnetic poles flip and reduce our electronic lifestyles to a great big pile of plastic. We will however have veg!
Happy leeks and glorious garlic
Leeks grow particularly well in our plot. Garlic, chard, spinach, peas and herbs too. I’ve even had luck during 2 out of 3 seasons with cabbages, calabrese, sprouting broccoli, onions, sweetcorn, carrots, tomatoes, beetroot, beans, courgettes and soft fruits, among others. Some years I’ve lost one or other of these crops to foul weather or bug induced rot but, for the majority, my attempts have been very successful.
It’s all in the soil of course. The investment I made (and have continued to make every year) in good soil and dedicated composting and mulching etc. pays dividends.
I’ve not yet had a great deal of luck with either pumpkins or squash. Each year I’ve only ever managed to bring a single fruit to maturity… Ah well – perhaps 2012 will be the year of the gourd. Shout if you have any hints or tips in this regard!
A recipe for success
To keep bugs at bay without resorting to chemicals I use a home-made recipe involving homegrown chillies (my husband’s pet plants) and garlic steeped in hot water over night, then strained into a misting bottle.
BEWARE! If using this evil spray do make sure you’re downwind or you may end up with a rather unpleasant burn in your throat and eyes. It works a treat on everything however and is perfectly harmless if eaten – consider it a little bit of pre-seasoning (I’m kidding – please wash your homegrowns in case the cat has pissed on them!).
One last, but vitally important, point…
Like most things in life that involve good old-fashioned hard work – gardening is so much more fun than the gym!