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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…