What a great day! The sun shone for hours, the breeze was kind and not too breezy, and Mr J and I had a day in the garden. After a bubble and squeak style breakfast we pottered for a little while before heading out to do something really rather significant.
Mr J shovelled three barrow loads of compost from our first compost heap to add to the first raised bed and I mixed it into the very poor soil that has gone into it. Each bed is four feet wide and fourteen feet long. I'm hoping that this will put enough body and moisture holding content into the sandy, stony soil to make the plants happy for this year at least. Next year, we will add a second layer of wood around the raised bed making it 8 inches deep and then add some bought in topsoil, but for now, we have to work with what we have.
Around Christmas time, I started off some garlic in modules and then potted them on a few weeks later. I've been hardening them off for the last three weeks and yesterday I spent a delightful couple of hours planting the garlic into our raised bed. After putting in the first four or five I paused and looked down the length of the garden which will eventually be our kitchen garden and smiled. We have started! The first crop was going into the ground. Our plans were just beginning to take shape.
One row at a time the first raised bed was becoming an area that is going to be productive and look nice at the same time. The ducks kept a close watch on my activity. I was a bit worried that they would immediately jump into the bed and start pulling out the plants but they showed no interest in the bed at all, only in snuffling around the pathways and seeing what they could find hiding below the weed suppressing membrane.
I found a few leather jackets amongst the compost as I mixed it into the soil, so I set them aside in my trug and between planting the rows of garlic, I offered them to the ducks. Apparently leather jackets are an acceptable treat, the drake positively smacked his lips at them.
I've spaced the garlic at six inches between plants and six inches between rows. This is probably a little wider spacing than recommended but we have the room to be generous with spacing and more importantly, I want to be able to put an onion hoe between the plants and rows to minimise the amount of bending and hand weeding that I'll need to do later on.
I've selected organic Printanor and Germidour varieties, both soft neck, which I am hoping will store well. We eat garlic very regularly, not only in food but as a roasted vegetable, when it becomes a sweet, caramelised hit of flavour on the dinner plate. I plan to store some by hanging it in the barn and also to freeze some to use in dishes. I may try storing some in oil, so that the garlic is kept fresh and as a bonus, the oil becomes infused with a lovely garlic taste.
I've planted two rows of garlic on each side of the bed with a clear central section which will have carrots sown in it in a couple of weeks time, I've chosen an organic rainbow colour variety of carrot seeds and I'm hoping that by companion planting with the garlic, carrot root fly will be confused by the garlic smell and leave my carrots alone. There are just over 100 garlic plants in this bed, which should provide us, my sister's family and my daughter's family with enough garlic for the year. On the outer edges of the garlic I will put some annual flowers to encourage pollinators and support the local bee population. Our next door neighbour has a hive and the new bees are due to arrive in the next few weeks, so hopefully some of my flowers will help them throughout the summer and autumn.