Raised beds are the ideal way to grow one of my favourite crops. I just love watercress and, as someone who is lactose intolerant, it is a very important source of calcium. In fact, it contains 270mg of calcium per 100g – that’s twice as much as milk!
Watercress in very easy to grow and does not need to be grown in water. My raised beds are filled with the right moisture retaining soil, rich in humus. I have just started to add a little lime to make sure the soil is slightly alkaline, thanks to the advice of Andy McIndoe on the Alan Titchmarsh Show. As the watercress grows it has a rambling habit which is neatly contained inside the walls of the raised bed. Any watering is also more easily retained within the walls. All in all it is the perfect place and I have at least 4 beds growing summer and winter, some watercress and some land cress. Lets hope I will be self-sufficient this year, thanks to the more tips from Rebecca Bevan from Wisley.
The work has now expanded and is transforming ¾ of the garden; transforming in a good way. It’s just that, although relatively inexpensive, in terms of labour, the whole job has still cost a small fortune. It’s one of those buying things you sometimes do in Ikea or a pound shop where all the things are such good value for money that you end up buying them all, get to the till, and then faint. I really would never have dreamed of putting this amount of money into the garden.
And I am also not going to feel even more uncomfortable about having done it by adding up all the expenditures to know EXACTLY how much it has cost. I want to be able to just get to the bit where I buy the plants, the delicious bit, without really knowing. After all, I have already got to the squirming stage without the real pleasure, to offset it… And it will be wonderful, like a new garden again after 30 years, I will have fun out there, breakfast, parties, padding pools, I will lounge, sunbathe and, and……no, I will just enjoy working in it like I always do. I will look at it and drink in the beauty of it, you just can’t put a price on that. Perhaps this is not so exciting a stage anyway as it is all the hard landscaping of wall and path preparation, all mud and cement.
So now we are set up to plough through the rest of the plot with the system in place to filter to soil… However, Dex the digger finds yet another layer of buried debris, and we review our tactics. I looked at hiring a small digger, one small enough to get round to the back garden; but that would set me back £186 for the week, plus £30 each way to deliver and collect. Even then, we would still need to spend time sifting the soil.
Meanwhile at the local tip where I had just dumped the first rubble load of the day, the sun was shining. I returned with another load, not an hour later to meet the man at the gate doing the waggy finger thing at me saying “No, no, no, you got to go to the weigh bridge.” Spluttering and protesting I went there, explained that this was all new to me and I had no money on me. The patient and understandably defensive man showed me the signs that explained this new policy, but let me leave the rubble this time as a sort of trial run. The eight bags that were light enough for me to lift would have cost me £55. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT! Was this the end of project revamp?
Since I was in any event going down to deepest Sussex the next day I checked with the dump down there. No proof of residency and no charges, hoorah, job done. Now the top soil and turf is ordered, next comes trellis and the decorative planting. Since the chap from the job centre is sooo good, many other jobs are being tackles as well; just a path relayed and a side bed wall rebuilt, but I will stop as we approach the walls of the house itself.
I hired a wacker plate this week for the very reasonable sum of £23 for 24 hours. It went in the back of my estate car as the handle folded down. Having leveled the new top soil it needed compressing so that it would remain level and not sink in odd places. Dex then laid the turf just before the hosepipe ban came in, and we had a timber to walk across so as not to damage the new grass.
Well….This is getting exciting. The keen garden labourer returned. There was still debris in the ground. I had dug over the entire plot 30 years ago…twice and got out 2 skips of rubble. The section at the end only got one dig over, in a hurry. The grass that had been down there was always poor and the ground hard and lumpy. I knew it was going to be hard going in this bit of garden, hence the need for help. This chap now took to the task with a vengeance. He constructed a giant seiving system out of an old fire guard, several spades, the legs of a dead table and a grass rake. That started to take care of the filtering out of the rubble, but he excavated a trench that was remenicent of a Time Team excavation and has discovered so far: one wheel barrow, one tin bath and a timber shaft of some kind. Tune in next week to find out what it was. — Wendy