I am already planning the planting for next year … courgettes where the cabbages grew, runner beans in the next row, and brassicas where the runner beans are now. But that’s just the one bed, and I can’t yet decide on the other two.

I should explain that we have two vegetable patches of reasonable size, and another larger bed worked in three strips by the simple expedient of using woodchip as a path to divide it into strips of manageable size. The soil is light and dries out easily, but there is little cash available for manure or other commercial soil improver, so we make as much of our own compost as possible – there are two bins on the go just now, and we’ll create a third when we strip the runner beans out later in the season. There is also the wormery … the quality of compost is good, but it doesn’t create the necessary quantity.

We’ve been here for nearly four years. I dug out the vegetable patches that first winter – delighted to be on better soil after three winters of heavy clay in Essex (rock hard in summer and too heavy to work in winter). But the lightness of the soil, and the effects of the coastal wind that is ever present, means that many seeds don’t germinate in the ground, so I grow as much as possible from cells, planting out after growth is established. This year for the first time I grew all our carrots in pots … so not a huge crop, but so much more successful and therefore satisfying! We’re still learning.

We also have the problem of shade in the garden – it faces north, so the sun is shielded by the house in the early morning. That limits the space available for vegetables, and parts of garden are in almost constant shade … so we have had to extend our efforts to creating a shade garden. But the rule is, if it isn’t a vegetable it has to fend for itself, and in the long, dry period earlier this summer some of the plants gave up and we have a few bare patches in the shady border to fill. Meanwhile, the front garden is in full sun for most of the day, and the same rule applies there too – even some of the drought loving plants have suffered this year.

Planning the garden is really a project for a winter’s evening, when it’s too dark and cold to actually go out there and do something useful … but it’s always in the back of my mind that next year I shall try something new, or do something a different way …

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