Wednesday, January 6

A cook and HER vegetable patch

Do you have grand plans for 2010? When we moved to this house 6 years ago, I was elated at the prospect of having a patch of green to call my own. I had never owned a garden before but had watched both of my parents nurture and mold every plot we had as I grew up.  Flowers, shrubs, herbs and vegetables were all harvested with pride from our soil in every house we ever lived in.
I am not a patient person , I am impulsive and impetuous. Gardening has taught me to think of the big picture, to look at the long term plan. That patch of flower bed where I didn't clear the scutch grass properly, chortles at me every year as I break my back puling up clump after clump, knowing that in 3 weeks I will be in the exact same spot doing the same thing again .......... time to move perennials, clear the plot and start again.  
I have grown vegetables and fruits for 5 of the last 6 years. I had a hotch potch vegetable plot at the back of the house but last year after some building work and a spring of intense pregnancy where I couldn't physically bend over, the veg garden suffered terribly, well actually fatally.
What with climbing frames, trampolines , flower borders and patios there is little room left to build the veg garden I dream of.
So, with trepedation and much enthusiasm we have rented this plot adjoining our land from the Farmer.

The plot is roughly 50ft x 20ft (measured very scientifically by walking along the wall and counting my footsteps). 
I have grand plans...........
For christmas I received Nigel Slater's new book "A cook and his vegetable patch"
He describes how he turns this 12m long London back garden

into this





He moved into this House on the eve of the Millenium so this was a long process, but the result gives him fresh Vegetables , Flowers and Herbs and this place to sit and enjoy them, when English weather permits.

all images from A cook and his vegetable patch 

I do dream of box hedging like Nigel's, I love the reference to grandeur but in this modest space. There are some drawbacks though,
Price: box hedging is very expensive,
Time: it is very slow growing so to buy small plugs and wait could mean 5-6 years before you see what Nigel has achieved and thirdly and probably most importantly
Snails: the box hedging is the perfect hideout for these little pests who will turn your bright green dreams of fresh salads into tears of empty plates, they can raze a large patch of greens to the ground overnight. From experience I know the fight against slugs and snails for an organic gardener in Ireland is top of the list of problems so anything to help and encourage them is to be avoided. 
So my next preference is wicker. like Monty Don, my go to gardener.



I do still miss his weekly Obsever articles.
His book The Complete Gardener, is a must have for all novice horticulturists.
Yes whicker borders with brick paths............. maybe a long way off.
For now the priorities are fencing our patch off to keep out hungry animals, clearing the land and planning the layout. We are also thinking of chickens.
In which case I shall be buying this book

"Counting my Chickens and other home thoughts" by The Duchess of Devonshire, not really a handbook on keeping chickens as a collection of articles and anecdotes by this eccentric and inspiring lady.
Yes and I shall dress as she does in a full ballgown to feed them. x

I'll keep you updated.


  1. That Duchess is glorious! Maybe a rustic fence with chicken wire & supports and some sort of twig/stick trellising along the corners and at a gate? It is frustrating sometimes to see the book and then feel the reality of doing it. Good luck. G

  2. good luck with your plans. hope you do better than the programm about shane mc gowan and familys efforts

  3. LA isn't she divine, there is an incredible image from a British Vogue of her but I couldn't locate it amongst the tombs of vintage mags, If I come across it i will post it.

    LLD Yes I hope so, although wasn't she good at getting other people to do all the work for her x

  4. I grew up in a house (in NJ) built in 1895 with some glorious old English gardens on the grounds that look like those photos — with ivy borders. It was a bit heartbreaking to see that the owner after us tore up most of the front yard in place of a paved driveway and cleared the gardens for a larger deck and simple lawn with a kids jungle gym. Thanks for the reminder of a favorite part of my childhood home.

  5. Jen, lucky you, but how devastating!

  6. Heaven, Helen. This post is Heaven. I cannot wait to see how your gardens turn out. Have you read Beverly Nichols? I love his gardening books. I think he may be surpassed once I get my hands on the Dutchess's book, however. To my knowledge Mr. Nichols didn't feed chickens in a ballgown.

  7. Hi Helen,Carole here {pottery,textiles,vanessa`s friend!}Anyway very inspiring-try self sufficientish website-very practical.I made raised beds with decking from B&Q,cheap and easy to put together,The wood is treated so it won`t rot.Have you checked out seedsavers and the organic cetre letrim?
    All the best Carole ps



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