This will be the last post in the series of posts covering the vegetable garden. As of the end of this week i have finished most of the jobs that i really had to get done now. The really heavy jobs can wait now until the autumn when often we get a dryer and cooler period here. I have got some heavy jobs to do in the back garden, that includes finishing the earth-bag retaining wall and then re-modelling the upper part to include a studio/cabin but before i do that i will have to rip out the old decking and build a new trellis fence on one side.
As of this weekend most of the big beds are covered over as i am not going to grow a winter crop, the one uncovered bed is waiting for some horse manure which i hope to get this week. Today the onions are all laid out on the back garden bench hardening off in the sun and gentle breeze, the potatoes are all bagged up into paper sacks and sitting on the cool concrete floor of the workshop.
Water and compost then.
Water first : i live in a very wet area of the UK , we get about 950mm of rainfall here officially but i suspect that its slightly more than that due to the fact that we live on the upwind and up-weather side of Dartmoor such that we get a lot of the orographic rainfall. That does mean that we get very wet periods when low pressure dominates the Atlantic but that we also get long dry periods : last year for example we had no rain at all for 6 weeks and very little over a 10 week period. My problem with that is of course that vegetables need lots of water and they will get through a stunning amount of water at peak growth. At first here i just had a few water butts and stored just a few hundred litres of rainwater but i quickly learnt that i could rip through that in just a few days during a dry period. As of today i have around 9,000 litres of rainwater stored in a combination of IBC tanks and various sizes of rainwater butts. I take rain from 4 small roofs : the small house roof on one side, the garage/workshop, the outside utility area and the woodstore. Yesterday i rebuilt the main tank-farm which collects from the workshop roof : that is 6 x 210 litre water butts and is backed up by a separate 200 gallon tank but also feeds into 2 of the 1000 litre IBC tanks.
The black IBC tanks are due for a nice wooden box around them when i have enough scrapwood…..unfortunately they also form a nice junk-dump which is also due its periodic clear-out.
When i built the 3 primary big beds i set them up with soaker hose in the soil and had them each connected to a tank-farm at the head of the garden : thus when i wanted to irrigate i would just turn on a tap and let the water run into the soil. The eventual plan was to have all of that on automatic timers but because the soaker hoses aren’t all on the same plane one bed tends to get much more water than the others so the system doesn’t work as well as it could….problem of a sloped site !. What i do now is rely much more on the deep beds acting as water stores them selves and just soak them thoroughly when the top 4 inches of soil gets very dry. Nowadays i just do that with the garden pump and have a bit of fun soaking the beds, my partner and myself in the process.
At some time i intend to run the house partially on rainwater (toilet) just as i run the small outside toilet now. Also with the back garden being mush higher than the front i can run water down from the reserve tanks at the back when i am getting low. Now i realise that my set-up might seem large for a domestic/garden here but i know of at least one viewer who stores at least 10-20 times the amount i do !.
I don’t run a compost heap (haven’t got the space) so what i do is have an old rainwater butt (drilled out) in each of the main beds that green waste and food scraps go into . Big weed waste i either burn periodically or shift off-site to the local tip. The compost bins feed directly into the soil of the beds so there is high worm activity and nutrients going straight back into the beds. This year i will let one bin settle completely and then empty the remaining compost out onto that bed.
This weekend i am hoping to get the drive finished and almost at the point where i can re-plant the long section of the road border…..probably going to be lavender.