Diary of a Greenhouse Gardener: Part 8
Designing the layout of the raised beds in the vegetable plot.
When we were deciding where to place the greenhouse, this process was completely dictated by the size and function of our existing garden. There was an area of raised beds, used for growing vegetables which backed onto a chicken run. By moving the run further down the garden and removing the border, we created the space for our new greenhouse.
This has meant that nearly all the existing raised beds have had to be altered or rebuilt from scratch. I drew a plan of the area to give us a layout of how the raised beds will look going forward.
When designing the plan, I have allowed at least 90cm between the borders, this allows for freedom of movement and is wide enough to navigate a wheelbarrow through the vegetable plot with ease. Except for the cut flower bed all the other beds are 120cm wide, which means that they can be weeded easily from all sides.
All the beds are built from tanalised timber, which is resistant to rot and should last for many years. The two beds, labelled vegetables were built by recycling the old, raised beds and are now double the depth. I also decided to paint them light grey, to tone in with the house colour and because the timber was looking a little tired. The next bed to be built and planted was the central square herb border. Like many of us, I use loads of herbs in cooking and wanted to get it established quite quickly. These beds were insitu well before the greenhouse arrived.
The benefits of using raised beds are that they are easy to maintain and by implementing a crop rotation system I can help prevent pests and diseases from building up in the soil. Planting vegetables from the legume family, such as peas in year one fixes nitrogen in the soil, which is great for growing, leafy crops, or brassicas the following year. In year three the bed will be good for growing root crops and onions. I also like to allocate a little bit of space for asparagus and globe artichokes.
An annual top up of soil levels with compost and well-rotted organic material such as manure, helps to increase nutrient levels and in turn increase crop yield. This will also keep the soil free draining and prevent water logging if we enjoy prolonged rain, alternatively we can maintain moisture levels during dry periods by watering exactly where we need to. [Raised beds do require more irrigation than standard vegetable plots]. Using raised beds also allows me to employ the no dig method of gardening, where a little bit of hand weeding and hoeing keeps maintenance to a minimum. The width of the bed also means that most of the maintenance can be carried out from the paths, so the soil doesn’t get compacted and is easier to work.
I had wanted a cut flower bed for a while but always felt that, with a large family I needed to concentrate on growing vegetables. With all the kids having flown the nest, I felt that I could allocate some space for cut flowers at last. Plus, here in the UK a certain supermarket was selling dahlia tubers and gladioli corms for a couple of pounds back in early spring, so I snaffled some up. The raised bed I had planned for them wasn’t finished until early July, so they sat in their packets for months.
The next job to be completed was to lay a small brick patio to the front of the greenhouse, using the last of the reclaimed bricks. I’m hoping that it will make a nice tidy entrance to the greenhouse and may become somewhere nice to sit on sunny days. There are still two more raised beds to build, one of which is going to be the home of a grape vine eventually and the other will become a nursery bed where I can care for plants grown from seed or from cuttings.
Om Sian Napier
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