Friday, 5 October 2012


What's the most important element in cooking? Timing. (Well, at least that's one of the important elements.) Same holds true for growing and foraging for ingredients to go into mixed drinks and our dining table. There's always a certain level of impatience that occurs when the weather threatens to switch into spring mode. It did a few times the past two weeks. But then we'd wake up to a thick coating of morning frost.

Still. There are things we have managed to put in place and new economies to set into motion that we didn't have time to research last year when we started our project.

The most important new addition to our garden are the raised beds. Jard managed to find a company that delivers packs of garden boards with a steel reinforcement band on one end. Each 8-foot by 5-foot bed cost £36 including delivery. Usually beds of this size cost around £70 without delivery and don't include corner reinforcement.

Why are we obsessing on raised beds this year? Last spring, we discovered that the soil in that particular portion of our garden was not only clay-ridden, but loaded with ash. The previous people had done more than one burn on the spot and not a clean burn at that. Plastic bits, glass bits, and the like gave us the impression the soil was not going to be great for edibles.

So raised beds set in place, a "cover" of flat shipping cardboard (we had tons left over from a shipment of art canvas that we stored in the garage for an occasion like this), and a load of fresh organic topsoil delivered in a metre-square bulk bag plus the same amount of spent mushroom compost from a local supplier got us set up in a single afternoon. The supplier even has a calculator on its site so we didn't have to pray that we ordered enough compost and soil. And the overall cost was yonks cheaper than buying bag after bag of commercially packaged compost with chemical additives. It's was about half the price even with the delivery charge. (We still have to add a couple more nails to each corner and apply the copper snail tape to the edges. Maybe even a coat of non-toxic stain to seal the exteriors.)

We were so busy during the winter that we didn't have time to do essential tool cleaning after the late autumn harvest and winter tidy. Hey! A lot of the energy that would have gone into cleaning equipment went into shoveling 20 inches of snow out of the drive that leads to the main road. The little red sledges we bought for playing on the hills out back worked better than snow shovels.

Tool cleaning and conditioning only took an afternoon. Scrub off the old dirt and muck off the metal AND the wooden handles with a sturdy scrub brush and plenty of warm water. Rinse thoroughly. Scrub off any rust with steel wool. Rinse thoroughly. Let dry. Then apply a coat of boiled linseed oil to the handles with a soft cloth. Let dry. Apply one more coat to fill in any hairline cracks that could become splits in the handle. Let dry.

Wasn't that easy? It also gave us a great excuse to take breaks to admire all of the flower bulbs that we had planted during early winter now that they've woken up from hibernation and note the progress of others that will bloom in April and May.

There's one other thing we accomplished while we were snow bound. We got online and renewed our subscription to This site is amazing! We drafted our first and second plans for the garden, including how many plants to propagate and where to place them. The site also has growing guides and the option to add more plant types. The blogs from both US and UK growers are helpful, too. You can print out your plan, run out to the garden, and visualise everything before you start digging.

Next time, we'll talk about propagating and seed varietals. But I have to get out in the garden to see what's up with Kitten.

Let us know what you are doing to rev up for a year of gardening!


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