Getting to grips: Wartime Beds

A mild winter is not always a blessing in the garden, neither is a mild, wet winter. The ground is often too wet to get out on, and it's not advisable unless you want to compact the soil and end up in a quagmire. The wet, wet weather in late spring has been a boon to weeds and grass in our wartime beds as you can see below. Wet weather means you have to prioritize work undercover, so we have built our free staging, sown our seeds later than usual and watched the weather, those early promises of a balmy summer echoes the promises of 2012 and we all know how that was a wash out, so there is concern on our hillside that 2014 may slip down hill after the initial heat. So, when there's a dry day, and it has been a weather of two polar opposites, cold and wet one day, blazing and burning the next, we get out to catch up and get rid of those grass ridden beds.

Life on Pig Row, getting to grips with the wartime garden

We could have weeded this bed by hand but that would have resulted in insanity, creaking knees and a buggered back. So, out came the lawn mower and we actually mowed our borders, this is something we learnt on The Kindling Trust commercial growers course we did recently. All we did was shrink it down from a field scale to a micro-holding scale. The idea is simple, to use your time well and in ten minutes we had mowed down the worst of the grass and weeds. 

Use your time well, weeding can be done quickly

Then is came down to a job we had to do by hand, digging over the plot. Though we want to go for minimum tillage when faced with such problems we needed to get the ground turned over quickly so we can sow direct into it. Sometimes you have to dig but the plus side was the sheer amount of life in the soil compared to four years ago. When we first dug this bed, all that time ago, there simply was no bug life, no worms, each spadeful this time round revealed worm after worm, beetle after beetle and thankfully only a few pests in the shape of the odd wireworm and the satisfyingly squashy leather jacket. These pests went onto the gutters of the greenhouse, and in seconds, the birds swooped in and took them away. This is another change that has really come into its own this year the explosion of birds thanks to the hornbeam hedges, planted back in the winter of 2009/10 these wonderfully lush hedges replaced the awful laurel hedges (which we're still finding the roots of in the soil) and have provided homes for birds. We have also noticed that this year has seen a rise in bees and butterflies, we are also employing beetle banks around the orchard and these too are throwing up surprises, from vetch to meadow cranesbill, neither sown by us. Hopefully we can now get to grips with the planting and this bed is going to be home for beans and onions.

Some of the Wartime Garden links:

Wartime Garden: Harvest Festival

Digging for Victory: The Guardian Blog