hauling out long-neglected clematis
In my ‘potager-to-be’, hauling out long-neglected clematis (see my Potager Progress diary pages below)

Planning a new garden or allotment, or taking over – and reclaiming – an old one? Then it’s sensible to adopt a strategy to get you growing and cropping as speedily as time and weather allows. Maybe you are adapting an existing garden to allow space to grow more vegetables, salads and fruit; an ‘edible’ plot no matter what the starting point. Will you have one large plot or a number of raised beds? Whatever the circumstances, allow yourself a little time to assess the space available and its present condition: overgrown and weedy, full of builders’ rubble, or herbaceous flower borders or shrubberies that you wish to convert.

allotment-sized vegetable plot
My husband’s allotment-sized vegetable plot in full swing last Summer, just as we harvested the first of the new potatoes

Each will need its own solutiondig out builders rubble (maybe crush and use the rubble as hardcore for paths or patios); check the soil type – heavy clay or sandy loam, or what? Improve it if necessary with mulches and compost – purchased or home-produced; cut back and / or remove overgrown shrubs –  refer to ‘RHS Pruning & Training‘ (pub. Dorling Kindersley) and dig out or smother weeds – pernicious, deep-rooted perennials may take more than one season to eradicate.

rotavating a large plot
Whilst I’ve been attacking the overgrowth in the new potager, my husband was busy rotavating his large plot.

Next, look at location: which way does the plot face? How much is over-shadowed by trees or buildings? You can’t do much about these factors, but can adjust what you plant where – some plants thrive in shade, others will not succeed without sun and an open outlook. And now you know where your produce is to be grown, you can set to work on digging or rotavating, or positioning raised beds – and most exciting of all, deciding what to grow. (And order your seeds and plants quickly if you haven’t yet done so!) 

When deciding what to grow, speak to ‘the cook’ first – there’s no need to grow everything under the sun. Why not first take a look at ‘The Garden to Kitchen Expert‘ by Judith Wills & Dr D.G.Hessayon ** – a newly published and marvellous cookery companion to the long-established series of ‘expert’ gardening guides; tantalise the taste buds and then get back out in the garden. ** Published by Expert Books (Transworld Publishers), ISBN 978-0-903-50592-5


Potager Progress: whilst my husband has been rotavating his 30ft x 20ft plot, I’ve been really busy in the ‘potager-to-be’; as last week, I’ve recorded my activities in my ongoing diary, and I’m almost ready to plan the layout.

diary pages
These diary pages can be read at full size (diary pages measure 5″ x 7″, or 12.7cm x 17.8cm)
scans from A Pocket Guide to British Birds
I have to admit that these are not my sketches, but scans taken from ‘A Pocket Guide to British Birds’ by R.S.R.Fitter, illustrated by R.A.Richardson – a book I’ve owned for nearly 50 years. The robin and ivy in the page above are cut from paper napkins, adhered to the page with fusible glue.

Oops, how time flies. I nearly forgot – it’s Mothering Sunday in a couple of weeks and Dobies have some fine gifts (hint to my children!) – why not take a look. Meanwhile Raymond and I are visiting the first ‘Edible Garden Show’ at Stoneleigh, S.Warwickshire this weekend. Click on the link on the right of this blog for the latest details.

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