Sunday, 11 December 2011


We've been talking for ages about having a vegetable garden - but where?

The best place physically is probably on the bank at the edge of the field behind the shed with the corrugated iron roof that we bought from Serge.  It's roughly half way between the cottage and the house, so wherever we are living it's not too far to walk to get fresh veg.  It's a good sunny position too with no overhanging trees and reasonably close to the underground water tank down at the cottage.

But it's also a sandstone outcrop, the soil isn't good and the veg wouldn't thrive there.  So it would mean making raised beds of quite some height to give the plants a good root depth before they hit the sandstone.  And the beds would need filling with earth from elsewhere, which all begins to sound like hard work.  I don't do "hard work" if I can help it.

The alternative location is up by the house at the back, alongside what I laughingly call "the orchard"  - two elderly plum trees, a suspect mirabelle, a sour cherry and a doubtful perry pear tree. At the moment the possible veg garden is a lawn. The soil is good and it's sheltered from the north by the wood store and the east by the house.  But there's a large silk tree shading it and the old fosse septique tank is still underground in the middle.  Also, it's as far away as you can get from the cottage, so a trek for any friend staying there who thinks: "great I'll just go and pick a few French beans for lunch". And they probably wouldn't anyway,  because they would be entering what they would think of as "our" private space alongside the house.

On balance, the sandstone bank and raised beds is probably the better option.

Now is the time to be doing it - building the beds, filling them with soil and compost and deciding what goes where.  But I'm still dithering. Maybe because the last time I had a veg patch I was working full time and the gardening just became a burden every evening and weekend. And I gave up. It's that "gave-up-ness" I can still feel.

Then there's the reason why we're considering it ....  The media and the forums are full of anxiety about what is going to happen in the eurozone and what our world will be like in the future.  Doomsday scenarios are being written and there is talk of needing to be self-sufficient when the financial and economic world collapses around us.... that doesn't seem to be a joyous and uplifting reason to have a veg patch.

Better to focus on the delicious River Cottage veg dishes I've been cooking and think how much nicer they will be when I can just walk outside and pick my own basketful of organic vegetables fresh.


  1. If I were making a vegetable garden I would definitely go for raised beds, Sue, for a number of reasons. They are easier to weed and don't risk being invaded from the edge in like traditional beds. Once you've made them, you need never dig again. As they aren't walked on, the soil won't get compacted. Just plant and mulch. Because it is easier to build up the soil's fertility, they are very productive for their area. As you can see, I'm a fan. :-)

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

  2. Hello Perpetua, thank you for the encouragement. We're considering somewhere else, where the soil is better, but we'll do the raised beds as well. I'll let you know. :)

  3. I do have a good vegetable garden on the hill behind our house. It's not that hard to grow more veg than you can eat. I don't mind hard work but I found that for the first time this year, I got winded pushing the wheelbarrow up the hill. I can't do eight hours of labor like I used to. I do have a few raised beds and they are wonderful. I also discovered that newspaper mulch is a great thing for keeping weeds down.
    We also have apple trees and make cider. Chickens aren't a bad idea either but where I am you really need to build them a good shelter and protect them from coyotes, foxes and raccoons.
    Sounds like there is a lot of doom and gloom in the Eurozone.
    What have been your favorite dishes from the new book?