The overall plan I’ve had in my head for this plot has been largely unchanged since I first took it on, almost 12 weeks ago. I didn’t want to commit to it immediately. Instead I have used the time preparing the ground to mull over the layout. I’ve used string and canes at various times to test it, and I’ve looked at ways to maximise the growing space.
I’m acutely aware that growing straight into the ground would give me the maximum amount of space, however I do have a need for organisation and ‘tidiness’ – without that, I’d never truly be satisfied. I’m well aware this is a flaw, but one I can’t help.
Now that the timber has arrived and I’m more or less committed to the planned layout, I’ll share it with you;
As you can see, most of the space is taken by raised beds. There are a total of 24 main beds, all sized at 3m long by 1m wide. These are separated by 70cm paths. On my previous site I had a mix of bed sizes. Most were 1.8m x 0.9m, a few were 3.6m x 1m and a few were small 1m x 1m. What I learnt from that was that the 1 sqm beds were too small, or ended up wasting space. I ended up using them for blueberries – but I was limited to one per bed. It was a similar story, to a lesser extent, with the 1.8m beds.
By sizing them at 3m x 1m, they should be big enough for all crops, and can be shared if necessary. I will however endeavour to simply mix varieties, rather than mix different crops altogether.
Surrounding the entire plot will be a hornbeam hedge. This is partly for protection, and partly for aesthetics.
As you’ll see, on the plan above I’ve added some numbers for reference. Here’s some more detail about each of these areas;
1 – The Polytunnel
The tunnel is already in place as has been since the first week I took on this plot. It’s 3m long and 2m wide, and will be used for propagation and salad crops. As I mentioned yesterday, I plan to build some staging to go in here, ready for January sowing.
2 – Compost Bins
These are also already in place. There are 3 bins, each 1sqm. I modified these from ‘stock’ compost bins after having previously used them on my old plot. When I first purchased them, they came with 4 sides, none of which were removable. This made filling and containing waste easy, but hard work emptying! When I moved to this plot, I cut the front slats to expose the fronts. For now, compost has been held in place with thick sheets of cardboard at the front. I will, in time, get some ‘H’ posts to allow for slotted boards to be placed here instead.
3 – Pond
Running through the middle of the plot is a drainage ditch, which leads to a large pond (which isn’t part of my plot). This ditch appears to have worked wonders with the drainage on the plot itself. I’m told it had previously been so waterlogged nobody would touch it. I plan to make a feature of this, rather than simply hide it. Therefore, directly in front of the greenhouse will be a large 2 sqm pond, which I will surround with paving or tiles. Perhaps plant some aquatics and install a fountain. This will, in turn, overflow into the drainage ditch which will be no more that 1m wide. Currently it’s not entirely straight, so I will be filling and re-digging this along the way.
Either side of the ditch will be planting areas, before the edging for the adjacent raised beds. My intention is to add some arches here, perhaps aligned with the raised beds, and plant some perennial climbers for added interest. In between these arches I will add some additional planting, though I haven’t yet decided what. I do want to add quite a lot of comfrey somewhere, so I may well do that here rather than take up a bed with it.
4 – Shed
It’s unlikely I’ll have a shed on here until next spring at the earliest. I have however committed to the idea of a simple 8×6 shed, with a window overlooking what I’ve called the ‘flower garden’. The shed will be used for small storage of moisture or temperature sensitive items – such as gas canisters, seeds etc. Primarily though, this will be a place to cook, drink, relax – and perhaps do some work. I’ll add some generous seating and a desk space for work.
5 – Coldframes
To the left of the path leading to the shed will be the coldframes. I’ve never had the luxury of coldframes before, but they’re high on my list of priorities. I haven’t yet decided whether to attempt building my own ‘ground level’ ones, or whether to simply get some of the slightly raised ‘cabinet’ style ones. There is only a 2.4m stretch of space here, so the raised coldframes will maximise this. It appears they are generally not much more expensive either. I suspect they are perhaps more effective at fending off slugs too!
6 – Flower Garden
I must confess, I’m not a huge fan of flowers. However, there are some edibles that I’d like to plant, and I appreciate their value in terms of creating a relaxing space. This area, between the shed and greenhouse, will serve this purpose – with some fruit trees added here too. The flowers and shrubs will be placed around border, going from the side of the shed and along the length of the greenhouse. The idea is to create a ‘mini garden’. In the middle of this I’ll sow some grass seeds to create a small lawn, and the storage bench I already have will be placed in this area too. As well as (hopefully) being a visually appealing part of the plot, this lawn will no doubt serve as a perfect place for summer picnics for the children.
7 – Greenhouse
This will be my next priority, and is ahead of the shed in terms of need. I’ve spent quite a while looking at greenhouses, and have settled on a 10×6 one for this space. This is a little larger than the one I had on my original plot. I’ve looked at various options for this, including used models that can usually be found cheap or free.
However, once I’ve factored in the cost of hiring a van, spending a day disassembling it, replacing broken or missing parts then reassembling – all likely without the aid of instructions – the saving generally isn’t all that great. I dare say this would be more viable if I had an army of people to assist, that also happened to have a van. As it is however, I’m currently working on the basis of buying a Halls greenhouse. After various discounts this works out at £350, delivered.
8 – Fruit Garden
Although this is a fairly small space, I’ve crammed quite a lot into it – though the beds are not quite as wide here. Forming a ‘U’ shape around this area will be a single, large bed that will be planted with varieties of Rhubarb – a crop I use a great deal of. Coming off that will be 4 further beds – around 0.5m by 3m. These will be planted with crops such as strawberries etc (I haven’t fully decided on these yet, but strawberries are definitely part of the plan!). At the front, 2 separate 3m x 0.5m beds will be filled with ericaceous compose and planted with blueberries, another crop we make good use of. I should have enough space for either 6 or 8 bushes in that space, an improvement on the 3 I had previously.
9 – ‘Spare’
I’ve deliberately left this area ‘spare’ for now, as I haven’t fully decided what to do with it. It’s likely this will be decided after the plot has been utilised for a few months. At the moment, I’m considering either adding a further polytunnel for ‘in ground’ growing (which would be especially useful during the winter months), or having an area for poultry. The 24+ eggs we go through at home each week suggests this could be a wise investment. I’m just a little unsure if its something I want to commit too. I’d never be able to ‘get rid’ of a chicken that no longer laid! Theoretically, there’s enough space here for me to do both those things, so I may well do that. Adding another tunnel in the bottom-left would ensure plot symmetry too, for those that care about sure things. I, of course, include myself there.