Six on Saturday

You haven’t met before so let me start with a brief introduction.

Regular readers of my blog this is Six on Saturday, a weekly feature where garden bloggers across the globe write about six things in their garden, usually in the form of a numbered list. Six on Saturday readers welcome to Giving Up The Goodlife, an account of my struggles trying to live a normal family life in a remote stone cottage in the middle of nowhere with no mains electricity, water or even a decent road to the house.

I’m sure you’ll get along famously, so let me begin.

  1. Gardening with a Chainsaw

Gardening when your patch is basically just a clearing in the woods means ditching the hand trowel for something a little more hardcore. Before the trees came into leaf we set about the long overdue task of coppicing the Hazel on the bank. Drastically cutting down to ground level actually stimulates growth and opens up the forest floor to sunlight allowing dormant seeds to flourish. Already we can see Primroses and Barren strawberry emerging. The cut timber will provide much needed fuel to heat our house and hot water and the vigorous regrowth will be harvested and put to use in the garden from fencing to bean poles and more.

After a long cold winter our wood stores have been seriously depleted and one of the top priorities is restocking. The whole family pulled together to fell this giant conifer which was blocking sunlight in the meadow. The stacked timber will be left to season before being cut into shorter logs, split and restocked in the wood shed.

 

 

2. Garlic

Two years ago I fell out of love with gardening. The dream of self sufficiency was turning into a nightmare, an unrelenting toil with never enough time and a permanently aching back. Weeds took over our extensive vegetable patch and among other casualties, the garlic was smothered. A year later I was back on task, albeit with a more thoughtful, sustainable  approach to gardening and life – of which this blog is a part. Raking through the neglected beds I discovered that hidden under the weeds the garlic had continued its life-cycle unabated. Individual cloves perviously planted out in orderly rows had blossomed into fat bulbs but then undisturbed each clove had divided again resulting in masses of  irritatingly small garlics.  While some of these were planted back out in a now loved and weed free bed it seemed a shame to waste the rest and we have been using them ever since.  This week I finally sorted through the remainder, discarding the smallest and keeping only those worth the effort.

3. Strawberries

Strawberry runners potted up last Autumn have come on tremendously since being moved into the greenhouse. There is another strawberry bed in the vegetable plot but we are hoping for an early crop from those under glass. I am also taking part in a project run by the University of Sussex to investigate companion planting,  a method of aiding pollination and beating pests by growing plants together that are mutually beneficial. To this end I have another test strawberry plant potted up next to bee-friendly borage to see if it will improve pollination and result in more fruit, and a ‘control’ plant positioned away from any flowers. The pots have only just been planted up so I’m keeping my green-fingers crossed that the plants will thrive and my results make a valid contribution to this fascinating experiment.

4. Tomatoes

We have a generator to provide power but living off-grid means electricity is in short supply.  An electrically heated propagator to help bring on seedlings is therefore out of the question and after a disastrous attempt at using a paraffin heater in the greenhouse, which turned the whole thing soot-black overnight and had to be scrubbed clean from ceiling to floor, I settled on a better solution. This year tomatoes and peppers were germinated on the Aga and the young seedlings carried out to the greenhouse everyday to enjoy some daylight. Potted on individually now they just need some decent warm weather to take off.

 

5. The Path to Rhubarb

The rhubarb is doing well and the intention was to give it a quick weed before moving on to more pressing jobs but one invasive couch grass root led to another and before I knew it I had ripped up the whole path surrounding the bed and was knee deep in a job which could last months. All our garden paths are plagued with weeds, which of course make their way into the vegetable beds. The underlying terram which is supposed to act as a weed suppressant has deteriorated with age and to add to the problem the raised beds are in need to repair or replacement because they are spilling earth onto the stone covered paths, which are quickly colonised by yet more weeds. We are going to re-haul and redesign many of the beds this season. Advice on tried and tested garden path making materials would be gratefully accepted.

A view of the veg patch, from the bedroom window. You could be self-sufficient with this much growing space available but you need the space in your life too.

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6. Fruit

Despite being held up entirely by bailer twine the fruit cage has survived everything winter threw at it and just needs to be recovered in netting to start its job of protecting the crop. In years gone by we have harvested as much as 80lbs of blackcurrants from these bushes, which is an awful lot of jam! Last year we had fantastic success with autumn fruiting raspberries, a bag of which I pulled out of the freezer and they will do nicely for dessert tonight.

I hope you have enjoyed my inaugural attempt at Six on Saturday. You can find more blog posts like this by visiting The Propagator blog site.

Enjoy the sunshine this weekend.

Yours Mum in the Woods.

 

 

 

 

 

18 thoughts on “Six on Saturday

Add yours

  1. Welcome to SOS – your patch looks like paradise, although I’m sure the reality is slightly different. Your companion planting experiment sounds fascinating – I am just about to sow some borage, as I like the slightly nutty taste of the flowers.

  2. Hi, I enjoyed your blog post too, it’s fascinating seeing what other people are up to in their gardens. Borage is a great favourite of mine too, it’s self seeded all over the place.

  3. Welcome to SoS. Years ago my mother, who was in her 70’s and had a huge garden, took old carpeting and put it upside down on the veggie garden paths. I think later there were some problems with the plastic or nylon webbing that held the carpet together, but it certainly did the weeds in. I am able to get truckloads of chips from our local tree trimming company. They last for several years in my raised bed paths and eventually rot and enrich the soil.

    1. Hi Mala, when you use wood chip do you put anything under it to suppress the weeds? Do you find weeds just grow through? Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions 😀🌿❤️

      1. I don’t put anything under the chips, but they are maybe 4-5 inches thick. I also use them in the back of my property to supress weeds. The chips are too large to use as mulch in my flower beds. And the tree trimming company is thrilled to deliver them to me at no charge. I put a huge tarp in my drive and they dump them. Then I use a wheelbarrow to move them where needed. I refresh them every two years or so. Last year a neighbor had a tree taken out and the stump ground up. We barrowed the grindings and put them on the paths between my raised beds. I’m all for free. Now, if I just had a neighbor with a horse…

    1. That’s a very good question Tim. We never used chemicals until last year when in desperation I did on the paths in the veg bed. I thought it would be an easy answer but the weeds regrow quickly and I don’t want to use again and again for the effect in the wildlife, especially our wonderful pollinators. It’s difficult because it’s such a large patch so we are taking a few steps back – using the supermarket more till we get it right. What are your thoughts? Especially interested in your views on the coppiced bank. Would love to introduce some colour azaleas, snowdrops etc etc but how to stop the dreary dogs Mercury and brambles taking over? 🌺

      1. I do use it, but only in places where I can’t win by other means and only at times of the year/day when effects on pollinators will be minimal. If it is leading towards more biodiversity to eradicate thuggish weeds, I feel it is valid.
        I live a hazel coppice, with all sorts of Spring bulbs underneath. I think you have to plan for the long term though, so maybe have a year where you just reckon to dig, pull, selectively poison anything you don’t want there. Then plant. It is hard to resist the urge to plant though! And hard work overall.

      2. Very interesting response Tim thank you! I’m utterly convinced by your method of selective glyphosate use only to eradicate thuggish weeds (brilliant adjective) and we had reckoned on a year of digging and pulling before even considering planting. Would love to imagine getting the ground to a stage where we could plant spring bulbs – its outside the kitchen window so I’d see it while washing up (for ages every day – hungry family, cooking from scratch – no dishwasher off-grid!) Will update this blog with progress reports, we are used to hard work!

  4. Wow you have taken on a mammoth project! Very sensible to take a step back and consolidate a little. I can imagine it might have been dispiriting to feel beaten by the land and the weeds. Enjoyed your six very much, hope to see you again soon.

    1. Yes, to be honest living off-grid has been a bigger deal than we thought, together with the access issues to the property and trying to grow all our own food its been a steep learning curve… and the adventure continues! Really enjoyed taking part in the Six this week, it’s a great idea and I hope to contribute again soon.

  5. That’s a massive veg patch! I use glyphosate a bit on paths etc. Don’t like using it, but it is very efficient. It’s so interesting reading about what you’re doing. I’ve caught up on all your posts now and am looking forward to the next one.

    1. Yes weed killer use is a difficult one. I want to find a way to garden without it but it’s no good if all you’ve got left is weeds! Then we end up buying veg at the supermarket, probably farmed using pesticides. An entirely organic veg shop is beyond the budget of most families. Not easy!

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