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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.