Sunday, 16 October 2016

Clash, reggae and Lawrence Hills ..

1978 was a great year. A vintage year. Newly married and in our own home it was a year of The Clash and the Pistols. New Wave music. John Peel. Wonderful reggae from Culture and Joe Gibbs. Nottingham Forest weren't having a bad time of it either. During that tumultuous time I began a lifetime love of bread making when the only bread at our local co-op was that made by the management during a bakers' strike and I had to bake my own. And 1978 was the year I bought my copy of Organic Gardening by Lawrence Hills.
I'm still playing all that music. My football club ain't doing too well, I'll be honest with you. Folks love my bread! And my old Lawrence Hills and it's companion Fruit and Vegetable Gardening are well-thumbed, underlined and annotated and remain the very heart of my gardening credo.

Our garden in Sherwood, Nottingham was our first attempt at growing fruit and vegetables organically and holds special memories.

And years later it was with huge sadness that we gave up our allotment in Leapool, Nottingham after thirteen productive and fascinating years to take on the building of our home and to develop the six acres of the derelict and neglected former mushroom farm that we now call our gardens.

From 2009 we've had a big hole in our lives, unable to grow our own vegetables and fruit and unable to enjoy the unique pleasures of an organic garden. We've missed that process of eagerly scouring catalogues for seed varieties, preparing the ground and then watching the young plants grow to productivity. All without chemicals or artificial fertilisers.

But house built and gardens tamed, now is the time to create our own organic vegetable and fruit garden again.

The Head Gardener's (HG's) list of development work for the autumn includes preparing the four vegetable garden beds and preparing and planting the permanent fruit bed. We completed the third of the four vegetable beds before the weekend. This has included digging over the ground to remove perennial weeds and the roots of the many remaining perennial flowers and grasses that we had previously nurtured in this part of the garden. Then the marking out of individual plots - before barrowing well-rotted manure and compost onto the soil to give the thin Nottinghamshire sand some heart.

I have already discussed the importance of the soil to organic gardening. Next we must consider the rotation of crops to ensure that there is not a build up of pests and diseases.

The vegetable garden is divided into four annual beds, each following the previous:
Next years' potato bed dug and ready for more compost and manure ..
  1. Potatoes - organic matter added to soil to build soil fertility
  2. Legumes, corn and squashes - benefit from previous years' fertility and build on it by adding their own fertility through root nodes
  3. Brassicas, leaves and beetroot - appreciate fertility from previous years and also firmness of the ground as legumes are hoed off leaving soil well anchored by root structure
  4. Roots and onion family - do not need high levels of fertility and complete the four year cycle.
Potatoes follow roots and onion family into their ground when the cycle begins again.

During the development stage we were unsure which bed would be in which location so have a haphazard planting. This will be rectified as 2017 develops.

In the photograph, the HG surveys work so far beneath a glowering and decrepit cherry. She'd raised questions about its' condition and domination before so I sent a text to our notoriously busy tree surgeon friends. The tree needed a pick-me-up and thorough seeing-to.

Me: 'Arternoon Nate. Is it too late in the season to prune a venerable cherry tree?'

Reply: 'Should be ok at the mo just no later really now it's getting cold'

Me - 'Aha - you've fallen into my carefully prepared trap. When are you free?'

Reply - 'We'll be with you in the morning'

an early season drug of produce from our allotmenting days
You can almost here the resigned exasperation in that reply ..

I must say that the boys got their retaliation in good and proper as, on their recommendation, I'm now reducing by two thirds the height of a three metre high and thirty metre long privet hedge with an uncooperative Aldi chainsaw. My progress did increase when the HG pointed out that I was using a Stihl chainsaw manual which explained why none of the diagrams looked anything like the machine I was using.

But with sixty years of unpruned cherry tree growth taken  care of, we can look forward to productive and shade free gardening ahead. I am a passionate gardener from a line of such. Little gives the gardening satisfaction of a well-managed vegetable and fruit bed and the resulting delicious produce waiting on the plate. The reclaiming of our vegetable and fruit gardening is one of our most-eager anticipations.

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