Monday, 25 April 2011

16 x 16

Our back garden is 16 x 16 feet. I admit that it’s bigger than a balcony (such as the New York space where the resourceful and knowledgeable Marie has a veg garden), but by most standards it’s a small back garden and it’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve considered trying to grow food out there.

This week I have been busy getting it sorted out for the growing season. Quite a number of things had died during the severe winter and as I worked my way round I discovered a good number of the pots had succumbed to frost and fell apart in my hands. A lot of my time was spent picking rose chafer grubs out of last year’s compost so that they didn’t end up in any of the raised beds. I’ve got hundreds of the ruddy things, but have remembered that Hannah’s neighbour keeps chickens, so I shall be making him a gift of them later in the week!

The enjoyable part has been planting up potato bags, potting on and planting out seedlings and being able to sit out for meals, cups of coffee and reading in the extraordinarily lovely spring weather we’ve been having.

I’m so pleased with what I’ve achieved this week that I’d like to give you a little tour!

Out of the back door and turn left.

Here is our herb garden – all in containers at the moment, though I was thinking today that I could create a small raised bed along that short stretch of wall. At the moment there’s oregano (two different types), rosemary, parsley, celery leaf, french sorrel, several mints, sage. I want some more thyme, which was one of the winter casualties and I’ve got basil and coriander germinating indoors.

Next bags of potatoes – Arran pilot. Yield isn’t fantastic from these bags, but I love tipping them out and digging out a meal later in the year.

On the wall is our salad bar. In here are some mixed spicy salad sown a couple of weeks ago and some sulky looking lollo rosso, which was bought as plugs and may or may not survive. The gravelly looking stuff is a crushed ceramic product supposed to deter slugs, which is necessary as the radishes that were growing in the left hand part of this guttering pipe have all been munched. There are three of these pipes, but the seeds in the next one up have only just gone in and I’ll be sowing the top one next weekend.

Round the corner along the left hand fence. This is the raised bed that our lovely growzones friends helped us to build two years ago. In here I have just planted out some dwarf beans. We’ve loved watching these grow this week. Last weekend they were just breaking the surface in a seed tray and now they’re big enough to take their chances out in the big wide world! I sowed peas along the fence and one or two of them are just beginning to appear. The plants in pots are chilli peppers.

The chard has overwintered.

Next we get to the gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, which I have underplanted with garlic. (And more of the dwarf beans in pots).

Round the corner again to the back fence which is now well covered with trachelospermum and honesuckle as well as an invasion of clematis Montana from the garden the other side. There’s a bald patch in this bed which never seems to sustain anything and is the spot where we had the root of a eucalyptus tree ground out a few years ago. One day we’ll have to dig out properly and start again, but at the moment I’m enjoying the wild acid green of the euphorbia and looking forward to the lavender flowering.

This recess needs some action soon I think. At the moment it tends to be the place where things get put (dumped). Like the big bin that I collect kitchen and garden waste in for Stu’s compost heap and pots that are not currently in use. As it’s the view from the back door I’d prefer it to look a bit more attractive, so I’m thinking of taming some of that honeysuckle around a mini pergola and putting a seat in there permanently. Anyway, that’s for another day.

Round the corner again to the fence on the right hand side of the garden. This is in shade for more than half the day.

First we have rhubarb – planted last year, so probably nothing to pick this year.

On the fence is the espalier apple tree planted last autumn. It has just finished flowering and was absolutely covered in blossom, so I’m hoping that quite a few of the little nodules will plump up and ripen. Next to it is a climbing rose. I hope that these can co-exist and grow together attractively without killing each other. No sign of buds on the rose yet.

Just breaking the surface in this bed are some broad beans. I'm looking forward to seeing these grow as I chose a variety with unusual dark red flowers.

In front of the bed (and the first thing you see from the back door) is another gathering of containers. Allium, peony, lilies (out of shot). Sadly missing from this group is the camellia which appeared to survive the winter and was heavy with buds, but then just gave up the ghost and turned brown. I assume it was a delayed reaction to frost, but could also have been lack of water.

Here is the business end of the garden – the worm bin and the store. And here we are back at the door again.

This is how the back of the house looks from where my little pergola will be.


  1. You've worked incredibly hard! It's looking lovely. I'm so I mpressed by you're commitment to it. I'm not sure I'd a. Remember what was out there, b.know what to do with it and it all at the right time! Xxxx

  2. Well, Alice, that's still a danger! I think you know that my gardening has always been surges of enthusiasm followed by forgetfulness. On the other hand, this garden is much more manageable than our family gardens were and it's a very visible part of our living space, so I'm always seeing what's there and what's needed (but not always doing it).

  3. It is a lovely garden. I have always longed for a courtyard garden and have ended up with half an acre here in the midwest.
    Love your blog which I have just discovered.