Last weekend I raked up all the moss and the remainder of the grass from between the beds, with the intention of laying down weed-proof membrane. However, I'd underestimated the length I had leftover from a previous project and then the weather got the better of me with first rain, and then snow!
Today's job? Finish laying the membrane (now I've bought some more) and top off with gravel.
This is another inheritance from Joe - a home-made multi-dibber, made by attaching dowels to a piece of plywood. The propagators were Joe's too.
Cabbages, Brussel sprouts, Red onions and Salad leaves are next to sow. These all seemed to suggest that you could sow them straight outside, but may benefit from a bit of early protection. I have a 4 tier, plastic covered greenhouse on the patio which should do nicely. I'm not sure I'd trust it with very tender seedlings, but for these it should be fine.
I used my Lakeland oven-rack soaking tray as a container for potting up (as suggested by my good friend Sara!). In the end I plumped for using cell inserts for the seed tray, which didn't quite match Joe's dibber, but a pencil worked fine. After filling 2 inserts with potting compost I gave them a good watering and popped 2 seeds into each cell. Well, most cells got 2 - some got more I think! A final covering of compost and into the greenhouse they go, complete with propagator lids for good measure.
I finally got to do some planting this week! I have bought/acquired various seeds and seeing how I'm a novice at most of these veg I'm going by the recommendations on the packets.
Straight into one raised bed, I've put a row of carrots, parsnips (on a tape) and beetroot.
It rained (and snowed) alot on Sunday so when I did this on Monday, the ground was still wet and I didn't bother watering before I put the seeds in. All these packets said to make a drill approx 1" deep and cover with a thin layer of compost, so that's what I did. Having the excess topsoil came in handy, along with the garden sieve I inherited from my grandfather, Joe.
Joe was a very keen gardener and always had masses of fruit and veg growing - I hope he'd be proud of my attempts.
Now the raised beds are in, I can start to think about what to grow. I've read magazines, asked the family and listened to friends to come up with the following list (so far!):
Sweetcorn (a must for Amy)
Potatoes (how hard can they be?)
Carrots (so much tastier than anything you buy)
Parsnips (Joel's favourite)
Beetroot (my choice, but I'm hoping to convert the rest of the family)
Brussels sprouts (hopefully for Christmas dinner)
Runner beans (fond childhood memories of pinching Grandad's fresh from the plant)
Courgettes (Grandad's always ended up as marrows)
Tomatoes (again, so much more flavour than shop bought)
I've been given some lupin seeds as they're apparently good to grow with slow growers like cabbages and sprouts to enrich the soil. I know they can be poisonous, but I think my lot are old enough and sensible enough not to eat strange flowers and seeds! I might try some marigolds to keep away the pests, although in the past they've always become slug magnets in my experience - maybe I should see them as sacrificial plants? I think I've heard that coriander is a good pest deterrent as well, so that may be added to the list.
I've had 2 compost bins for a quite a while, which have been filled with the usual grass cuttings and kitchen waste. I discovered a couple of years ago that guinea pig waste makes an excellent compost accelerator!
In the past, the fresh compost has gone around the bedding plants as mulch/soil improver, but now it comes into it's own. I've dug out the bottom of both bins - basically everything that looked like compost rather than peelings and guinea pig waste. So now the beds are looking a bit more full. Clearly we're not there yet - time to order some topsoil.
Hampshire Garden Supplies have a very helpful man (called John I think!) who advised me that their 2nd grade topsoil would do the job. Apparently, this has more stones than the better stuff, so is good for drainage - and it's cheaper too! After some quick calculations I reckoned it would take 2x0.7m bags to fill the beds, but then I've already part filled them with compost...
To be on the safe side I ordered a bag and half, along with a bag of 20mm shingle to make the paths. So on Thursday morning, the truck turned up (at 7:30 so it's done before I have to leave for work!). This is gonna take some work to transfer...
...but with a bit of help from Joel and a beautifully sunny afternoon, the beds are looking ready to plant!
The only question remaining? What to do with the 3/4 bag of topsoil I've not used?!