Dear readers, it’s time to introduce you to the new potager. With all the plans swimming around my head for this little plot at the local allotments, I wonder how it will look this time next year. As you can see, right now it’s a very weedy patch. Sigh…
There are the bare bamboo bones of what was a makeshift greenhouse in the westerly corner. We’re not supposed to put up permanent structures, a rule which everyone seems to be openly ignoring (quite a Belgian characteristic!), but we hope to put up a replacement of some kind. Polycarbonate maybe? My husband fancies having a go at making it – if any one has any tips on this or words of warning, send them my way please!
So far, I’ve just had a quick clear up of the site, removing rubbish, trimming some hedging and raspberry canes, and taking a close look at all those weeds! Some are not weeds at all, some are welcome weeds and some might present a challenge.
In the ‘not weeds at all’ category, we have lemon balm, lovage and purple sage. ‘Welcome weeds’ include patches of comfrey which I will use to make nutritious mulch and liquid fertiliser galore (imagine not having to buy any plant feed – that’s the ultimate goal).
The dandelions, horsetail, and creeping buttercup are going to have to be controlled, but they are indicators of fertile and perhaps heavy soil. Horsetail apparently also makes an excellent fertiliser, as its roots delve deep to extract minerals from the soil, and its leaves are rich in silica. It’s been around since at least the time of the dinosaurs, so it may continue to be with me for a while too! There’s also a lot of couch grass, notorious for being difficult to remove due to its brittle, creeping rootstock. Yep, weeding is going to be my new full time job!
I’ve dug up a rectangle of soil that looks like a grave – I hope this isn’t psychologically significant in any way! Preliminary indications are a good, workable, crumbly soil – clay that has been worked and improved over the years – certainly an improvement on the heavy clay in my garden. The soil is the most important thing in all of this, so that’s really great news. The orientation is also good: the upper ground of a hill, a sunny plot with some shade in the evenings from the trees growing behind (photos were taken in the early evening).
The other job I’ve done is to dig up the many raspberry suckers that have spread from the easterly boundary into the plot. I do love raspberries but they could be a problem if I don’t contain them, and my allotment neighbours have already complained about them in our first encounter. The couch grass is growing enthusiastically among them, so I might just have to dig them all up and start again from scratch.
The ultimate vision is a potager: a productive but pretty plot, with an exuberant mix of mostly edible flowers and veg, with an emphasis on growing herbs and flowers to make teas and tisanes. Maybe I should call it the tea garden. When I worked as a volunteer at my local urban farm during summer 2020, I was inspired by their ‘aromatiques‘ section, which had bands of beautiful flowers, all for use in herbal teas. I remember one glorious combination in particular: a band of Malva (purple-flowered mallow) with feverfew alongside (chamomile-like flowers), a picture of vibrancy and health. I’ve already sown some Malva seeds, germinating now indoors, and I’ve got some feverfew in the garden that I might be able to propagate. Small steps….
Watch this space for more updates / design ideas / moans about weeding and backache! It’s going to be a slog. I’ll end with my ‘mood board’ from the farm.