I’m very lazy.

Oh, it’s easy to say that my bad back, the stomach, and whatever the hell is going on with my RSI is what stops me. I know that the real problem is that I am lazy.

There are ways around this. You pick the right plants, you do the flashy stuff, you try and keep on top of easy but effective jobs (mowing the lawn). At times of high desperation you pay thousands to have them pave over the marestail in the front. My major problem since I’ve moved has been getting my vegetable rotation going.

I’ve two problems. One is that the vegetable beds are at the end of the garden under the cover of the trees and where the soil is dryest. The other is that the garden soil was compacted for who knows how long under paving slabs and a huge storage shed. The soil needs a lot of improvement.

My plan so far has been to concentrate on those good old soil improvers, potato. Well, I say my plan but the heavy lifting has been done by Dad who manures and does interesting things. I love growing potatoes because you can get ok results with minimal effort. They are pretty hardy against even the most aggressive weeds, they provide their own cover and you have a small amount of grace on when you harvest. They store, too. Every bed has had potatoes in now since I moved and so, in principle, the soil should be more aerated and improved.

Why the beds are caged: the irresistible lure of virgin soil

Except it isn’t, really. Last year I put tomato in my potato bed from 2 year previously and in the greenhouse. The greenhouse toms flourished, the outside ones not. The year before I put toms just to the side at the back of the shed in growbags and they did splendidly so it’s not location. I’ve grow mangetout and broad beans and they’ve always done well on the allotment and in the first year at home in tubs. In the bed: not. Last year I grew a lot of patio veg and they did well* but even courgettes didn’t grow very well. I have to face it that the soil really needs a lot more work.

These courgettes are both close and tiny

Oh, it goes without saying that I fertilise and everything. And the garden plants seem to do ok but I put that down to the protective effect of the fencing and the edges of the garden being the places NOT built over for decades.

This year I have a plan. I have 5 years of household compost in the bin at the back. I have 2 years of leaf mulch (chopped by my leafsucker). I have a Dad with access to manure and an itch to use it. We’ll dig these in to most of the beds before spring – avoiding where I might plant Brassica.

And on that note. What to plant? I pretty much don’t bother with onions and garlic because I don’t eat enough of them, really. My old faithfuls have been beetroot, radish, leafy salads, mangetout, peas and runners, broad beans, toms and cucumbers in the greenhouse, courgettes and spinach. I have tried in the past carrots, parsnips, swede, kohl rabi, celeriac, sweetcorn, kale, cauliflowers and brocolli (sprouting) and sprouts.

Carrots and parsnip I like growing but are prone to insect damage and my garden is very crawly rich. Swede take time, space, and don’t seem to represent good value (I’ve not tasted a benefit, but then it’s not my favourite veg). Brasicca in general seem to be a lottery. You get incredible results one year then nothing. PS is good, though, and does represent cost benefit. I might try sweetcorn again, it does look dramatic if nothing else!

It goes against my general plan for this year but I might have to invest in a couple of raised planters for the patio for the leafy salad veg. They don’t do well in the beds and I’m convinced it’s a water issue. I could just plant in pots and try and fence them in but.. let’s make the cats have to work to ruin it!

checha pot
Step away from the herbs

*The only reason I don’t do a lot more patio planting is Checha (who would spray on it) and Sniff (who would roll in it).