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MARCH 2009

August 4, 2009

And so it begins

It’s been gorgeous on the roof over the last few days.  I took a luxurious couple of days off work last week and there was sunshine, daffodils and endless pots of fresh coffee – perfect.  I’d forgotten quite how much I love having this high up space to escape and lose hours to.  It’s not so appealing over winter, I find myself peering out of my bedroom window at it rather than actually spending much time out there.  But suddenly it’s completely charming again and I’ve been out on the roof as much as I can.

And anyway, there is serious work to be done.  After months of daydreaming about being a wildlife friendly kitchen gardener, it’s finally time to act.  I have to confess I’m feeling a bit nervous about it, it’s a whole new world and it feels like there’s a lot to learn.  However, my long winter of vegetable-thinking has been useful and I’ve emerged at the end of it with a plan of action…

Easy and bee friendly

Last year my approach to growing was haphazard and not hugely successful, but some things did go well.  Lavender is definitely a winner, and the jasmine and honeysuckle seem to have survived the winter.  These plants tick three boxes – they’re pretty, they smell great and bees love them.  Bee populations have been decimated recently and so it’s a priority to provide these important pollinators with nectar.

All the books say not to be over ambitious when you first start out, to pick easy crops.  I guess they realise that the overwhelming sense of failure when all your produce dies has the potential to be disastrously off putting.  I’m taking that advice on board and have decided to pick crops that have reputations as being easy to grow!

A fragrant jungle

I want to create an edible garden that’s a lovely place to sit in as well as a source of fresh food.  I want it to be colourful and fragrant, with different textured leaves and varying heights of plants.  The roof is pretty sparse and fairly exposed at the moment, and I like the idea of it feeling a little more jungle like, with plants climbing up the walls, or dripping from hanging baskets, or creating screens of foliage.

So what vegetable is notoriously easy, has bright flowers that bees love and is a climber?  The runner bean!  I love fresh beans and will happily eat them with everything if they thrive.  I bought a couple of different varieties at the seed swap in Hove last month and planted them this weekend.  I’ve also decided to be brave and try to grow tomatoes again.

Neon pink planting

Already my mint and oregano are sporting new leaves and the coriander seeds from last year’s plant are starting to sprout. My rosemary bush has buds.  Herbs are easy and delicious and I definitely want to grow more.  I’ve started to expand my collection, planting some basil (sweet Genovese), purple chive and parsley seeds.  I’ve also decided to try growing radishes (French breakfast) and chard (flamingo beet), because they’re both meant to be easy and I like the idea of having a neon pink section in my planting scheme.

A summer of salad & cocktails

As well as focussing on herbs, I’m going to grow lots of salad leaves over the summer and kicked that plan off by planting some rocket seeds.  I discovered last year that rocket is incredibly easy to grow.  I’ve built a rather wobbly shelving unit to keep my seedlings on inside until it’s a bit warmer, and the seeds I’ve planted directly outside are being protected with old clear plastic food containers, saved over the last few weeks.

Oh and I’ve also transplanted my strawberry plants from last year into a hanging basket and am already dreaming of Pimms with home grown mint and strawbs…  My strawberries didn’t do that well last year but I’m hopeful this year is going to be better.

A big thank you this month to the friend who drove me, my big, heavy bags of compost and my new bay tree back from the garden centre in Kentish Town, I’m not sure how I would have managed it on the bus…

Next month I’m hoping to have pictures of seedlings to share with you – til then, Helen.

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