Everything got a bit exciting here at the Pebbledashed Pad late last week as J, accompanied by a stack of chunky sleepers and a waif-thin labourer, arrived for their last two days of scheduled work.
All started well.
Sleepers were cut and bolted together to form three roomy vegetable beds for our new mini-plot at the back of the garden. Leftover stone from the terrace was ingeniously used in a path at the front of the shed. Bags of gravel were hefted through the house and layered thickly between the beds to keep grass and weeds from creeping their way into the beans. Lawn was flattened a tiny bit more on S’s insistence…..having accused J of having a spirit level with a permanently fixed bubble in its centre….before turf arrived, albeit late in the day, transforming our patch of mud into a spanking new and beautifully green lawn.
But the Pebbledashed Pad wouldn’t be the Pebbledashed Pad if there wasn’t one last bit of work still yet to do ……and (of course)…..a week or more wait before anyone can come to do it. The stone for the steps leading up from lawn to plot has been measured incorrectly by a couple of annoying yet still prohibitive millimetres so J will return, he promises, to do it next week. Or maybe the week after…..or the one after that….
In the meantime, although looking promisingly like a football pitch from where a small person stands with face pressed to the glass, not much use can be made of the lawn until it has completed its three week prescribed course of daily watering….which Mother Nature has been kindly seeing to of late. And while the plot looks promisingly like, well, a retreat actually…. from where a bigger person stands with face pressed longingly to the glass not much use can be made from that until the beds are filled with soil suitable for planting.
Sunday, therefore, found the three of us on our way to the garden centre.
“Where are we going Daddy?” asked a curious O from the back.
“Do you remember when we bought our Christmas tree?” S asked, “and Daddy put it on the roof….”
“Like Peppa Pig….” I cut in
“Where it promptly lost 90% of its needles” he continued “before embedding the rest in our carpet?”
S glanced across at me.
“Next year we are getting a pine air freshener and a different kind of tree.”
“What you talking about?” sighed O.
Figuring that a quest to exchange hard cash for number twos feels somewhat contradictory we decided we might leave that conversation there. Instead Liz and Steve and their back bedroom synthesiser helped change the subject with an overly enthusiastic rendition of Five Little Ducks.
Later, as friends arrived for a BBQ with unhospitable warnings to keep off the grass S, elbow on island, relayed the days exciting purchase.
“Bought some s**t ……”
It wasn’t then long before boys and their banter had evolved the conversation to various other kinds recently bought for the house with particular (and unwarranted, I feel) attention brought to a certain four chairs….
The s**t, horse to be exact, turned out to be a rather cheap and fairly painless (if you don’t count S’s strained shoulder and sore back) way to fill the beds with nutrient packed growing matter. Rotted down already so surprisingly odour-free, twelve bags of the stuff were (helpfully) delivered to the (unhelpfully) kerb the very next day accompanied by a stack of multi purpose compost to mix with. S’s evening then consisted of lightly, whilst weighing almost double, tiptoeing across our freshly laid lawn multiple times before a well deserved beer could be enjoyed. And while S was busy moving poo I was busy clearing it….a somewhat smellier version produced by an altogether smaller mammal – it being potty training time……
Keen to do things right this time, having learnt from the failed allotment attempt, I had spent the short amount of time waiting for the growing matter to arrive digging…..admittedly not in earth but through the Pisa-esque tower of boxes we have stacked awkwardly in the office until the library wall is built (won’t be long now….S’s brain is, he tells me, already a-whirring about that project……). My hunt was for my collection of quicky-acquired-and-just-as-quickly-ignored horticultural tomes…..a particular favourite being Jane Perrone’s The Allotment Keepers Handbook. Needless to say the book could not be found…. it being like many other things currently missing in action (our good camera, a necklace of huge sentimental value ….etc) probably being somewhere in the current mayhem of our loft. I made do instead with the almost-as-good River Cottage Vegetable Patch Handbook and began to make a list of what we like to eat and where in the three large beds I might be able to grow it. Then, unable to wait any longer, I took my chances and hotfooted it across the forbidden lawn to get the plot on the go.
Bags were emptied, manure and compost mixed and the resulting crumbly matter raked. Window boxes were filled and balanced at the end of beds to add a touch more growing space and the emptied compost bags recycled to suppress any weeds pushing up beneath them. With deeds of the shed officially registered to S that remained throughout a no-go area (the deposit of toot has been expressly forbidden until he has both insulated and re-designed the interior to include flip up worktops running across the door wall which I feel sure are to keep me out….) but the space behind it, handily concealed from the house and intended for water butts and compost bins, was rearranged to accommodate the homeless paraphernalia evicted from the previous shanty edifice.
Once all was arranged and I could actually get to my plants the by then nutrient-starved seedlings were extracted from their inhibiting pots and….finally….planted. So, as a result of two (gloriously tranquil) days spent pottering about in both sunshine and rain we are now the proud owners of our very own plot containing:
Bed 1: Fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, red currant and black currant) with lettuces planted in any gaps and pots containing sweet peas and black sunflowers planted in the hope they might scramble up some trellis (yet to be affixed) on the wall
Bed 2: Divided into
a) a legumes section (runner beans, dwarf purple beans and borlotti plus some very unhealthy and snail-ravaged peas…..with a few golden sunflower seeds buried hopefully next to a cane or two)
b) a brassicas section (savoy cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli ….again looking pretty haggard….and romanesco cauliflower) divided by a line of courgettes with maybe a rogue squash in there somewhere (the label having fallen off) which if that is the case will soon smother the lot……
Bed 3: Divided into
a) a tomato section (Gardeners Delight, Black Cherry, Marmande, Clementine, Red Alert and a couple of plants labelled very simply ‘Tomato’) accompanied by a few peppers, a couple of lines of radish and a couple of pots of marigold, love-in-the-mist and sweet pea seeds planted in the hope they might both attract butterflies and bees and pretty things up.
b) A roots section (celeriac, scorzonera, carrot, beetroot and spring onion)…. planted in rows this time with the aid of a leftover bit of shed which, as oft occurs with flatpacks, seems alarmingly surplus to requirement. That said I’m unsure if any of the seed remains as I had the pleasureable company of our resident Robin for that part of my day who seemed very happy, can’t think why, to be sticking around.
Pic made with Brushstroke….a new app I’ve discovered and am loving!
Thus satisfied with the planting arrangements (for now….while the plants are still small. Of course they are likely to stay small as they are so over optimistically compacted…..) and with time still left in my day I shifted the table, a weather beaten old thing which almost ended its life in the skip last week, to the terrace along with the belt sander and gave it a swift going over. The project looks promisingly like it might yield results so for now the table will stay and the project to complete its renovation along with its four accompanying chairs will be added to my To Be Sanded list where the pirate chest, the school desks, some stools and those four new armchairs are all still waiting patiently. Herbs were then transplanted into a bed near the table to add scent to the dining experience and grand plans are forming of having a go at accompanying these with the cultivation of a climbing grapevine or kiwi (perhaps both?) to cover our neighbours fence.
Busy with my project I didn’t hear the doorbell.
“Hello luvvie” came the familiar tone of J as he strode confidently into the garden. “I called and knocked but I didn’t get an answer so I let myself in, hope that’s ok?”
It was. Perhaps he was coming to do the steps?
“I’m here only to collect the scaffold boards. They are on hire.” he explained.
“Cup of tea?” I asked.
“Yes. Er….no. Ex wife is at home,” he made a quacking gesture with his hand, “neeeeeeeeaaaaaaa. So I’ll be back next week to do those steps…..”
I nodded patiently, not actually being very good at patience.
“Beds look good. Ta rah!”
And off he went…..