When I started working on my garden I really didn’t think. I just tried to make it pretty so other people would enjoy it. But I’ve been thinking lately… screw other people! My garden is for me! Don’t get me wrong, I really like my current garden, the flowers attract wildlife and make me happy. Gardening is one of my favourite pastimes. But I have been re-evaluating how and why I divided up the space and what it is used (or not used!) for. I added this seating area at the back with some sleepers so I could relax in the sun and ready a book while drinking a coffee.
I NEVER do that! I hate sunbathing and the fact is that I am happiest when I am busy DOING stuff in my garden. After giving it some thought I have decided to re-work parts of my garden to provide a space for growing more fruits and vegetables. This supports my eco-friendly values as food will be produced where it is consumed with no packaging or transport. It will also go a small but personally significant way to reducing my grocery bill.
Growing your own food is like printing your own money
A Brief History of My Garden
My approach to gardening is “slow, steady and as cheap as possible.” I did spend some money right at the start especially on the soil. I bought two trailer loads of well rotted manure from my local horse stables. I also mixed in a ton of sand. I got some free sleeps from a skip and the shed was a gift from my parents. I was also lucky enough to get a €300 “thank you” voucher for a garden centre from a friend who I had helped out with a weekend long project they were involved in. Many of the plants in the garden were gifts or else I grew them from cuttings or collected seeds. I actually love that many of them have a story behind them.
Considerations for My Suburban Vegetable Garden
I have an fairly large garden for a suburban Dublin dwelling. There is a small wooden shed (mancave) and the garden is filled with ornamental flowers and shrubs with some trees to establish privacy.
The back garden is north facing so the sun really only hits the back and right hand sides of the garden.
The soil is typical building site quality, heavy clay with the occasional large stone or random plastic debris.
There is some space to build a cold frame if I get creative. I don’t have room for a full on poly tunnel but I would love one.
This garden may end up being part of my “investment property” if I buy another residence elsewhere and tenants don’t take care of labor intensive gardens. So the structures I add should be easy to break down or convert back to borders with shrubs/herbaceous perennials.
Things I Already Grow
Rhubarb is pretty damn easy. Plant it, wait a year and harvest it. I have split the original crown on my Rhubarb plant three times over the last few years and given the new plants to friends. When Harvest time rolls around I make crumble, freeze stewed rhubarb “cubes” for my porridge during the winter months and give sticks to my friends and co-workers.
My apple tree is small but this year it is so heavily laden that it fell over. I propped it up with some supports and when the season is over I will move it close to the wall where I can give it more support. I also bought a second apple tree this summer. I believe this is a solid investment! I tend to chop up the apples into small cubes and freeze for winter porridge!
Raspberries and Thyme
There is a small raspberry plant in my garden that has been the victim of neglect and drought for two years now so it hasn’t fruited properly. Next year I will take a little more care with this.
I have a rather healthy rosemary plant sitting alongside some lavender plants but I really don’t use it much.
Things I Want to Grow
I will probably tend to follow suit on the low maintenance fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes are not an option. I want to try out some easy-to-grow veg so I will go for:
- Scarlet runner beans (very pretty flowers!)
As the garden winds down for coming Autumn, my plan is to start converting the space into raised vegetable beds. I have made a small start on this already by constructing a test bed from some reclaimed wood I got my hands on. I cleared the space buy dividing the Japanese Anemone, I was worried about doing that as the plant was about to flower but all the bits have survived! The bed I constructed follows the 4ft x 4ft grid system used for growing veg in raised beds. It allows easy access from all sides. This bed will make a nicer, more ogranised home for all the random strawberry plants around the garden.
I will be re-purposing the sleepers as some of them are rotten. There is a permaculture technique of burying wood and logs at the bottom of raised beds. This makes it easier to fill them and also provides rotting matter and nutrients. I did some tree pruning in my mams house so I have plenty of wooded matter for the beds.
When the leaves start falling in Autumn, I will collect them and pile them as high as I can to create the next “layer”above the wood. In spring, I will add a layer of compost to sew seeds directly into.
I will also need to move several plants and trees and do a little planning around how to get the seeds started. A cold frame is one option which would be fairly easy to construct. If I can organise the layout of my kitchen I might be able to make use of some indoor space. With that in mind I have already started looking at some grow lights on amazon. I need to do more research into this and found one guy reviewing grow lights on YouTube who technically picked apart the very models I was looking at. His advice at the end of his product reviews was simple. You get what you pay for.
I plan to simply enjoy what is left of the summer in my garden.