Gardeners World pt1.

This blog, whilst in most senses about cycling as a mode of transport/recreation, has slowly expanded into other areas of ‘green’ living.  This is deliberate, and will continue.  I think that cycling is part of a general lifestyle rather than an activity all on its own.  And so I thought it was time to offer you some more thoughts on matters that interest me; growing things ranks quite highly among them.  I could, of course, issue a lengthy rant about the increasing reliance we place on supermarkets and their unpleasant and unnecessary habit of flying green beans from Nigeria et al; I think, however that you are smart enough to know all about these nasty practices already, and to have formed your own opinions about them.  Suffice to say that, in a small way, and in an effort to reduce food miles a little bit, I hope this aspect of the blog will be of interest to you.

About a month ago, I attended the Suffolk Show. This is a great day out, and one of the exhibitors who caused me to become very interested was the Allotment Society.  Their stand was adorned with some lovely raised vegetable beds, a picture of which follows.

At the Suffolk Show

At the Suffolk Show

I resolved to construct some beds of my own, thus inspired.  But how?  The ready-made kits you can buy at places like B&Q are a shoddy rip-off.  Vastly expensive and made out of flimsy decking style wood, they also have a miniscule capacity for soil and plants.  Therefore, I decided that the only way forward was to build my own.  The very helpful chap on the stand suggested I contacted a scaffolding firm in order to buy some used scaffolding boards off them.  He gave me the number of a firm in Ipswich; I resolved to ring them up…….then I lost the number.  Oh well.

This week, however, inspiration struck.  As the picture below attests, I found a scaffolding yard with a great big pile of ready cut boards for sale.  Result!!

This is just what I wanted

This is just what I wanted

I called in, and between myself and the two Polish scaffolders we established that the boards were indeed for sale, at a very reasonable £1.50  each.  I bought eight.  Getting them home, I spent an hour cutting them all to the same length, taking off the protective metal end strips and generally getting them ready for use.

Ready for bed

Ready for bed

Drilling each board at the end, I then used huge, manly wood screws to fix them together into a square shape, but not before removing the nasty bits:

Quite a few bits to tidy up first.....

Quite a few bits to tidy up first.....

By this time, the first bed was really taking shape, and I laid it out fully assembled:

Taking shape.....square shape

Taking shape.....square shape

Then it was time to clear the area I intended to set the beds in, and get the other one finished:

Both beds in place

Both beds in place

What is of course surprising is just how much soil these things will need. My beds are about 4′ x 4′; I am now going to need a ton or so of soil to fill them up ready for the next growing season.  And with six pumpkin plants already looking to relocate, I will have to get a move on.

My thoughts in summary, for your consideration and delectation:

1) If your tendencies point you towards growing your own, a raised bed is an excellent way of starting up.

2) ‘Normal’ beds can become sprawling and are in my experience very hard to keep on top of – weeds will erupt and a natural ‘mission creep’ will ensure you spend every available moment trying to keep the uninvited vegetation down.

3) Avoid, like the proverbial plague, the ready-made raised bed kits.  These are wholly unsuited to the job, are too small, and are made of materials that will not last.

4) So, google your nearest scaffolding firm, knock on their gate, avoid the vicious guard dog and demand that they sell you some used scaffolding boards.  Some firms see this as a nice little earner, and will even deliver for you.

5) Going hand in hand with the raised bed is composting.  I was lucky enough to inherit two large bins, which it transpires were filled with vast supplies of lovely, well-rotted compost.  This is now filling the left hand raised bed in the picture below, and will provide a fantastic base for the plants that go in there.

The (almost) final result - 6 pumpkins in their new home

The (almost) final result - 6 pumpkins in their new home

On a related subject, he greenhouse, which is a small 6′ x 6′ one, is also going rather beserk at the moment with a profusion of cucumbers, aubergines, squash, chili, and tomatoes.  I will write on these at a later date.

Oh, and strawberries!

Oh, and strawberries!

I really can’t recommend enough that you build a couple of beds.  As well as looking really great, they will also allow you to add in drainage materials that you can’t do so easily in a normal bed; you can use them for vegetables, flowers, whatever.  Seek out your local scaffolder today!

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