Last week I was talking about my plans to turn the Sunset Strip – a roadside section of my garden – into a mini allotment. After I’d dug out the shrub roots, Ryan and I went out to check on the measurements and potential layouts. Over the weekend, Ryan put together this rendering of what it might look like. There’s space for four 1.2×1.0 metre raised beds, and plants in pots along the back wall. There’s also space for two compost bins, avoiding the two conifer stumps that we will allow to decay naturally. The front of the garden is separated from the pavement by a picket fence. In no way, shape or form will this area of garden be bunny-proof, and there are a lot of bunnies just over the road. So learning what they do and don’t like to eat will be interesting!
Now the reason that the plan shows four raised beds of that size is that we’d spotted some pallet collars at Oxford Wood Recycling which would be perfect. They’re wooden rectangles, with metal hinges at the corners that extend downwards so that the collars can be stacked. We thought they’d make good ground anchors for the bottom layer. A UK standard pallet is 1.2×1.0 metres.
Oxford Wood Recycling, based in Abingdon, is an interesting social enterprise that I’ve known about for a long time, so it was nice to have an opportunity to support them. They collect waste wood from around Oxfordshire, and sell it on to people who need timber for their building/ craft projects. Their collection prices are cheaper than hiring a skip, so companies benefit from using them, and the wood is recycled rather than sent off to landfill. Of course, you can’t guarantee what they’ve got in stock at any moment. Waste wood that’s not suitable for reuse is chopped up for firewood and kindling, so we’ll be getting ours from them in future. And their staff turn some of the wood into lovely products – crates, tables, candlesticks, etc – that you can view in the upstairs showroom.
It’s my birthday later in the month, and so we decided that four raised beds would be my birthday present from Ryan. And so we trotted off to the wood shop to buy them. The original intention was that we would buy eight pallet stacks, and have four double-height raised beds. But when we got there they’d sold a lot of the pallet stacks, and there weren’t as many to choose from. We wanted timber (at £8/piece) rather than plywood (at £7/piece) to make them last a little longer (although they’re not intended as long-term features). In the end we found four that Ryan was happy were in reasonable condition and were the same size – it turns out that not all pallets and pallet collars are created equal.
We got them home and set them up in the back garden, making use of the awful weather we’re having at the moment to clean them up a bit!
That’s what they would look like as double-height beds – they would be about as deep as the posh raised beds I have in the back garden. That’s surplus to requirements for the Sunset Strip, so I will be perfectly happy with them as four separate, single-height raised beds. Once they’re clean and dry, Ryan intends to paint them green to match the fence.
And what am I going to plant in them? Well, in honour of their arrival I have ordered some Sárpo blight-resistant seed potatoes – a Sárpo twin pack from Suttons that gives me 1kg each of Axona and Kilfi. Kilfi (which sounds like a good name for a dwarf in The Hobbit!) is an early maincrop variety, which will be ready to harvest in August/ September. I’m looking forward to boiled new potatoes from this one, cooked within minutes of harvest! Axona is a maincrop variety, a fluffy masher that will also be cooked baked, roasted or turned into chips when I harvest them in September/ October.
I haven’t done the planting maths yet, but I envisage one bed of each type. If there are any spare seed potatoes then I should be able to find them a home elsewhere, even if that’s in a large container.
For the other two raised beds, I am thinking large, rampaging beasts of cucurbits. I ordered ‘Georgia Candy Roaster’ (which my brain insists on misreading as rooster) from the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) last year, so that can fill one bed and see how much more space it can co-opt. For the other I have another packet of HSL that are a bit older, which is a variety of Shark’s Fin Melon. I’ve wanted to grow those for years – this is my chance. They’re not well-behaved plants, so I am hoping for a Triffid 🙂 If they start trying to take over the pavement then I may have to do some training; otherwise I shall leave them to go nuts!
Have you got any exciting garden plans you’re working on for this year?