Raising the earth: raised beds and greenhouse madness
There are two things I’ve learned about gardening this week: I’ve learned a little bit about beds, and I’ve learned a little bit about glass, and I’ve realised that not all advice is helpful. Okay, I know; there are three things I’ve learned this week, but the third is more a consequence of the first two things. Got that? Good!
Let’s talk beds. The first part of the first thing I learned is this: gardeners don’t find it that funny if you make the inevitable bed jokes.
My initial plan for the gardening was to hire a mini-digger and remove all the soil to a depth of about three inches. This would tear out much of the root system that has established itself over the decade I have ignored the garden. It would also allow me to level it all and start planning with a clean piece of paper. I was impressed by my brilliance, so I relayed my idea to a friend who does gardening, who laughed, long and hard. Apparently, I would have spent the rest of my life ferrying away the soil, and the chopping up of the roots would have simply created a weed festival the size of Woodstock. Weedstock, if you like.
They did, once they stopped laughing, suggest raised beds. In “Tender”, Nigel Slater makes a case for raised beds being the way forward, and the further appeal is that as someone with a past spinal injury, a raised bed seemed a good approach. It also meant I didn’t have to ponce about with a mini-digger.
I went on-line and looked up raised beds; Christ on a bike, there’s a way to sell lumber at an inflated price. That made my mind up; I’d make my own beds. I am currently awaiting the delivery of 180 metres of 6 x 2 tanalised timber (stop laughing, I know it sounds a lot, but trust me, I’ve ordered too much).
Next came glass. I picked out an optimum spot for some undercover action, but I was damned if I could get my head around the greenhouse or cold frame conundrum. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the difference, apart from cost and size. What threw me was that many greenhouse owners also have cold frames. Whilst this might seem obvious to those in the know, it’s a puzzler for someone without an inkling!
Apparently, there is little difference, apart from the size. A greenhouse, being bigger and taller (and more expensive), allows you to permanently grow fragile plants in there, as well as propagating and starting off other plants in the colder weather. The cold frame is a low profile cheaper alternative, and it just allows you to start off plants and to do early sowing (another gardening term).
During my research on greenhouses and cold frames, several people told me I was going about things the wrong way. Instead of planning the best garden I could and filling it with stuff, I should make a list of the vegetables I like to eat, and then work out how to grow them.
I made a list. I even missed out loads of things because I thought they would be difficult to grow in the UK. I also missed off loads of things because I was trying to be careful about space. I made my list, and do you know what? There’s 48 things on it.
I mentioned this to my gardening friend, and he laughed, long and hard. Mind you, that’s like a red rag to a bull. A few years ago, my friends told me I’d never learn to play clawhammer banjo, and who’s laughing now?