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Turning back garden into veg patch

(167 Posts)
GinAndOnIt Thu 13-Oct-16 06:42:23

We've got quite a big space in the front garden which we're slowly clearing/transforming, and just a small garden out back.

We had planned a big veg patch out the front like next door but we're now thinking of turning the entire back lawn into the veg patch and keeping the front for the mature trees and borders. Is this a silly idea?

It's a raised grass area, with a small wall in front and a few steps going up to it in the middle from a small patio area. We have a table on the patio area, and don't use the grass area at all.

The back garden is also south facing, so does get the best sun. So I was thinking we could create a path (just a mown strip probably) from the steps to the back of the garden, and grow veg either side. Then it would be close to the kitchen too, which makes a lot of sense.

The only thing I'm worried about is what it will look like in winter - what do your veg plots look like? Will we just be looking at a big pile of soil for months?

I suppose that doesn't really matter, because we mostly have views of the front garden when we're sat inside, and we could pretty up the patio with pots or something maybe.

It just seems a bit extreme to dig up a whole lawn - would we be mad to do it?

ChuckBiscuits Thu 13-Oct-16 07:03:42

Mine looks great in winter, full of herbs, leeks, kale, cabbages, chard, the new garlics and onions are up pretty fast - and all the soil mulched in between.

Plus I have winter lettuces out there, and all the perennials - apples, plums, quinces, Szechuan peppers, hazels, strawberries, raspberries, self seeded fennels, grape, fig, and many herbs don't lose their leaves so sage, rosemary and lavender are looking good all year round.

I wouldn't dig up a whole lawn though. I'd put cardboard down over winter and cover with some topsoil - and then in the spring plant through the cardboard. It will kill the grass for you.

When you come to do your planting, put your strawberries all along the front so that they are easily accessible from the seated area, with some nasturtiums just behind and make sure you plant lots of simple flowers all around to bring the insects in. Never just have a veg patch, your yield will increase by just adding flowers.

GinAndOnIt Thu 13-Oct-16 07:16:40

Ah yes, I already have rosemary starting to grow from cuttings earlier in the year, and raspberries are sat where the veg patch was originally going to go so I can move them too at some point. I have a separate little area that I've started as a herb patch, that has parsley, Sage, oregano and mint on at the moment.

Great idea about cardboard and top soil - DP will be glad to hear that tip I should think. Would now be a good time to start it? I have lots of cardboard from a delivery!

Great idea about the strawberries too. MIL gave me one of her strawberry plants and said it would look great hanging over the wall - I must check if that's still alive.

I was planning to plant some Allium bulbs along the shed (which is on the edge of the grass area) - are alliums okay to be around veg?

GinAndOnIt Thu 13-Oct-16 07:45:20

This is said garden. It's a mess, I know!

ChuckBiscuits Thu 13-Oct-16 07:45:27

Alliums are fine around veg.

Yes I'd start now, whilst you have cardboard! You can weight it down with some bricks or anything you have to hand until you get some topsoil or compost or something to pop on top. At my allotment I use woodchip as it breaks down into fantastic compost in time.

The idea is to have the perennials around the edges that you just keep pruned where necessary, and have the annuals in beds that you crop rotate to stop the build up of pests and diseases. the perennials don't need to be rotated as they are there for a long time so they get their nutrients through deeper root systems. The annuals only have a certain time to grow so they need quicker access to nutrients and they are often weaker so susceptible to pests and diseases taking over faster. The more flowers you have the more diverse insects you attract and this will in turn attract insects that can control your pests.

GinAndOnIt Thu 13-Oct-16 08:06:48

I picked up a load of seeds in the 50p sale the other day and quite a lot of the them say they're good for around veg, or for bees etc. So I'll see if I can find a spot for them in the new veg plan!

I'll start looking online at veg plot plans then. I've half got in my head that I might do runner beans/sweet corn in the back right corner, and bushy things like raspberries in the back left, then have rows of low things like lettuces etc in the rest, so at least it looks nice from the back door. Will need a better look at what space we have though.

GinAndOnIt Thu 13-Oct-16 08:28:57

Oh I love the look of this runner bean arch though!

bookbook Thu 13-Oct-16 08:59:19

Sounds like a fab idea . I have lots still over wintering at my allotment ,
Best tips - measure it out and do yourself a plan . Only grow what you like to eat - seems obvious I know! And my other tip is to grow things which are expensive to buy. I have started cropping sprouting broccoli, and will have some all through winter . Its a fortune in the shops , and its a favourite here.
And come and drop into our allotment/veg plot thread - we are nice on there grin

shovetheholly Thu 13-Oct-16 14:03:16

gin! Your garden is such a gorgeous space, you'll be able to do loads with it!

Have a look on Pinterest for potager style gardens - loads of them mix flowers and veg, which not only looks great but helps bring pollinators in.

Very much second what others have said about overwintering veg - from broad beans to peas to kale and brussels, there's loads that can keep a plot looking good all year round.

GinAndOnIt Thu 13-Oct-16 14:33:26

shove I've managed to persuade DP to take four days off for my birthday, and spend the entire time sorting out the garden! So I'm hoping that after that (it's in a few weeks) we are going to have some good transformation pics of the front smile

I think your idea of borders going up the path is going to be much nicer than a few beds on the bottom section and a veg patch at the top - like you said, you want lovely scents and views as you journey through the path, and I was struggling to create something pretty and then dumping a big veg patch in the middle of it. I think the veg is better suited out the back.

I keep seeing the word potager floating around, what does it mean? grin

shovetheholly Thu 13-Oct-16 15:24:16

Wow, now that is a GOOD birthday present! You'll be able to crack through loads in 4 days. I always think you can get more than twice what one person can do when there are two of you. I don't know why this would be - maybe it's psychological, or perhaps the way you work together?

I think the veg is going to be smashing out the back.

I always assumed 'potager' was just a posh French word for 'kitchen garden'... for the pot. But to me it means a kind of style as well, mixing flowers and veg and trying to make a veg garden look a bit prettier rather than simply functional. This is probably my ignorance though. I will wait til one of the French Mumsnet gardeners comes along with a proper authoritative view! grin

GinAndOnIt Thu 13-Oct-16 15:51:06

Potager sounds like such a homely word. I will happily present my garden with that description grin

I definitely get a lot more done when DP is around. It just gives me a bit of a boost when I start flagging, I think. Also, work doesn't stop when one is getting food or drinks, whereas everything grinds to a halt for lunch or to walk the dog or whatever if there's only one person.

He's also a much much harder worker than I, so will be 100x more productive wink

shovetheholly Thu 13-Oct-16 17:04:33

Yes, I know what you mean - I used to be able to heft the big 125 litre bags of compost on my own, but these days appreciate DH being there and being able to take one end each! (I need to get back in the gym!!)

4 days straight is a lot of work - you will be needing some of those special bath salts that get right into your muscles and relax them. Also, it is the law that after a day in the garden, all food is zero calorie, which means takeaway curry can be consumed entirely guilt-free. grin

bookbook Thu 13-Oct-16 17:38:45

ooh - a potager garden, or in old fashioned terms a cottage kitchen garden.
And what a fabulous birthday present to get. I wish more people thought like that, instead of just 'stuff' smile
Fill the freezer or fridge with meals already prepped/cooked ready to heat, lots of radox muscle soak ( as per shove and enjoy browsing on pinterest first!

quince2figs Thu 13-Oct-16 22:18:11

Sounds wonderful! I will try this on a smaller scale in my too- large back garden. Potager just sounds beautiful, compared to kitchen garden.

Qwebec Fri 14-Oct-16 00:37:04

Something I find so lovely is the middle ages type veg patch. I don't know if they did it the same in the UK, but in France the monks made lovely gardens
I would mix a bit more but it's the borders I love:
It must be pretty labor intensive to do, but those raised beds would give a structure to the garden in the winter time.

GinAndOnIt Fri 14-Oct-16 07:31:54

Qwe I've seen lots of pictures like that on Pinterest, and they do look really lovely. I mostly look at the garden from upstairs to it would look good from up there too. Sadly I think it's too much work for us this year though (the convincing alone would take a year, DP does not like straight lines and structure!)

GinAndOnIt Fri 14-Oct-16 07:36:17

I'm slightly worried we don't have a bath to soak in at the end of the four day stint.... wink

It will be okay though I think. We're not clearing the giant hedges out during those days, that will be done with some other farmers to help in December probably. I just really wanted time to be able to sort the other bits of the garden nicely, rather than a manic rushed trim of the hedges and grass because DP has to get back to work. I'm also hoping I can faff about positioning plants while DP does the digging wink (don't tell him!)

shovetheholly Fri 14-Oct-16 07:46:09

I think that is very wise as both a division of labour grin and as a timescale. It is stressful when you are trying to pack in enormous amounts.

Speaking of curves, Chatsworth have an amazing veg patch and they plant identical things like lettuces and cabbages in sweeping curves that follow one another (so you might get a line of red cabbage, a line of green, a line of lettuce). It looks lovely, but the plants really do have to be identical in size and shape to do it - so pretty high end skilled stuff. Don't think my, ahem, rather more irregularly sized and sequentially sown brassicas would cut the mustard!!

GinAndOnIt Fri 14-Oct-16 08:09:10

Oh goodness, that sounds technical! It does sound gorgeous though.

I also keep seeing gorgeous pictures of aubrieta growing between paving slabs and am desperate to do it somewhere. I found some seeds in the 50p sale and am now even more desperate! I wonder if I put down five or so paving slabs through the middle of the back garden and planted aubrieta (or creeping thyme!) in between the spaces, it might look nice to break up the structure of the veg patch?

I'm also going to pop a picture up when I get out of bed of the area running alongside the shed as I'm a bit stuck as to what can be done there. It's on a slope, and originally I wanted to plant alongside it to disguise the bottom gap under the shed, but as I've started to have a dig around, there are concrete foundations running next to it. So now I'm not sure. I'm wondering whether to put some pots on there (where someone else must have had them at some point too) and plant things that will hang down maybe.

GinAndOnIt Fri 14-Oct-16 08:21:25

Here's the shed. We do plan to re-paint it, don't worry! Everything is so neglected. But do you see the ugly gap at the bottom and the slope?

shovetheholly Fri 14-Oct-16 08:32:38

Are you watching Gardeners' World at the moment? Adam Frost is designing a veg patch from scratch and one of the things he's doing is installing 'picking paths' - smaller sections of paving that allow you to reach into beds and pick stuff out of them, that sit between larger paths. It makes loads of sense. In my allotment, I've found that about 1.2 metres is the max width of beds that I can cope with (with paths either side) - anything wider puts the middle out of my reach!! (I am short, though, at 5 foot 4!). So yes, laid paths with things growing in the cracks could be functionally really useful as well as pretty. cathpot has an amazing section of garden where she has some really beautiful things growing between sections of paving.

How far out does the concrete under the shed come? I'm wondering if it's possible to plant your screening shrubs a bit further out - say a foot or so away from the shed. From further away, you'll get the same concealment of the raised base, and you won't have shrubs too close to bring moisture in. You could then use a really shade tolerant, low growing ground cover behind the shrubs on the patch closer to the shed - I'm thinking something like vinca, which is pretty tough. Or even an ornamental ivy grown horizontally on the ground (this may need cutting back).

shovetheholly Fri 14-Oct-16 08:33:51

Oh, and a lick of paint can work wonders with an old shed. I painted an ancient one in my garden green and it absolutely lifted it (as well as giving it a bit more protection from the elements). It'll look lovely when you are done.

bookbook Fri 14-Oct-16 08:55:50

Oh, aubretia between paving slabs sounds lovely. I have just read other posts, and shove has beaten me to all the best advice! I was going to suggest some paths, so you don't have to stand on the soil, and also to leave a gap near the shed so air can get underneath, to keep the shed floor dry. ( and with a bit of organisation give shelter to hedgehogs, which will help keep pests down). I would give thought to what you actually want to grow so as to decide where the paths go. Do you want fruit and veg? If so , fruit bushes are a good buy . And decide if you want to grow perennials - rhubarb/globe artichokes/asparagus even - so again, to decide where theses things will fit in. I'm not saying you need to buy /plant now, just that you take it into consideration when planning paths . There are some lovely shed paints now too, so that will make a huge difference.

GinAndOnIt Fri 14-Oct-16 09:19:21

I feel like it'll look lovely when you're done is our mantra for the whole house and garden grin

So, for paths between veg, what are you thinking? Do you think I could just get DP to take crack some paving slabs for me and just put them down as little footings, with plants between? Rather than a full on path IYSWIM?

I think I want more veg than fruit, as we're more likely to eat that. I have raspberries and I'd like strawberries hanging over the wall as Chuck said, plus DP thinks one of the young trees out the front in a plum tree. We also have an endless supply of eating and cooking apples from the farm so that's probably enough fruit.

I had no idea there was such a thing as a perennial on a veg patch, but that does sound good. Asparagus especially! I obviously want a spot suitable for a structure for the beans and peas too.

I also think it will look better once the top gate is painted too, even though it's only use is for the horse ladies to wander in and complain about something else we've annoyed them with that week grin

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