What a difference a couple of months make! Back in April, when the tulips had barely peaked through the soil and the only colour in the garden was the purple and white of winter flowering violets, I thought summer and home grown produce would never arrive. Then, sometime in May, the garden shot into life and colour and by June the cropping had started in earnest.
A highly productive square metre
The first arrivals were the plump hot radishes, a few pea shoots and handfuls of sage, mint and thyme. Since then the chard has transformed itself from spindly yellow and red seedlings into confident stalks and vigorous leaves. The cavalo nero, which stood six inches tall when it went dormant over winter, has turned into deep green plumes and is interspersed with the occasional burst of orange from self-seeded calendula. Then there is the deep burgundy of the beetroots! The salad leaves have given way to adult ones and roots the size of golf balls. And that is just the one metre square raised bed!
The secret of this trio’s success undoubtedly lies in the compost. Last autumn we dug in our first batch of home-made organic matter. In a small north easterly facing patio garden making compost is a lengthy affair. Waste free eating habits and limited prunings means filling a compost vat takes time. Add to that a lack of sun, in general and last year in particular, and the result is painfully slow aerobic digestion. However, good things are worth waiting for and the small quantity of compost we dug into the raised bed and ‘front garden’ has turbo charged these growing plots.
The front plot: a colourful campaign
The front plot – all 2 by 8 foot of it – is home to a mix of fruit, vegetables and flowers. The gooseberry bush continues to go from strength to strength whilst a dozen garlic bulbs have grown plump and pungent below the soil. After the daffodils had bloomed, I planted out bean seedlings, first half a dozen broad beans, later a wigwam with runner beans.
The decision to grow vegetables in this tiny space was driven by two considerations. Despite now having an allotment, I still want to grow as many vegetable as possible on my doorstep, particularly as the heavy clay soil of our plot has limited this year’s efforts to tough or ground hogging vegetables and some inherited fruit. More importantly, I want my neighbours to see how easy it is to grow your own food, even in the smallest of spaces, and maybe inspire some of them to do the same.
Despite its size our front garden is not just limited to edibles. Flowers have found their way in by design and serendipity. The honeysuckle – a gift from the lovely L in memory of my dad – has established itself nicely and produced flowers for the first time this year. The opposite corner is a feast for my eyes and the local bumblebees thanks to the vibrant oranges of the eschscholzia. These annuals deserve a medal for their self-sufficiency. Last year’s flowers self-seeded and produced twice as many flowers this year! Add to them the deep orange calendulas I sowed for aphid control and, since last week, a few deep blue cornflowers. Together with the pots of lavender, tomatoes, beans and cosmos on the front path and steps, this ‘front garden’ is proving that size is no bar to abundance.
The joy of enough
I have been thinking about abundance a lot recently. A part of me still longs for a more rural life, in a small house with a larger garden. One with space for a greenhouse and a variety of plantings to carry us through the year, both in terms of food and spirit-enhancing colour. Although leaving London for a quieter life and fresher air is still the long-term plan, I am aware that my relationship with our patio garden and tiny front plot has changed.
I consider myself very lucky to have a garden at all, let alone one I love as much as I do. And my luck does not stop there as I am very fortunate to have an allotment too. Their combined growing area may not amount to a small holding but they are more than enough.
We will never feed ourselves all year round from these spaces but individually each plot offers plenty of scope for abundance. An abundance of potatoes, roots, kale, tomatoes, beans, courgettes, berries, flowers, exercise, fresh air, time out from work, time together with Mr M, intriguing insects, engaging birds (from the curious robin to the brazen jays)… With such a wealth of delights how could enough not be a good thing?