Weeds and glass and disappointment

This whole move from London to the countryside in search of the good life was a massive gamble for us. We moved to an area where we knew nobody, leaving behind our friends and the town we loved. In truth, we’ve never been happier and it was definitely the right thing to do but it’s meant enormous upheaval. In the interests of getting our new smallholding life up and running as soon as possible, we threw ourselves into landscaping whilst awaiting planning permission to do some work on our house. This included making a kitchen garden complete with multiple raised beds and polytunnel that we hoped would let us start our vegetable self-sufficiency this year in the summer and when we initially got the raised beds installed and filled with topsoil, all appeared to be going well at first. The soil was stonier than I’d expected, and appeared to be sprouting weeds at a rate of knots (considerably faster than any other topsoil I’ve ever bought in). And then I found the first piece of glass.

Glass in about one in every four handfuls of the supposedly premium topsoil

I thought it must be a fluke, but then I found another. And another, and another and another. The soil was absolutely full of them. I sent the supplier (we deliberately chose a local supplier) an email and they came over to have a look, by which point I’d stopped planting. The upshot was the the supplier’s supplier’s supplier (it was a somewhat overpopulated meeting) is apparently going to replace the soil, although sadly I’ve now not only missed most of the summer growing season, I’m rapidly missing the winter planting window too. The weeds were extraordinary, ranging from grasses to actual bindweed.

Morning glory growing from the imported (and expensive) soil

Their initial suggestion was that instead of manually removing close to 100 tonne of soil by hand and then replacing it, they simply top each bed up with a few inches of good soil. They told me that way I could let my children garden with me because the huge shards of broken glass would be buried a few inches below the soil surface. They also thought that glass would become blunter with time (in the sea maybe, after a few years, I’m not sure how they expected this to happen in a raised bed). Anyway, we’re still hashing our the details but I’m hoping that we can re-start on the beds as of October. How frustrating, to make this huge investment (I’m choosing my words very carefully – this kitchen garden is pivotal to our plans and is very much an investment in our future) and have the materials we purchase turn out to be such utter rubbish. Worse still, to have the suppliers do anything other than apologise profusely and to try to convince us that the problem isn’t as bad as we think (if there’s glass in there in huge amounts, who knows what else is in there?). We also covered both our large kitchen garden and the play area we’ve made for our children in weed proof membrane. We specifically asked for something heavy duty. What turned up didn’t look like the usual black membrane we’re used to but we were assured it was appropriate. Of course, it isn’t.

The weeds that sprang up in the first couple of weeks

The place is a mess, with weeds and grasses growing through at a rate of knots. In short, this is an enormous setback. Shoddy, inappropriate materials that have basically wasted a year of our project. Technically I suppose we should remove the poly tunnel, all the raised beds etc and re-lay the shingle on top of the product we thought we’d ordered but that’s months and months of work, surely, and our raised beds might get broken. So hopefully the supplier will be reasonable and accept our offer to simply replace the membrane on the paths. It’s cost us a fortune and it’s never going to be what we wanted because the weeds will still come in at the edges. I’m really upset by the whole thing. This is a kitchen garden we expect to be using for years and years and it’s been ruined right from the outset. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’m enormously lucky to have it at all, but to spend months building something to find that it’s all contaminated is so frustrating. So, back to the drawing board in a couple of weeks I suppose!

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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