Just before Christmas last year my girlfriend had had enough of our present dwelling and felt a change was due. House hunting is never much fun and comprises of a week or two of manic viewings and disappointment. I didn’t want to leave behind my window box and if I was, it would have to be for an upgrade. As luck would have it we found a lovely one bedroom basement flat which was perfect…it also had a garden, not a big garden but a beautiful bit of rocky wasteland all the same. We moved to St.Johns hill and became one of Clapham’s many “professional” couples. The garden was going to need a lot of work, but all I could picture were rows of lush lettuces and spinach, maybe some tomatoes and a wooden frame with sweet peas dangling off waiting to be plucked. In reality I had more than my fair share of graft to put in if my vision was to become reality.
It wasn’t until March that I did any work on the garden. First I had to choose what I wanted to grow, this was the easy bit as it involved sitting in an armchair going through catalogues and ordering my preferred veggies. The final list and what at this very moment is growing a little bigger everyday, metres from where I sit, goes like this:
• Lemon thyme, thyme
• Parsley (flat leaf & curly)
• Mint (apple)
• Lettuces (Lola rosa, Tomb thumb, Cos & Raddiocco)
• Pak choi
• Perpetual Spinach
• Potatoes (pink fur apple)
• Kohl rabi
• Sweet peas
• Runner beans
• Red peppers (pointed)
• Tomatoes (gardeners delight &beefsteak)
• Butternut squash
So there you have it a complete inventory to my patch. How I would manage to fit all that into a 13’ by 11’ space, I didn’t know, a more mature green fingured enthusiast might be appauled by the way in which it would be crammed in. To me however, it would be a beautiful sight to behold and pure bliss to water everyday before work, also this is a learning curve, as an excuse or not it puts my soul to rest.
The next stage was one I am glad I wont have to repeat for some time. As I mentioned my patch had more than its fair share of stones, way more! I spent a backbreaking 2 days digging and sieving the stones out of the soil, I had more than enough stones to fill in my little garden path and managed to find a 1950’s dump consisting of ink wells, bottles and allsorts. Once this was done I found the soil was actually pretty first rate, this meant spending less on buying in fresh soil. Bonus!
Planning the garden and working out what to put where was interesting, different vegetables prefer certain other vegetables as company, to avoid any disagreements or full on veggie punch ups I was going to have to tread carefully. I had to divide them up into sections. This was done first with string, the string would eventually be replaced with 6” by 2” planks to create a sort of raised bed. As luck would have it my brother had a pile of planks round the side of his house, so after some careful measurements I nipped round on a Sunday afternoon and cut some down to size. Once laid out and screwed together my garden had begun to look quite the little haven I hoped it would be.
Meanwhile my seedlings were off to a flying start and could wait to get their roots in, the majority of salad leaves and spinach were going to go straight in as seeds but the tomatoes, sweet peas, beans and potatoes were going to need to be transplanted. My soil situation was looking good but needed topping up to get the 3 foot depth and extra nutrients that would prove to be paramount to success. A quick trip to Homebase was in order and 20 minutes later and £20 poorer left me struggling to the car with 3 bags of organic compost and 3 bags of organic soil. All that remained was to empty them into the new beds and mix in with the existing soil. The carrot and beetroot patch were the only section that didn’t get a dose of manure, apparently it disagrees with them.
How to get a garden in three easy steps......
The finishing touch to the garden was a little gift to the peas and beans, a 5 foot miniture wig-wam of hazel uprights I had cut from Sussex were placed in the corner, which were then woven together with thinner lengths. I hoped both would oblige by climbing up it and adding a splash of colour with their flowers, but that remained to be seen.
Worth the effort? Definitely. Not only had I transformed the barren wasteland that was into something regimented and aesthetically pleasing, I had also laid the foundations for a summer packed with fresh produce metres from my kitchen. How well would everything do? Would the slugs and snails reap the benefits before me? Or would I be the one filling my belly with lush summer greens. Only time would tell, but I can tell you now, I haven’t gone hungry yet. The snails I have found creeping into the garden at the dead of night, although they don’t know it, are going to provide me with an interesting source of protein too....