Real Men Sow

A Patch From Scratch: Thoughts on Starting Out Part 2 – Influences

about a boy film posterEarlier in the week, I talked about sensible things like deciding what I wanted from growing my own veg. It can be quite difficult to get myself to think about these things when all I really want to do is go out and dig.

Getting the old grey matter working first is important though, in my humble opinion, as is igniting the creative juices. As well as asking what I want from the plot, I think it is useful to ponder influences too. What have I seen that really gets me going? Who is doing brilliant, interesting growing that I’d like to follow?

Again, I’ve found this helps focus the mind a great deal, and will go a long way to making sure I get the most out of growing and my garden.

Mulling this over, I’ve realised that influences can come from all over the place, and not just pretty gardening books. Some of mine are not obvious, and I thought it might make a nice A Patch From Scratch blog post to list them. In no particular order, this is what is exciting me at the moment.

1. Mark’s Vertical Veg
Since I’m reducing my growing space by roughly half, it is important that I start making the most of all the space available to me, and no one does that better than Mark. Mark grew all his veg on a small balcony and his window sills before moving away from London and his website, Vertical Veg, is brilliant. I’m already wondering what I can trail my squashes and cues up…

2. Square Feet Gardening
I’ve been doing some reading around the idea of growing in square feet blocks, rather than traditional rows. The theory is that you make much more efficient use of the space. Veg are grown depending on their size, so for example you might grow 16 beets in a square, but only 2 cauliflowers in the same space.

3. About a Boy
Okay, this one’s from leftfield, but please stay with me…

I’m a sucker for a feelgood movie, and About a Boy is no exception. There’s a scene where well-to-do shirker Will, played by Hugh Grant, talks about how he gets through the day by dividing it into units of time. He goes to the hairdressers (2 units) and watches Countdown (1 unit).

Sadly, I do have to work for a living, but the units of time thing is still relative. For example, when I’m cooking dinner, I might have twenty minutes while the food cooks which I can use to pop out in the garden and hoe up some weeds. Or I could get up half an hour early and water before work or sow seeds, when all I’d normally be doing is sleeping.

Hopefully having my veg patch just outside my back door will open up lots of new units of time for me to get more jobs done.

4. The Veg Garden Next to Selworthy Church, Exmoor
During April, I visited Exmoor. Before we came home, Ailsa and I took a stroll up to Selworthy Beacon, parking in the church overflow car park in Selworthy village. Next to the car park was the most perfect little cottage and kitchen garden I’ve ever seen. Ailsa had to literally drag me away by my ear so we could walk up to the Beacon. All I wanted to do was gaze at the neatness, productivity and organisation of the vegetable patches.

It really got my fires burning, such was the beauty of garden. My favourite elements were the picture-book wigwams ready for runners and a doorstep, deftly decorated by herbs, but the garden possessed a real aura of creativity as well as production. I vowed there and then to try and create my own version at the new house.

I didn’t think leaning over the fence taking photos was good form for a tourist, so I’ve nothing to show unfortunately, but if you’re ever near Selworthy, I’d thoroughly recommend a sly nose at the cottage next to the church.

Marrying up my thoughts on growing my own veg with my influences has left me feeling really positive about the new project. It feels like an opportunity to make a stamp on something, which is exciting.

As I look out of the back window over the garden, there are now lots of ideas and goals floating around my head for the growing space. I’m raring to go, but one more bit of whimsical assessment first: its time to have a poke around and check out how the land lies…

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7 Comments

  1. MariaAugust 3, 2012 at 2:51 pmReply

    Would it scare you if I said after reading your post I went to Google maps and looked for Selworthy? and found a Church Cottage? and that the satellite picture shows a neatly laid out garden? and the street-view affords an over-the-hedge glimpse?
    Strange thing, technology. The garden does look lovely :) and I wish I could get out there for real rather than on the internet, but for now, it was interesting to see.

  2. HelenAugust 4, 2012 at 4:22 pmReply

    I am jealous of you having a veg patch in your backgarden so much easier. Are you giving up the allotment?

    I saw somewhere, I think it was a US blog, where they grew their squashed up a frame like people do runner beans but they had netting spread across it. I think the important thing would be to ensure the supports were strong enough.

    I also grow my veg in blocks – well beds as I find this much easier and less daunting than having rows to work through. I have also started to end each bed with flowers such as calendula and have undersown my PSB with red clover.

    I am looking forward to seeing how this progresses

  3. Claire BensonAugust 5, 2012 at 8:39 amReply

    Hi Jono

    I’ve been inspired by square foot gardening too. When I planned my new plot a few months ago I divided into 50cm squares and grow something different in each square. It looks much nicer than rows, but because there’s order there it’s still easy to weed and because its more compact than rows there’s not much space for the weeds. It’s definitely working for me.

    That church garden is going to get so much interest now! ;)

    By the way, I like your new logo at the top of the screen – A patch from scratch. We will have to compare notes as I think we both started our patches at similar times. Mines just been producing crops over the last 3 weeks but it was a very long wait.

  4. Jono

    JonoAugust 5, 2012 at 8:07 pmReplyAuthor

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Maria – haha, that’s brilliant. It didn’t occur to me to do that, but I’ve just had a nose. The garden really was lovely, and the views were stunning. I fell in love with the place. Unfortunately I don’t have the £500k probably necessary to buy it!

    Hi Helen – I go up and down with the plot. Its untidy at the moment, which gets me down, but the garden is where I’m feeling really motivated at the mo. All I want to do is go out there and potter about.

    I think I’ll renew my rent in November as I’ve still got some nice winter veg on there, but look to pass it on in the spring. I can manure over winter then and the next people will be ready to go.

    I like the runner beans along net idea. We’re having some scaffolding done at work, and there will lots of net going come the end of the project, so I might try and get some of that.

    Claire – just been doing some more reading about square foot gardening. Reckon it really suits my patch as it is going to be an irregular shape with the greenhouse there.

    The weed comment is interesting too. Mum reckons if I’m growing in the garden there’s no excuse for a single weed!

    I haven’t starting growing yet, just digging. Reckon I’m going to manure over winter and then start proper next spring, so you might have a few months on me!

  5. PaulaAugust 7, 2012 at 5:41 pmReply

    Last year I grew squash and turnip up on a frame made of bamboo (poles up and some across) with no net. The plants themselves put out tendrils to hold them up and I also manually tied some vines to train the plant up. It worked like a charm – had over 20 pumpkins in a very small area. Also grow all my cucumbers this way. Good luck.

  6. Jono

    JonoAugust 7, 2012 at 8:35 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Paula, thanks for tip. Thinking of doing similar, but with willow.

    I love the outdoor ridge cucumbers, and watching the way they grow on the ground, they look perfect for growing up.

    Were the plants okay holding up such heavy fruits as squash?

  7. PaulaAugust 8, 2012 at 9:46 pmReply

    Hi Jono – the plants held up well – the pumpkins/squash were not too large, but I have read of others using ladies tights/panty-hose to help hold up the fruit. Might look a little funny but might just work. :)

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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