The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Out in the garden again. Preparing, polishing, fertilising and dreaming.

Wallflowers and primroses in our cottage garden

Wallflowers and primroses in our cottage garden

Over the past day or so I’ve spent a few hours making a start on the garden here at the cottage. There’s so much to do! But I’m not panicking about that – just focusing on each job in hand. I love this time of year – heavy with the promise of things to come and the summer to look forward to. There are always surprises too. Plants that I’ve forgotten are there, plants that are doing better this year and off course there’s the occasional plant that hasn’t got through the winter.

Simple tasks like clearing away the dead stalks of last years perennials are deeply satisfying as everything starts to look so much better immediately. It’s heartening to have the sun on my back and see the new grow peeping through the earth. Inca likes it too and will lie beside me waiting to grab my posh leather kneeler when I get up to make a cup of tea. And then of course all that tinder dry material is a great excuse for a bonfire, the stalks flaring up with a satisfactory dazzle that John would have appreciated when he was the chief pyromaniac around here.

Once the dead stalks are dealt with, I’ll gently turn over and bare ground and spread the concentrated farmyard manure that I invested in last year. The latter was a great success as you only need a handful per square yard – no heavy lunging about with an overloaded wheelbarrow. The contents of the compost bin are used in the kitchen garden.

Gradually the soil in the back garden is improving. It has been worth investing in organic fertilisers and soil conditioners over the years – it’s no good wishing that your soil will improve you have to invest time in the groundwork. If you have a large compost heap and a decent comfrey patch you can do this for free. All it requires is your time.

My comfrey (bocking14) – a generous present from Elaine Monaghan – is doing well and I’m planning to make comfrey tea this year to use as a folia feed and a drink for hungry fruit and vegetables. There’s nothing like free fertiliser!

On the comfrey front, the Bocking 14 is the one to get. It doesn’t self seed and is much easier to control in the garden. Bocking 14 is stronger and produces much bigger leaves but all cultivars are a valuable source of nutrients if added to the compost bin, used as a mulch around plants or steeped in water as a tea. Check out this article – the table of benefits and values compared to manure are stunning.


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  1. Gardening Maintenance Birmingham

    Lol every year its the same. As soon as the first days of good weather arrive, an army of gardeners come out to tidy their plots. Its so relaxing pottering around the garden in this lovely weather.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Tanya

    It’s well worth investing in some Bocking 14 – I can send you some roots next spring if you can last out until then (don’t want to damage the plants when they are still a bit young).

    Hi Liquineer

    I don’t know about you but the garden/allotment is my gym. Feeling a bit creaky after the winter rest 🙂

  3. I think it is catching this garden tidying- just been doing that myself today and planted some first early potato tubers (Charlotte) as they have chitted so well, they are in danger of getrting damaged.

  4. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    I’ve just read about Bocking 14 in Prince Charle’s book on organic gardening. I think I need to sort a patch out for myself…

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