Starting point

This is 10 poles, or 250 square meters of land in Ely, Cambridgeshire, which me (Zoe) and my partner (John) took on in late April 2008 in order to grow our own veg. It was originally covered in thick grass and weeds all the way down, but thankfully this was strimmed for us, making the task ahead at least a little less daunting. Being doggedly determined to do everything organically, we bought John a new fork, put on some old clothes and started digging …

By late June / early July we had started to make a real difference to the plot. We dug the turfs over, and gradually moved them up the plot while also pulling out bindweed, nettles and couch grass roots. Some areas of the plot were covered in old carpet from the previous owners, which the weeds had grown over and rooted into. It was a job to pull it up, but at least the ground in those areas was then easier to dig over. We decided to re-use the carpet further down the plot and also used cardboard and sheets of weed suppressant fabric, to try and kill off the grass and weeds. You can see down the bottom end of the plot how quickly the grass grew back when left to its own devices. 

Then as each section of ground was cleared, we planted whatever we could get hold of. Seeds of carrots went in first. Some cheap marigolds from the local market along side them and a few spring onions on the other side to try and ward off carrot fly. We struck gold when a friend of ours gave us some left over leeks, onions and chitted potatoes (Desiree) that he’d run out of space for. That made a real difference and the plot started to take shape. 

This is how the plot is looking by late August. Four months (roughly 1 day a week) of digging, pulling, planting, sowing, weeding and sweating. The border across the front has a mixture of herbs and flowers for attracting wildlife and using in the kitchen. This will eventually be a dedicated herb bed with the circular border behind for flowers. We have added to the list of veg with courgettes, dwarf beans, sprouting broccoli, calabrese, swede, savoy cabbage, swiss chard and radishes. 

At the moment we are mostly eating courgettes and green beans. John is working his solitary way through the radishes (I’m not so keen). The onions are almost ready to harvest, so are the potatoes, carrots and leeks, but we’ll probably pull them as we need them over the autumn and winter. The brassicas need a wee bit longer yet. We’ve certainly done more in our first year than I ever expected. Looking forward now to a few winter casseroles!

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