Plotting and Planning

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one
J.R.R. Tolkein

We might not have dragons, but we do have weather. Over the years we have learnt how to storm-proof the garden to the best of our ability, but as soon as I hear the shipping forecast giving gale warnings for Hebrides severe gale 9 increasing to storm force 10, I begin to worry. If it gets to violent storm 11, I cease worrying about the garden, hide under the duvet and hope the roof doesn’t blow off!
This month the long tentacles of the Beast from the East have held us in an frozen embrace and caressed us with its icy breath. The chilling effect of the strong north easterly winds has not been ameliorated by the bright sunshine, so gardening has been limited to planting early potatoes in the polytunnel and optimistically sowing a few seeds. However, the Easterly Beast has a sting in the tail and this weekend we are promised gale force conditions (9 to 10) with wintery showers.
It is tempting to retreat to the sofa with a good book, a pot of tea, and toast my feet by the fire. However, the days are getting longer and it is time to start planning the serious business of growing vegetables.
It is a while we visited the vegetable garden, so for new visitors to the Croft Garden and to remind old friends, I’d like to invite you to a “visitor orientation field induction process illustrated with appropriate sitemaps to ensure that it is effective in keeping visitors safe“. For those of you who are not up-to-speed on risk assessment management speak: “here are some maps so you don’t get lost, please watch your step, try not to trip over the hosepipe and if you leave the garden please be aware that there is a bull with the cows in the top field“.

Crown copyright 2014 Ordnance Survey 0100024655
Aerial View of the vegetable garden with the Croft Garden Cottage to the rear.
The aerial view to the left shows the relative position of the vegetable garden to the croft house. The new garden at the croft house was feature in the Realising the Vision post.
Overall the vegetable garden and orchard, with polytunnel, fruit cages and boundary hedges covers 0.11 ha (1100 m2 or 0.27 acres). It is not not exactly rectangular, but is approximately 26.5 m x 42 m.
The croft is runs north to south with the sea on the western boundary

The vegetable beds and orchard are all protected by internal fences, a hedge on the west, north and east boundaries and either the polytunnel or the fruit cages on the south. The garden is flat, altlough there is a step up to the orchard. The area between the cultivated beds and borders is gravel.

The vegetables grown in each of the beds are rotated annually. As the growing season is very short it is only possible to produce one crop each year. Apart from parsnips and carrots, all the other vegetables are grown from seed in modules or pots and hardened-off before planting in the beds. Young plants are covered with enviromesh to protect them from the wind until they are established. After ten years of trial and error, I have finally settled on the list of vegetables to grow each year, although I will often try a new variety to see if I can improve the productivity. The choice is vegetables is based on what we like to eat and what will tolerate our climate and soil conditions.
Most years I have a vague planting plan in my head or scribbled on the back of an envelope, which inevitably gets lost or forgotten, so things are a little ad hoc. So this year, as I’m confined by the Easterly Beast I have produced a planting plan! To add to this list there are cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, rocket and various other salad leaves which are grown in the greenhouse in the croft house garden. It may appear to be a little excessive for two people, but what we don’t need is given to friends.
The large fruit cage has always been used for growing fruit and vegetables, but this year we are using it to grow peas, garlic, sweet peas and sunflowers. For the last 2-3 years, the red and black currants had produced very little fruit as a result of a very heavy infestation of gooseberry sawfly. As I was not prepared to use a pesticide, we decided to take more radical action and removed the bushes. The larvae over-winter in the soil, so by removing the host plants we should remove the flies. The plan is to improve the soil in the small fruit cage, which is currently used for growing bulbs, and buy some new currant bushes. If the sawfly reappears, I will try biological control.
The weather forecast for the rest of the month is not particularly encouraging, so I will have to delay the start of my gardening year a little longer.

Vegetable Beds

  • Broad Beans – The Sutton
  • Broccoli – Purple Sprouting
  • Broccoli – Matsuri, Stromboli
  • Celeriac – Ilona
  • Carrots – Sugarsnax
  • Herbs – Parsley, Fennel, Coriander
  • Kale – Starbor
  • Kale (Cavolo Nero) – Raven
  • Leeks – Stromboli, Cairngorm
  • Parsnips – Gladiator

Polytunnel

  • Beetroot – Cylindrica
  • Early Broccoli – Stromboli
  • Early Carrots – Sugarsnax
  • Courgettes – Parthenon
  • Florence Fennel – Chiarino
  • French Beans – Isabel
  • Garlic – Early Purple Wight
  • Lettuce – Moonred, Amaze
  • Pepper – Midas
  • Early Potatoes – Charlotte
  • Spinach – Trombone
  • Spring Onions
  • Tomatoes – San Marzano

15 thoughts on “Plotting and Planning”

  1. What a beautiful garden- though I can’t imagine the weather/based challenges being that close to open water. Do you have issues with salt spray? I do love the creative and handsome fences you’ve built around your beds- I’ve never sees anything like that before!

  2. Gosh this is useful. Thankyou for sharing! It does show what can grow outside at these latitudes, as our conditions are very similar. I’m starting very small this year as we’ll be occupied with the house build, but Husband is putting in two beds for me, and building a container area so that I can start making compost. I’ll also be putting up some shelter fencing and planting the beginnings of a protective hedge. Your garden looks very organised and productive!

  3. You can probably grow more than you think, especially if you have some wind protection. The veg garden always starts off looking well organised but becomes more chaotic as the summer progresses!

  4. Surprisingly we don’t have a problem with the salt on the plants, it just corrodes everything that isn’t stainless steel! The fences have a nice aged patina now with a lovely lichen mosaic – a Hebridean partierre?

  5. That is amazing! I always hear about how hard it is to pick plants for seaside gardens because of the salt so that is fascinating and enlightening! And I’m quite sure many a folk would pay good money for that patina!

  6. This post has cleared up my confusion after studying the photos in your last post…. I had forgotten there were two locations for your gardens and thought you must have got rid of the polytunnel! It seems from the aerial views that the fruit and veg gardens are not far away… within walking distance with a wheelbarrow? 😉 Or do you need to drive? I wonder if your plans are as flexible as mine… I made a plan in January for my first vegetable beds (yet to be made as the ground is still frozen solid) but it has been revised several times since then! What is the hedge composed of?

  7. It’s about 200m from the house to the veg garden, so most of the time I walk, unless I’m moving plants, produce or such like. It is doable with the wheelbarrow but crossing the cattlegrid is a bit tricky! My plans are always very flexible, and usually bear little resemblance to the actuality!
    The hedge is Olearia traversii , the only shrub which will grow in out sandy soil and withstand the weather! It is evergreen, but doesn’t have the daisy-like flowers of the other Olearias. It also grows 18 inches (46cm) a year.

  8. Thanks Christine. I immediately looked up Olearia and it seems it only survives in the far north of Germany. I suppose we get too much ice and frost for it here. (I am always on the lookout for new shrubs that withstand wind and drought!)

  9. This was really interesting Christine – I hadn’t realised either that your veg plot was not not adjacent to thr rest of your ‘garden’. Wheelbarrows and cattle grids must make for an interesting experience! I love to see aerial photos, always fascinating. Do you have your own drone?
    Are there removable panels to access the beds? I removed our gooseberries following persistent sawfly, but recently we have have had them on the raspberries and blackberries – I used a ‘natural’ spray which seemed to prove effective and this year I have drenched the soil with a wash vontaining neem oil – let’s see if that makes a difference

  10. Not exactly a long distance commute and can be a bit exaspersating if you get the timing wrong and get caught in a squall! As were stuck between a military base and an airport, we’re in a drone exclusion zone. Aerial photographs courtesy of Scottish Government!
    The fruit cages have doors! The way things are at present in may be a couple of years before we plant some more currants, provided the fruit cages survive the next onslaught of gales.

  11. Oh of course, I hadn’t considered that aspect of drone photos. Damage limitation must come into all your forward planning, I guess…

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