Today I had the pleasure of working with pupils at a local school, Carrfield Primary Academy, as part of their ‘Eco Day’!
I worked with four different year groups, first explaining to them how we turned our overgrown garden from this:
It’s been a glorious weekend in our part of the UK and we’ve made the most of it by catching up on jobs in the garden!
We did lots of tidying and planting; seedlings that we’d started in the greenhouse were desperate for potting on or planting out!
What lovely weather it’s been today!
Our first opportunity to get out in the garden as a family and get the growing season up and running for 2016!
It was also our first chance to introduce Henry to the garden, thanks to my Mum who spent the day walking him round, entertaining him, and pushing his pushchair at naptime!
I love this time of year! When it’s cold, dark and everyone’s a little bit miserable, it’s a great time to snuggle up in front of the fire on a dark night and start planning the year ahead in the vegetable garden! I’m making this sound very poetic aren’t I!
I always create a list of the vegetables I want to grow and do a rough guide of where I’m planting each one by using the Growveg.com app, but I have to be honest I never stick 100% to my plan. I vow that I’ll grow everything from seed but then end up also buying plants from the garden centre; and of course every year, some things I’ve attempted just don’t come off!
I create my wishlist of vegetables first, then plot where to plant them. The app is really helpful with this as if you use the same plan year on year, it’ll highlight in red where you’ve situated a particular crop previously so you can avoid planting in the same bed in consecutive years.
When I’m deciding what to grow, I start by listing the vegetables that we eat most frequently, or that will be most useful to us (and our family and friends!) Then I consider what else I want to achieve from the growing season, usually it’s to try something different or unusual or hard to grow, but this year I’m going for productivity over ambition!
We’ve got a new little mouth to feed and I want to make sure Henry eats as many fruits and vegetables from the garden as we can possibly grow, so sucessional sowing is the key this year! I need a constant supply of staples such as carrots, tomatoes, beans and courgettes, as well as introducing different tastes to him throughout the season!
Here’s my list for this year:
I’m not going completely ‘straight’ when it comes to plant varieties this year, there’ll definitely be some purple carrots thrown into the mix and my one experiment is going to be with ‘flower sprouts‘ which we’ve had from the supermarket a few times and they’re very tasty! I’m also going to make an effort to grow from seed as much as possible, rather than buying plug plants.
Here’s my planting plan for 2016:
The other thing I love about the Growveg app is the fact that you get a ‘cheat sheet’ (my terminology not theirs!) giving you rough planting and harvesting times! Of course you need to refer to the specific growing instructions for whatever varieties you’re planting, but it’s a handy place to start!
We’ve been looking forward to having a small flock of chickens for several years now, so this was an essential part of the plan when we designed our vegetable garden!
After doing a lot of research on the numerous houses that are available, I settled on this one that we built and painted ourselves so it was inkeeping with the look of our cottage garden.
We sited the chickens at the back of the garden so they were away from our neighbours and we could allow them a large run, but as this is right against the field that borders our property, we spent a lot of time and effort to make sure the run and house were as ‘predator proof’ as possible.
We dug a trench around the boundary of their pen and lined it with bricks that had come from our house renovation. The chicken house itself is placed on slabs to keep it level and we surrounded the base with chicken wire too so Mr Fox couldn’t sneak underneath the house!
We created a dust bath area from the base of an old wheelbarrow that had finally given up on us during the renovations, which the chickens are very pleased with!
Generally chicken runs are 6ft high to give humans room to move around when cleaning etc. but we didn’t want it to encroach on our views of the surrounding fields – after a year of scrambling around in the pen, I’m not sure if Richard still thinks this was a good idea!
Growing your own fruit, herbs and vegetables is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons; it makes financial sense (once you’re up and running) it guarantees you know where your food is coming from, you know how it’s been grown, there are no food miles, it keeps you fit and it’s a great hobby!
Whether you’re growing in window boxes, a small back garden, or your own allotment space, here are a few tips and hints that we’ve learned along the way to get you up and running!
I hope some of these tips might be useful to you; none of it is ‘professional advice’ we are amateur gardeners who just do it for the pleasure it brings us, and all these points are things that we’ve simply learnt by trial and error over our few years and growing fruit and vegetables. We’d also love to hear any tips that you have to share – we’re always keen to improve our gardening knowledge!
To see more of our garden photos, follow me on Instagram: @pickleshlee