One of the main reasons we’ve always wanted our own smallholding was to be as self-sufficient as possible in terms of food. Given that I’ve always loved gardening, it seemed a natural next step. In London I used to grow as much food as I could in our tiny patio garden and so when moved here I knew we’d have a decent vegetable patch but we couldn’t decide where to put it. After a while we realised that if we wanted to go beyond having the odd courgette or pepper, we needed to dedicate some serious land to it. We’d already planted our orchard in the top of one of our paddocks and so we started wondering just how much land we needed for grazing. We decided we could spare this small paddock for food cultivation:
This would be a serious endeavour, with enough space (just under half an acre) to feed ourselves.
I was so tired of buying flavourless fruit and vegetables that the more we thought about it, the more excited we got. And so it was that we measured up and decided to take the plunge. A walled garden is the eventual dream but I don’t think it fits with this property, agricultural as it is. And with our appallingly rocky and dense clay soil, raised beds seemed sensible. Measuring it out we came to the sobering conclusion that we’d be looking at in excess of 50 raised beds. My lovely husband had already surprised me with a 12x9m poly tunnel for Christmas and so the raised beds would balance it out in scale. And so we started, first to cover over the grass and to fix the fencing (complete with chicken wire to stop our hens coming in and inhaling our vegetables! It took weeks to have the ground prepared ready to be covered in shingle and then for the raised beds to be put up.
The 55 raised beds took a considerable amount of time to put together, and we had a bonfire to get rid of all of the old fencing that had been removed.
Once the beds were up, we lined them with more weed-proof membrane and then set about the laborious task of getting them filled. It took nearly 100 tonnes of topsoil, and we didn’t fill them all! We left a few for ericaceous soil so that we could grow some blueberry bushes.
It was an awful lot of work but when we were finished, we had a large, empty space stretching out in front of us waiting to be planted out. A daunting but incredibly exciting task! It’s a shame that we’ve missed most of the summer growing season but I’m hoping that we can catch up and certainly by next year we should have a full garden in prouction! I started sowing tomato, pea, courgette and squash seeds when the shingle was being laid and so have some seedlings ready to go out and then we can start winter planting next month. I can’t quite believe we’ve managed it, it’s been such a long project but such a fun one and it’s going to completely change the way we live! We still need to wait for the results of our planning application to put up the poly tunnel but once we’ve got that, it can go up too and then watch us fly…