About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

New Challenge: Garden Plants

As I got to the end of my foraging year, I started wondering what to do next. That challenge focused my attention on foraging to a greater degree than I expected. Whilst I'll certainly continue foraging, I could do with shifting the focus onto something else. The first year we were here, I put a lot of effort into the garden and got reasonably good returns from it - enough to reassure me that this new lifestyle is realistic. The second year, it rained a lot and I gave up. The third year, I pushed myself to do some, even if not very much, so the giving up wouldn't stick. I sowed too few peas, and no carrots or onions at all, but I got good crops of potatoes, parsnips and leeks (still going strong now). I've learnt a few things over those three years, and I now feel at home on my bit of land. I'd like to make an effort to improve my gardening this year.

I've been trying to think of a blogging challenge that will support this and I'm not sure if what I've come up with will do it, but this is what I'm going to try: Last year, I ate and told you about a different wild food each week. This year, the focus is on gardening, so I'll tell you about a different cultivated plant each week. I've focused mainly on vegetables in my garden so far and I'd like to extend that to flowers, so this challenge won't be restricted to food plants, not least because I don't think I'm cultivating 52 food plants! I won't allow the same plant twice but I will allow different varieties of the same plant, though I'll try to avoid any that are too similar. The activity last year was eating; this year it will be some gardening activity relating to that plant. I could be sowing seeds, planting out (or just moving plants around), cutting back, harvesting... there may be other activities I can't think of right now. This is how I'm defining cultivated: Any plant that I do something to in order to encourage its growth in my garden, that's a cultivated plant.

For my foraging challenge, I was very open about what kinds of foods could be included; not just plants but seaweed and mushrooms ended up in the list. For this year's challenge, I'm restricting the scope to plants just because I think it's unlikely that I'll be cultivating anything that isn't a plant. This does of course include trees and bushes as well as smaller plants.

Here's a tour of the garden as it is at the moment. For the purpose of crop rotation, my vegetable beds are divided into three sections, which I've labelled A, B, and C. I would have four, but I grow so many potatoes that they take up one-third of the available space, so it has to be three. Two of these are large beds but the other (labelled B) consists of one medium sized bed and six small ones. Apart from potatoes, my rotation groups are, Legumes, and Other.

Starting downstairs, here's the large bed nearest the house, which I'm calling A.

This will have potatoes in it this year.

Backing up, we can see the first three of the smaller beds, B1-B3. I hope to get rid of that LPG tank quite soon and replace it with a much smaller one, nearer the house. About a week ago the gauge on it dropped suddenly from 15% to zero, so we now have no idea how much gas we have left.

These will probably have a different variety of bean in each, or possibly peas. The heap of stuff in the far bed was supposed to be a bonfire, but I couldn't get it to light. The near bed on the left still has some celery in it. It's very small, but tasty.

Turning round to face away from the house, we see the next three small beds, B4-B6.

There are still plenty of leeks in the far bed, and parsnips in the middle bed, though you can't see them. I've yet to get anything useful out of the bed on the left, or the strip at the far end. Perhaps I'll try flowers there this year. The other two will contain more beans-or-peas.

Going out of the gate and round the garden fence, there are some steep bits. These are also part of the garden, but not terraced and cultivated.

There used to be a leylandii hedge running uphill along that fence line. You can see the remains of it scattered across the hillside. I have plans for a replacement.

Back within the garden fence now, at the upper level looking back towards the driveway, here is the other large veg patch, C.

There's a plum tree and a lavender bush in the foreground, and some more flowers along the edge by the path, but most of this will be for Other veg - brassicas, squash, leeks, parsnips, etc.

Turning towards the house again, we come to the final B bed, the medium sized one.

Currently home to broccoli, this will probably be filled with peas. Along by the fence at the top there are asparagus plants.

Next to the greenhouse there's an odd bit that I haven't yet made good use of, partly because the heather and shrubs harbour many weeds amongst their roots.

I had planned to use part of this for a herb garden. I managed to get sage, oregano and a bit of thyme established, but the slugs and the cat between them saw off everything else. I'm not sure what I'll do with it this year.

Next, of course, is the greenhouse itself.

Many plants will start off in here, then make way for tomatoes. I now have the heated propagator back in there, after it spent a week being a cat bed heater for next door's cat.

Looking back along the path, there's my flower border to the left.

It's a mess. Moving swiftly on...

Turning back again and continuing past the greenhouse, we get to the conservatory. This is huge, but not as light as you'd think, so I'm not sure it's much good for gardening.

On that chest of drawers to the left I have potatoes chitting.

Finally, beyond the conservatory and up a flight of stairs, we get to my favourite place for sitting out, the terrace.

As you can see, it's currently rather brown.

I've set up a summary page here which will collect together links to all the weekly posts. As well as the featured plant, I'll write about what else I've been doing in the garden each week. I enjoy keeping track of what I'm harvesting as well as the preserved food and drink I'm consuming, so I'll keep the Also section of the weekly posts going.


  1. I'm hoping to concentrate on the garden more this year I do not have a big one, and parts of it are shady but I want to see how much I can possibly grown when I put a mind to it. I tried a few years ago, but like yourself the weather sort of curbed that. I am very much a novice but I would say that swiss chard which I love seems to grow very easy and I love the stuff and occasionally over winters so at least I can count on that one. look forward to gaining a few tips along the way, fingers crossed for a drier summer!

    1. Hi Rosie :-)
      I'm not sure I'm the person to look to for gardening tips, but I'll certainly pass on any I learn along the way. Let's hope for decent weather, then we can enjoy learning about gardening together!


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