This week I have been concentrating on repairing and renovating the kitchen garden and fruit cage at Packridge Farm. When the garden is in full flow I have very little time to spend in the veg patch and so some of the work I am doing is to try and reduce the amount of weeding and maintenance required.
The fruit cage, currently home to a number of blackcurrants, gooseberries, redcurrants, tayberry and the rhubarb, is full of bindweed. It strangles and swamps the bushes, and before you know it has taken over. Chris has used layers of cardboard to help keep it at bay, but as that has degraded the bindweed has begun to find its way through again. So I have made the decision to invest in some heavy duty ground cover this year. I plan to add a layer of wood chip mulch as well. I am going to install a proper pathway round the fruit bushes, and create a slightly raised bed along the north fence where I will replant the wild strawberries and a variety of herbs and edible flowers.
Other areas are being treated with cardboard. I have been reading ‘No Dig Organic Home & Garden’ by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferety who as the title suggests advocates no dig gardening, and instead uses cardboard and mulches to create beds for growing. There is a lot of research into the approach and I am certainly coming round to the idea that it could be better for the soil.
The gardens at Packridge are very wet at this time of year, and its almost impossible to dig, but there is still work to be done. I am looking at using this no dig approach across the whole garden not just the kitchen garden. I will need to get the compost bins working really hard to produce enough compost and mulch to cover the cardboard with and add to the borders but I am hoping to enlist the help of the owners Mike and Chrissi who are already keen gardeners and ‘composters’ and have 3 bins on the go. I think there will be plenty of material for the bins, but it will need time and energy to shred the prunings from the garden, adding kitchen waste, dry material and turn them.
There is a long list of vegetables and herbs to get going with. Chris ordered onion sets in each year, I have decided to try them from seed. Although it is February, it is only just, and as keen as I am to get sowing I have started small. I have put in a few onions, and herbs to satiate the need to get growing, but I will save the other February sowings till a bit later in the month. Back at home today I have sorted though the hundreds of seed packets I have and started to get them into some order ready for when things get really busy. I think I have quite possibly over estimated the number of seedlings I can nurture and keep on top of at anyone time, but I don’t think you can be a gardener without a lot of optimism!