The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Early May in our garden

Photo: Nasturtiums

Photo: Nasturtiums

“I’m expecting something to break through by Monday.”
“You may have a sporting chance!”

Danny glanced at John Coe’s rows of potatoes bursting through the earth.
“I don’t want to win the challenge. I just want loads of spuds. I’m worried that John’s rows don’t have the contents of the composter and mine do.”
“I sprinkled sulphate of potash on his rows. Perhaps the compost is too high in nitrogen to be good for your potatoes. The main thing is the watering. Don’t you remember the farm shop near Bury? They didn’t have any pears for sale because they didn’t water their pear trees and concentrated on their spuds instead as they can sell these all winter. Pears are just a two month time frame.”

I have been secretly examining Danny’s potato border. Apart from a few young, fresh faced weeds there was no sign of anything breaking through.

This evening Danny strode purposefully down the garden.
“It’s Monday evening. I’m expecting results.”
He knelt by the first ridge and concentrated hard. Then he spotted a tiny unmistakable rounded potato leaf. Within minutes he’d found a few more.

He smiled up at me.
“Suddenly I can see how people get hooked on gardening.”

Vegetable and soft fruit gardening can be hugely satisfying if all goes well. And if things fail you sometimes have the chance of trying again in the autumn with some veg (for January harvests) or next year.

But creating a good herbaceous border can take many years.

I’ve spent the last couple of days concentrating on our main herbaceous borders. Although I was keen to plant some salad leaves in rows amongst the slow growing brassicas. I twigged that  this is a 30 minute job whereas the herbaceous border overhaul needed a good two days. So I re-cut the herbaceous border edges a good six inches into the lawn and removed three builder’s barrow loads of bricks and rubble. I filled the gaps with compost and dug more compost into the herb and strawberry bed. Hopefully this will improve the water retention if we have a dry summer.

I unearthed my topiary shears and gave the two chickens that guard the entrance to the bower a decent haircut. They have been ignored for the last two years and became ungainly box blobs. I wondered whether to cut the small box bushes that line the bower walk into interesting shapes but in the end just trimmed them by hand with a pair of shears that had one handle and a stump. Possibly a victim of one of John Coe’s bonfires .

So the outlook from the back door is better now. The deep herbaceous borders are planted very much in a haphazard cottage style. But the clean edges are a great foil to their wildness. Meanwhile, down in the Kitchen Garden, all is straight rows with trailing nasturtiums to soften the planting.

A good balanced contrast.


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3 Comments

  1. Linda

    Congratulations to Danny on the emergence of his spuds!!

  2. mandi

    This might seem a very daft question ….. but I have one of those ‘potato barrels’ to grow spuds in which take 5 plants/potatoes which I can usually do twice during a season, my question is…. how come when I have paid alot of money for a variety of ‘seed’ potato or if I forget and just bung in some out of the veg rack that have gone all sprouty they all seem to come out as ‘new potatoes’ ie with no skin? I know the last lot I planted were some very shrivelled white ‘old’ potatoes I had saved in a bag in the dark and when I got the crop they were like baby salad potatoes? I’m beginning to think wasting my money on ‘waxy early crop gorgeous £6 for 10 seed potatoes’ is a big con!

  3. Jackie

    why is everyone in the world ahead of me in the garden?! 🙁

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