At the end of last week I slipped out of the flat early in the morning to get a head start on a general tidy and overall assessment of the state of play in the back patch vegetable patch.
This was hugely overdue, and the area has been left to fend for itself, except for the occasional spot watering and frantic weeding session.
This is partly because this garden, though behind a locked gate, is fully overlooked by the public railway footpath, and partly because we’re pulled mainly to the oasis paradise of the allotment.
Due to this area’s very public aspect, I’ve always been a little shy about doing as much as I would otherwise like in the gardens, and as a result have planted appropriately in this space with plots such as the ever-expanding rhubarb patch, and the awesomely magnificent globe artichoke plants – both of which take care of themselves once established and happy.
The other plant in the patch which thrives without too much preening and care is the red currant bush. And besides – we’ve pretty much run out of growing space at the allotment, so I wanted to assess and find areas where we could have some overflow growing spaces in the back patch.
But even a garden that can take care of itself through the seasons should be looked in on every once in a while.
On this occasion I was rewarded with visions of jewel-like red currants ripening on the branch. We will be harvesting these tart ruby fruits very soon!
The rhubarb patch we transplanted from the allotment to the back patch has recently been ravaged by the neighbourhood cats, who took it upon themselves to use the freshly dug soil as their private luxury garden litter. Not good. In fact, totally disgusting!
We have plans to cat-proof that patch with some metal mesh – cats won’t like catching the nails in their paws on the mesh when they scratch and dig to prepare to toilet – or that’s the hope.
But we’ve not quite managed to get that all sorted out – though we have finally cut an appropriately sized section to use. When I get it into place I will add a final behaviourist deterrent: finely ground black pepper. Between the metal and the ground pepper hopefully the cats condition themselves to avoid our rhubarb beds. Thank goddesses that the older established rhubarb bed is left undisturbed by these pesky felines.
Just down from the rhubarb is the summer-fruiting red raspberry patch. These are spreading well from the single canes we bought at Morrisons on a whim.
I transplanted a large clump of chive from beside the raspberry, and moved them to the side of the established rhubarb.
Another innovation was to remove the rotting wood boards that previously divided the growing plots and used the perforated building bricks to create permanent walking areas on the beds so as to more easily harvest, tend, and weed the beds without having to step on the growing ground and avoid compacting the soil. All these bricks were reclaimed from a building site and otherwise would have gone into a building skip and then straight to landfill.
Down from the raspberry patch is really where the beds go a bit wild. This photograph shows the final stretch of the growing bed, heading towards the corner point, which marks the start of the flower and shade beds under the cherry tree. The really tall growth in this photograph is a bed of wild rocket that I left to go to seed.
Rocket is low-growing as a salad crop, but boy-oh-boy do they shoot for the stars when they start to set seeds. The seedheads on these plants are not yet ripe, but I’m planning to leave them there as an experiment to see if the rocket self-seeds into a self-perpetuating patch. (It’s taking longer than I thought and may re-think these plans as it would be much more straightforward to rip them out and simply reseed with purchased rocket seed. But we’ve gone this far and an experiment – albeit a loosely conceived and controlled one such as in this case – so won’t give up quite yet).
The front of these final growing spaces are fronted with calendula, but these can be dug out and moved if we need the space for other more useful edible crops. It’s here that I’m hoping to dig over and start beds of pak choi and spinach. At present there are onions growing, but as these onion beds haven’t been watered as frequently as a veg bed should be, are all rather skimpy and small in growth.
At the corner of the long growing bed there is a shorter growing patch on the return beds which run under the cherry tree and end at the railway path. It is into this newly created growing bed that I planted the little globe artichoke plants.
These little artichoke are so tiny and delicate right now, but in time will tower to be taller than the tall slender Malink. I’m glad that I placed metal mesh guards on them, as when we were down there we both watched in fascination as a male and female blackbird worked hard to try to get in under the mesh cages to pick at the plants. The cheek!
Artichoke start tiny, but in a couple of years time they will stand seven or eight feet tall, with delicious globe artichokes that can be harvested and enjoyed. Speaking of which, last night we had a delicious harvest meal of steamed artichoke with garlic butter, complemented with a courgette, onion and garden-grown asparagus risotto. (R had gifted us a second small harvest of his beloved asparagus as a thank you for our sharing of the strawberries at the allotment.). Super-delicious and so very satisfying to create a meal from the fruits of one’s labours. We’ve had two meals from the artichoke so far, and there are at least two or three more meals busy growing into size as I type. Yum!
So that’s the growing beds in the back patch. The rest of the beds are pretty much dedicated to perennial flower beds, which is just as well because the big guy is a flower guy – he absolutely loves his flowers and blooms, and spends quite a bit of time making sure the flower plants are watered and staked properly. Under the far pergola is a pink blooming rose (with white flowering climbing rose above), with a massive patch of mint that grows happily in the semi shade under the pergola. Mint can go rampant, and as we’re running out of space in the flower beds, we will probably move some of the mint out of here and make it fully flowers – moving the mint into the newly created wildflower area in the middle of the lawn. That runs the risk of the whole lawn becoming mint, but hey-ho – we’re going to do it anyway!