The Potager Reveal

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Champion of England peas

Peas

The old field has come a long way in the last year from constructing raised beds to our first crop of garlic. Now the peas, Champion of England (Real Seeds), are coming in and even though we have only planted one obelisk it is is fat and heavy with hundreds of pods. They are juicy and hardly any have made it to the kitchen, even though we talk of adding them to paella dishes. Inevitably one of us goes up with a basket and returns with empty pods. We'd like to thank everyone on our Facebook Page and Instagram who have been supportive over this new garden, your advice has been invaluable. Finally, we'd like to point out that though this is a potager (an ornamental French style kitchen garden), it is also a garden born out of grief. This is a reflective, healing space and is named after Andrew's Dad, Geoff, who died sadly and unexpectedly just under a year ago. Nothing sums up Geoff's old allotment than peas being eaten in the pod. Now we want to reveal the final few steps we went through to bring this area into life.

Earth path


As soon as the raised beds were completed we started planting them and keeping on top of the earth paths by keeping them well weeded. Soil taken from these paths had gone into the raised beds and the floral tyre planters and after a few weeks those tyres vanished under a mass of nasturtiums thriving in the new garden.

Nasturtiums Alaska

We never wanted to put down weed membrane on the paths because of the plastic issue in many of the membranes used today and also in some of the gravel holding systems (the plastic mesh used to stop it from being washed away). Though we are not opposed to using membrane to clear areas, we don't like using it long term and its impact on the environment. Also, we wanted the chance for any self seeded plants to get their roots down into the gravel and weeds are still easy to kill with a kettle of hot water. The gravel we chose in the end was a 20mm shingle of mixed stone. We went for a larger grade of stone to prevent any incidents with the chickens getting in here and seeing the paths as grit. Though we plan to keep the hens out with a robust gate and fence they still can tunnel (we are not kidding).

Gravel path in the garden

We placed the gravel down over two days. Thankfully, we did this during a hot spell and though the delivery driver hated coming down our back lane, it was easier to barrow gravel downhill than have to take it bucket by bucket through the house. 

kitchen garden path

It was then simply a sweaty and hot matter of placing the gravel on top of the beaten earth paths (beaten in the sense that we have been walking on them and compacting them for some time) to around 2-3 inches deep (that's 7.5cm in new money but not in Reece-Mogg's style guide).

Woman gardener

It was a family affair and even D got in on the action on the second day to help us finish off the potager. He was particularly enamoured of the different coloured stones and the possibility of there being fossils in them. He's asked for a raised bed of his own when we convert the rest of the garden to a similar way of growing.

Mother and son gardening

It was hot work and we kept ourselves well hydrated throughout, taking regular breaks as the sun was high. D quickly began to comment on how heavy the bucket was, how hot it was and how the chickens kept complaining at him. He ducked out before the end to go and sit in a cold bucket of water with a packet of crisps and a vimto.

Mother and son

After five hours of moving gravel over two days we went from the old field system (for those of you who follow us you will know that this area once was one open 1/4 acre field which we grew on and this is the remains of that) which was a rather overgrown bed in 2018...

Old garden ripe for change

To this...We've calculated how much this garden has cost us and you'd be amazed, the whole thing cost us £120. That's the cost of the raised beds, gravel (which we still have around 1/4 of a ton left for use on the paths outside the greenhouses) and the arch. Everything else was donated, scrounged, saved, made from scratch or found. The plant pots (though plastic) were from Geoff's old garden in Horwich, and have come all the way over to us here for a new life being filled with dahlias, cosmos and nasturtiums. The tyres we got from our car mechanic who was more than happy to bring us them for nothing. We made the obelisks from coppicing our own hazel. The brick steps were from our old kitchen. It just shows that with a little planning and patience you can repurpose and recycle things you would throwaway into something that cuts costs in the garden.

Potager

Finally, the gravel is down, the potager is complete. We only have to build a gate and fence now (leftover wood from another project) to keep the chickens out but in the meantime we'll keep chomping on peas, some chard, the garlic and the herbs. We'll sit here and remember, and reflect and say, 'Thanks, Dad'.

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