First layer of new raised bed

When the sun shone on Saturday morning, and the rain promised to delay until midday, we hatched a plan to build two more of the raised beds in the garden. One half of the garden – 6 beds – was completed last year, leaving 6 more to go. We don’t have space for them all until we take the old shed down, but we found room for two next to Ryan’s workshop.

As we drilled the guide holes last year, assembling the raised beds now is quite quick, although it does take some effort – the sleepers are heavy! By the time we stopped for elevenses, the bottom layer of both beds was in place.

Cinnamon buns on the raised bed

I’d been offered the opportunity to try some Jus-Rol products, and one of the ones we chose was their Cinnamon Swirls, so I cracked open the tube and baked those on Saturday morning. They’re easy peasy – open, slice, bake and then drizzle with icing. The end result is light and crispy, and – although not overwhelmingly cinnamony – very tasty. We were good and only had one each for elvenses (there are 6 in the packet), and had another one for dessert at lunch. I put the remaining two in a plastic pot, and we had them lunchtime the next day – by which time they were slightly less crispy, but just as good!

New raised beds

Refuelled, we carried on until lunch time, and by then we’d finished two raised beds. When we filled the first six beds last year, I settled on a mixture of topsoil, manure and peat-free compost, and the vegetables I grew last year looked well-fed. Since I misplaced my notes, I had to do the Compost Maths again to work out what we need to fill the remaining beds.

I have plenty of peat-free compost (New Horizon) on hand, having stockpiled it over the winter as and when there was a good offer on at the garden centre.

The beds are 1.2 square metres, and we want around a 30cm fill, which means that each bed will hold 432 litres of growing medium. We scratched our heads a bit to remember what we did last year, and decided that it was probably a 1:1:1: ratio of topsoil, manure and compost.

So that would mean 3x 50 litre bags of compost, 3x 50 litre bags of manure and 4x 35 litre bags of topsoil per bed.

Except… one of these beds is earmarked for asparagus, a permanent planting. Over time, organic matter ‘slumps’ – it reduces in volume, and the level drops. That’s fine for annual beds, as you can top them up, but problematic for permanent plantings. So at least the asparagus bed needed more topsoil, and in the end I decided that using 6 bags of topsoil per bed would be an investment against future slumps 😉 It’s not just the stock market tanking you have to watch out for! But we already had some bags of topsoil from the garden sitting around, leftover from when the paving went in. So those have gone in the two new raised beds.

(Sorry if you think compost maths is boring, but I wanted to keep a record of it this time!)

Newly-filled asparagus bed

So after all that lot, the asparagus bed is filled, and I have covered it in black plastic (reusing the compost bags!) until it can be planted. It’s a very exciting development, because it means I have been able to order my asparagus plants from Victoriana Nursery Gardens. It’s unusual to see asparagus sold as plants – the usual thing is to buy crowns, which have to be planted in an archaic configuration of trenches and mounds. We did it last year, for the wild asparagus on the other side of the garden, but by buying plant we are avoiding that chore this year. I have settled for a mixture of 3 varieties – Connover’s Colossal (a traditional English variety), Crimson Pacific (a purple-speared variety from New Zealand) and the American F1 Jersey Knight. The latter will come in August, but the first two should be dispatching soon.

Planting asparagus is very much an investment in the future of a garden. We won’t get a harvest this year, and will only be able to harvest a few spears next year. But from 2018, if everything goes well, we’ll be having asparagus for breakfast, lunch and dinner during May! Which will be great, because last year we discovered we loved cooking asparagus outdoors, and are looking forward to doing that again this year. We just need some better weather – and it doesn’t look like we’re going to get that this week!