Having completely failed to participate back in October, I was determined to join in Helen’s End of Month View meme this time around. Mind you, so little has changed I nearly chickened out! It has been rather wet, and the ground is still too sodden to work on. Then I got a couple of decent days and managed to put the raised beds for the kitchen garden together. Actual, visible progress! I had hoped that the EOMV post would show them all filled and ready to plant, not least because getting that project completed would allow me to make progress on others. There is a kind of crazy interdependence going on between my gardening projects at the moment. It reminds me of those tile puzzles, the ones where a set of square tiles make up an image, but they are all jumbled up. There is a single gap which allows you to move tiles around once place at a time, and the trick is to juggle them around to complete the image. The problem is that you frequently have to break up parts of the image that are complete in order to move another in to place. That is what my gardening feels like at the moment, everything depends on everything else and getting one thing going entails messing up something else.

For instance, I really want to clear the gravel and membrane from around the acer so that I can improve the soil, which has been badly trampled over these past few months. To do that I need to move the gravel somewhere else. The space it needs to move to is currently filled by the pallet with the soil improver for the raised beds. So until the raised beds are filled, I can’t move the gravel. And in any case, until the raised beds are filled I won’t know whether I have enough manure and mushroom compost mix left to mulch the area around the acer so that the worms can work their magic over the winter. But once the raised beds are filled, they are going to be very hard to move. So I need to get the placement right. Well, “right” is probably not the correct term – they need to be set out in such a way that later decisions about decking size and placement, border size and edging, fruit trees etc. don’t lead to me saying “if only I hadn’t put the raised beds there”. Which may be impossible, because once in place they will inevitably partially dictate what goes where around them. And it turns out that those tile puzzles are a doddle compared to getting my garden in shape! (And yes, there is a master plan, but there are still things TNG and I have to finalise. I need the garden to evolve over time, I know I will keep changing my mind, but I don’t want to wait three years to be able to grow veg in anything other than pots, so the veg beds must be placed…)

Anyway, I spent a large portion of today standing around scratching my head. Or wielding a tape measure, banging in pegs and running string between them. Or heaving the completed (but fortunately not filled) beds around on the sodden grass. All of this fuelled by regular mugs of tea courtesy of TNG and accompanied by the clamor of a murmuration of starlings, mobbing the trees next door.

murmuration of starlings

Its all about space and alignment. For instance, there needs to be enough space between the beds to move around easily, manoeuvre a wheelbarrow, kneel to weed without having to half-perch on the bed behind. Neither TNG or I like weeding twisted around, we prefer to be able to weed head-on, so to speak. So we measured how much space we take up, and we need a minimum of 80cm between beds. Plus we want the garden to feel open and spacious, not cramped and awkward. So the paths between the beds need to feel generous.

The beds are in the section of garden in front of the downstairs extension. The garden faces south, so I always wanted the beds oriented north-south, and in any case, given that the garden is wider than it is deep, this orientation should help lead the eye outward and stop the garden feeling short, front to back. Which it isn’t. The next bit is easy. There is a door from the extension out into the garden, almost, but not quite, centered in the extension wall. So clearly the path between the beds needs to line up with the door, anything else will look odd and be awkward. It’s really just a case of deciding how wide the path should be.

alignment with door

The path that runs along the back of the house is quite narrow, and I don’t want it to feel as if you fall straight into the kitchen garden as soon as you come out of the extension door, and in any case, there needs to be a little space to work in.

space by the house

I had this lovely idea that I could have narrow beds filled with colourful annuals dividing the path that runs across the back of the extension from the veg garden proper. But I also want the ends of the first pair of beds to line up with the end of the as yet nonexistent deck that we plan to build to cover the nasty pink concrete patio, creating a generous space for eating and socializing.

alignment with non-existing deck

The string you can just see running across the gravel marks where the deck would finish were we to use the longest decking boards the local builder’s merchants stock. I hope to have beds at the end of the deck, not running all along, but giving a splash of colour. If I had an even bigger gap between the path at the rear of the extension and the house end of the beds, allowing me to have that thin strip of colourful annuals, the ends of the first pair of beds would be way beyond the end of the (as yet mythical) deck. So no flowers. At this point my brain was really hurting.

alignment with greenhouse

Standing in the central pathway created between the beds and looking along the width of the garden towards the shed and wooden greenhouse, you can see the edge of the raised area between the greenhouse and the oil tank. I had wanted to line the house end of the second pair of beds up with the edge of that raised area. When I was supposedly working all this out on paper it looked really good. The problem being the acer.

space around the acer

I want straight edges to the borders, not just the veg beds. With the beds centred on the door out of the extension, and with a decent width of path between them running towards the back of the garden, I run in to problems along the right hand side. The acer is in the way. I could have a little dogleg around it. Or, with a slightly narrower central path (keep up, I’m talking about the one leading from the door in the extension), I can put the acer in a very deep back border. By very deep, I mean 3.5m. Nearly 138″. Which seems excessive. Or I move the acer. Which makes me nervous, as it is quite large, for an acer, and I would hate to lose it. Did I mention that my head was hurting?

By this point I was going round in circles, everything I changed had knock on effects I didn’t like. So the beds still aren’t filled. Nor are they likely to be, for some time to come. I need to let all this circulate in my brain, I need to take my time. So I went to the beach and stared at the waves for a while.

Who knows, maybe inspiration will strike. Maybe somebody will read this, follow it, and instantly see a good solution. Maybe in the December EOMV post you will see photos of filled veg beds and an acer clear of gravel. In the mean time I suggest you do what I am going to do, and pop over to patientgardener’s end of month view post and follow the links to people talking about gardening and plants rather than lining up bits of wood…

43 thoughts on “End of Month View November 2012

  1. Hi Janet,

    It’s been a bit rubbish recently hasn’t it? Rain and now freezing temps. Lovely. Short days are not my friend either and I have no photos ready at all for the end of this month. It’ll have to wait until Sunday.

    Looks like you’ve been having fun though… ha ha. If one can call it that? Although it is nice to get outside, so I can appreciate that at least – not that I get out anymore.

    I’m sure it’ll all come together eventually; there’s no rush and it can always be changed later. Not sure what I’d suggest for you – after all I’m not good at planning my own garden and find it very hard to see past what’s already here!

    1. Hi Liz! Call me crazy (people often do) but I am finding all this puzzling fun… Sorry you are not getting outside, it is the worst thing about this time of year when you work full time, leaving for work and returning in the dark, the outside world becomes a strange landscape, and weekends are never long enough.

  2. Wow, you’ve been busy, and you have a lot of work planned. I like your idea of going to the beach and thinking about it for a while. My head is just spinning thinking about it. I can’t wait to see how you complete the projects!

    1. Hi, it will be good when I get to start posting about completed projects rather than my puzzling, but I find it helps, to talk about it to people who know why I am worriting about all these different things. And yes, the beach is a great place to clear my head and regain a sense of perspective.

    1. Hi Elaine, it seems to be more oozing into view than popping, but it is coming!

    1. I think it is inevitable, unless you are starting from scratch with an enormous budget! I rather like the puzzling, and the gradual, evolving nature of “normal” gardens.

  3. I do find standing around and scratching my head works wonders. Then after a while, I amble away, do something else and wander back and scratch my head some more. And hey presto, I still don’t know what to do. But eventually it works itself out, Janet – eventually. Dave

    1. Weird, isn’t it, how the head scratching and puzzling eventually resolves itself. It turns out it works for planning a new kitchen too. Or maybe that’s just me…

  4. So glad you thought about how much space is needed for a wheelbarrow to get through your raised beds, we measured too when we made ours, but it is still a bit tight in places. My head was going round, never mind yours, eventually it will all fall into place, yes it will, honest! When we moved here we reorganised a bit at a time and somehow all the bits make a pleasing whole even though there was never a master plan for the whole garden. Things do need tweaking and compromises made to fit everything in but please don’t try to do too much all at once.

    1. Hi Pauline, wise words! So long as I do each piece in a way that satisfies me and seems to keep as many other options open as possible, I think it will be OK. I rather like the organic unfolding of a garden, I enjoy the process, and I am loving having so much space and so many different projects to play with, I’ll never get bored! I learnt the hard way about paths and wheelbarrows too, particularly when it comes to corners. A heavily loaded wheelbarrow and a tight corner is a recipe for disaster…

  5. I find all of life a little the way you describe the ordering of things! I would say that the central path looks a little wide, but that could be the camera angle. I don’t think a slight dog leg around the Acer would necessarily look strange, I’d need to see more images from all around to know for sure. You could have some flowers against the short ends of the beds (as seen from the door); you’ll still be able to work them as easily from the sides and it’s not going to shade the beds if the sun comes from the other direction. That would give more space near the door. Pollinators would also be attacted even closer to your veg. I’ll keep thing about this and if I have any other ideas I’ll get back to you. Christina

    1. Hi again Janet, I was looking again at your images of the raised beds. With the path being almost the same width as the beds the distance to the back border appears shorter than it would if the path was a bit narrower. When you draw it as a plan you don’t see the effect of the depth of field. Just a thought. Christina

      1. Hi Christina, the paths are wide, but that is because our lawn mower is a bit of an awkward beast and I tend to get clumsy with a wheelbarrow! You are right about the perspective working better if the path out from the house were narrower, and actually I did narrow it a little after I took that photo. And I had just reconciled myself to a little diagonal to accommodate the acer when I read Donna’s comment about moving acers, which got me pondering again… Fortunately I really enjoy the process, so I am happy to take my time, despite the other things that all depend on getting the beds sited and filled. I really like the idea of little nectar bars at the ends of the beds, I am just a little concerned about making the corner too tight for a wheelbarrow, I have to get too and from the compost heaps easily. I am all for good design, but not at the expense of practicality! I am currently thinking about moving them even further in to the garden to get my central (side to side) access as I want it. Watch this space, and thanks for the input!

  6. Well from waht I can see it looks good and you havent made the mistake of skimping on space between the bed which, as you say, you would regret in the future. I am eenjoying seeing your garden develop

    Thanks for joining in again

    1. Hi Helen, paths are tricky, aren’t they! Part of me doesn’t want to “waste” good growing space on paths, but making it easy to move around and work in a garden feels as important as making it look beautiful. This EOMV meme is really going to come in to its own for me with all this space to make sense of.

  7. These indecisive periods can be quite time consuming, can’t they? It must help to have the actual raised beds to try in different places even if they are a bit heavy – did you take photos of the different positions to sit and contemplate in the warmth? When we built the ‘sitooterie’ we put a skeletal structure in place first, which is just as well as we completely changed the design once we saw the proposed shape and size – definitely worth the small extra effort, and the decision making time. Oh, yes, and wheelbarrow access is critical – we have made that mistake, so don’t forget the corners!

    1. Hi Cathy, I did something similar to your skeleton structure with bamboo, planks and string before I decided on the size for the raised beds, and now I am tweaking even more not that the beds are constructed but still moveable. I am fortunate in that I genuinely enjoy the process of puzzling it all out, and have the time to spend on it until I get that sense of “rightness”. And yes, the corners are what get me every time when it comes to paths – and there is a corner near the house that is not working quite yet…

  8. Janet – It sounds more like a Rubik’s cube than a tile puzzle. I can honestly say that I have never gardened till my brain hurt. Good job too as I don’t have a sea-side nearby to retire to for recuperation. Knowing you, it wont be long before those raised beds are filled.

    1. Hi b-a-g, that is exactly it, thank you, a Rubik’s cube. Only there is no cheat sheet… Funny, I have never really enjoyed puzzles of that sort, they always seem to make me feel stupid, but I love puzzling over the bits and pieces of garden and what order to do them in etc. I think I know what I want to do now, I just need a fine day to get the measuring right and then I can fill away…

  9. Making these decisions is so hard! Well done, though, for thinking it all through properly and laying everything out so that you can see all the knock-on effects now, rather than after you have built and planted your beds.
    Pesky acer – I think I’d be tempted to take the path diagonally across in front of it to meet up with the next edge – a 45 degree corner instead of the 90. It breaks the strict rectangular idea slightly, but would still be sharp… Looking forward to your end-of-December update and see what miracles you have worked, if the weather is kind to us gardeners to let us get out this month!

    1. Hi Sara, funny, I had just come to the angle idea when I read your comment! Part of me rather likes the idea of breaking the symmetry to accommodate a tree, it adds soul to something that otherwise could be too ordered. As to getting stuff done outside, between the rain and the short days, it is getting tricky! But there are a couple of good days forecast for later this week so fingers crossed…

  10. Oh Janet – the words have been taken out of my mouth already – your dilemma is indeed a gigantic Rubik’s cube! I only wish that I could offer you some constructive suggestions but design and structure always elude me. I will come back though and reread your post in the clear light of day. Meanwhile sea gazing seems to be a most positive and no doubt calming course of action :)

    1. Hi Anna, isn’t the Rubik’s cube comparison perfect? And sea gazing is the perfect antidote to the puzzle-wrestling. It is almost clear now though, which is great – blogging about it really helped. And time on the beach, though it is amazingly cold, even in lots of layers, given we still haven’t had proper frost here. My fuchsia is still in full leaf and is flowering!

  11. I can see why your head was hurting…so much linked together. I know how overwhelming it can get. Taking time to take it all in and waiting for that inspiration is best…all the pieces need to drop into place as you say. I do like the ideas and especially the alignment of the veg beds.

    1. Hi Donna, funny, isn’t it, how after a period of puzzling and tussling, everything just suddenly falls into place and you get a sense of peace. I think I am nearly there now, had another inspiration today when doing something else, just need a fine day to measure things and try it out, complete with wheelbarrow test run…

  12. Oh Janet I sympathise. They never mention these things in gardening books do they? It’s all about blank canvasses but so few of us ever get that and have to squeeze things in around other stuff and accommodate elements of the previous owners taste. I like how you’ve got so much planned in your head. Our garden is so small that when we had to put in a path from the house to the shed it rather dictated the design of the rest of the garden. That and the large patio already there. Looking at the garden now 4 years on there are things I wish I’d done but ultimately finances dictated we couldn’t do them. It’s my first garden though and I have learnt a lot so hopefully one day I’ll get the chance to put my new ideas into practice. Loving watching the process of your garden evolve.

    1. Hi WW, I think one of things I really love about the world of garden blogging is that suddenly you are “talking” to other people who do “real world” gardening, with constraints of time, budget, practical demands. I know exactly what you mean about a single feature suddenly dictating the rest of the garden layout, it happened to me in my previous, much smaller, garden. And here I have manhole covers and overhead wires where I want trees! I think the joy of it is creating something you find beautiful out of what is available to you, in its broadest sense, particularly if you can enjoy the process too. This is only my second garden, so although there are mistakes I made with my first that I am hoping not to repeat, I am sure there are loads more for me to discover!

  13. I think you’re doing brilliantly – I’m still doing the ‘I can’t do X, because I have to move Y out of the way and it needs to go where Z is’ thing, and I’ve been here ten years (eek). Your garden is going to be wonderful… it is. Soon!

    1. Hi Kate, I think that is just the nature of real-world gardening, there are always constraints, never a truly blank canvas or open ended budget. Not sure about the “soon” bit on the getting beautiful, but thank you for the belief! Fortunately I am absolutely loving the challenge of it all…

  14. I am surprised your head hasn’t exploded. It looks to me that the Acer is the bit of grit that is preventing your Rubik’s cube from being solved :-)
    If you leave it there what happens if it grows bigger or much wider – not a plant you would want to spoil by cutting back. Perhaps you should bite the bullet and move it, especially as it is dormant at the moment.
    Good luck with whatever you decide!

    1. Hi, the acer is indeed the main sticking point – move it or work round it. Part of me really likes the idea of accommodating it with a little dogleg, but I will need to think about the potential shade as it grows. Of course, to move it I first have to move the gravel, which I can’t move until the beds are filled and therefore the space where the pallet is becomes available…

  15. oh Janet I feel your pain, a walk to the beach sounds so good, I finding walking helps clear my head and then tea and chocolate help me focus, often the solutions come when I am not even thinking about the problem. Regarding the acer I can understand your reluctance to move it but I also wonder would it grow to a size that would shade part of your veg beds, otherwise I was thinking like Sara could you do a 45 degree cut across that corner. I like Christina’s idea of small anual beds at the door end of the first vegbeds and if they don’t work you can easily make them path again. good luck, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I am getting so many great ideas from everyone, it really helps. It does all seem to come down to the acer in the end, move it or accommodate it. Next sunny day I am headed out with mug of tea to ponder…

  16. Don’t worry you’ll ave an epiphany in the middle of the night, during the worst week of weather and be impossible to live with or absent from family, with a head torch on until you’ve got it all in place! It will come :) I quite like the imaginary decking, probably much easier to clean ;) nice end of month view.

    1. Hi Fay, oh dear, you know me far too well!! The shorter days don’t help, running around with head-torch and tape measure really doesn’t work…

  17. Wow Janet, you certainly have it thought out six ways to Sunday! Hope you find a placement that suits you. I understand wanting to get it right with the garden boxes, that would be a pain to move.

    1. Hi Janet, it really helps having them all assembled, marking things out with string just doesn’t have the same impact. Nearly there, I think…

  18. We move Japanese Maples much larger than that quite often with no real problem. Just watch the time of year so they are not budding out. You could always look to a professional to move it, they may offer a guarantee for replacement if something goes wrong.

    1. Hi Donna, thanks, that is really good to know, it makes it a real possibility. I think I have to consider the potential shading issues once I have moved the beds so that the central path goes where I want it to go.

  19. It’ll be interesting to see how this ‘In my mind’s eye’ post develops through next year when I’m sure that with planting, sowing and growing it’ll all be looking just how you imagine it will.

    1. I hope so Flighty! I cam across my sweetcorn seed the other day, and got all excited…

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