Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New garden, new start

In between lots of food writing and talking last week I managed to get out to the garden and plant some spring veg - a refreshing change to the chicken wars which were continuing apace. Late last year we moved to a new house with a large garden, in fact it's not really a garden but a job centre. The minute we arrived, my husband and I walked around it stupefied with fear - having moved here precisely because we wanted a small piece of land of our own, once we were in possession of it things just began to look plain scary.

The list of jobs to be done; lawns to be mown, hedges to be cut, trees to be felled, felled trees to be chopped is pretty overwhelming. And while it had been beautifully maintained by the previous owners, the place doesn't feel like the garden we want it be and big plans are afoot to change how much of it is orientated.

Being animal lovers, more living, destructive additions are set to arrive in the next few months but in the meantime we are just trying to maintain the garden; chop down a few small trees to get a nicer view of the valley we live in, cut hedges and start on the lawns. While a lot of the planting is very suburban and 1970s in flavour, there are some lovely places in the garden, including the potting shed (pictured above) which is a lovely place to work, with old-fashioned panes of glass covered in clematis to one side and a lovely pink camellia climbing all over the front wall and door.

If you follow this blog from last year you will be familiar with the travails of planting too many tomatoes so this year I stuck to just Ferlines - -a nice large ridged tomato like the ones in French outdoor markets, which have been successful for us in the past, and a few of a mini variety.

I also put in lots of rocket, dill, basil, radishes and three types of lettuce. We will plant more in a fortnight's time so that you get a successive crop rather than everything coming at the same time -yet more lessons learned from previous efforts.

For someone who spends a lot of their day looking at a laptop, it's lovely to be outside again and pottering around in the dirt. Gardening in a new place and planting from seeds is always slow at the start but once your veg begins to come up it is such a pleasure to walk around the garden in the evening, see how everything is getting on and have a glass of wine and chat as the sun sets. I have one terrace I'm trying to remodel as a place to eat in the evenings which has beautiful views. At the moment it's a grey concrete hell but I've high hopes for its transformation into a cool but lush space for eating and entertaining. I've done this before - the first garden I had was truly awful - a tiny concreted yard the size of a stamp but after years of work it became something really lovely, with hanging vines, lanterns, dark wooden floors and verdant planting. So in a way this garden is going to benefit from the experiences that have gone before, or fingers crossed, let's hope it will.

It's funny, I am more patient about gardens then most other things in my life. I'm prepared to put in enormous hard work, constantly forgive them, plan and reinvest when things go wrong and ultimately learn from my mistakes. If I could bring these qualities into everything I do, I'd be some kind of cross between Michael O'Leary and the Dalai Lama. I'll keep the blog up to date with regular reports and photos and include the food I grow into my cooking this summer. For everyone out there fond of gardens, or perhaps who doesn't know where to start - buy a few seeds, a bag of compost, a small tray and stick them in the ground. See what happens. Get stuck in now folks, dirt rocks. x

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