I had a happy, sunny Saturday last week at the Spring Gardening Fair organized by Down to Earth CoOp (Stroud).
Right next to the bustling Stroud Farmer’s Market we were in a perfect spot and attracted a constant stream of people keen to find out more about local food growing projects. You could buy plants, pea sticks and bean poles and discover all about composting from Down to Earth. Transition Stroud had a stall and we were promoting the Edible Open Gardens 2013 web site which we are just launching.
I was demonstrating making newspaper pots which is the ideal way to grow a wide range of plants – French beans, cucumbers, squashes etc.. See a video of this demonstration at –
I was warned before we moved to Whiteshill that it would be windy. Today I think it’s windy around most of the UK, but it is something I notice here much of the time.
My plateau at the top of our field for the veg plot is open to the full force of the south westerly winds. The wind blows up the Bristol Channel, funnels up the River Severn valley and bangs into the Cotswolds’ edge here on our hill. It feels like I am gardening on the top deck of a cross channel ferry in a high sea. I think of Winnie the Pooh’s ‘Blustery Day’ when Piglet’s ears streamed out horizontally behind him and owl’s house fell down.
I have had to water my purple sprouting broccoli today to stop it wilting; I have never needed to do that before – the combination of dry, thin sandy soil and fearsome wind is causing the problem.
I have home-made pennants (flags) which fly in the veg plot on tall bamboo canes, positioned strategically over the brassicas. I find they discourage the pigeons and the deer. Usefully I can see them from the kitchen sink and know whether the wind is blowing, how strongly and in which direction (and thereby I decide if I will venture out!).
The Pennant Flags
People say I should be planting a wind break here. But in the contest ‘windbreak v. the view’, the view always wins!
The View looking towards Bristol down the Severn Valley
Instead we embarked on a project to create a luxury high raised bed which will be very easy for me to manage without needing to bend. I noticed Monty Don on Gardeners World this week has new vegetable beds constructed high like this, and he nonchalantly noted that you can in fact sit on the edge of them while you garden! (Or is the appeal something to do with our age?).
Nigel, my best beloved, whose DIY skills make him a ‘leg end’ in his own time, took on the crafting of this monolith. It was his first day out with our newly acquired girl size ‘Fat Max’ drill/driver, a concept until recently totally unknown to us. (Second child told us about it).
The clerk of works had specified that the new bed was to be built three high of 1” x 6” gravel boards, therefore being 45cms deep, and so perfect for carrots and parsnips.
The magic width of my raised beds is always 120 cms wide as I can reach comfortably into the centre. This bed was made square, 120 x 120cms, creating a total volume of about 0.7 cubic metres of compost and soil. Nigel moved all that as an afternoon stroll, and the woodwork was completed in record time with the help of the new technology. The finishing touch around the edge was weed suppressing fabric (Mypex) with paving slabs and woodchips all completing the weed exclusion zone in my veg garden. This gets bigger all the time – more of my views on gardening without weeds to follow later.
A fantastic job, and now just needing some warm weather before I sow seeds in the new bed.
The new raised bed
Cat testing the jump