Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Veg Patch - Divide And Conquer?

Last year our veg patch was nothing to be proud of.
It produced loads of veg to see us through the summer and beyond, but it was nothing to look at. From every edge the weeds encroached into the plot until I gave up the fight and let them win, and although it was productive I felt ashamed to walk anyone round it.
Early in the season everything looks great - this is a picture from last year
 But this year I'm taking a stand against the weeds. I'm going to be at home more so there should be no excuse for having a weed filled garden.

Just to prove I can keep it tidy, a picture of our old allotment (2010)


 My plan is to divide up the veg plot, separating them into beds, divided up with paving slabs. This means that it will stop me walking on the soil, be easy to alter if I want to move them and make it easier to set targets on weeding (e.g. I'll weed one bed tonight). I used to have raised beds at our last place and found it really easy to keep on top of, although it was much smaller than what I've got now!
A mild winter, chickens and a two year have left my garden looking far from picture perfect. I almost didn't put this picture up for the shame of it!
 If I divide it up into 4ft wide by 10ft long beds it means I'll have 16 beds to plant up in the main garden area, which should be plenty to keep up with at the moment. I normally organise my garden on a 6 year rotation should this should be even easier to manage, with a few plots spare for things like strawberries or salads.
This is the plan - to divide it into sixteen 4ftx10ft plots which should make it easier to manage

The first three plots done. Herb plot, Shallots & red onions then the last one white onions and garlic
 I managed to lay three of the new dividing paths this weekend before I ran out of slabs. I also weeded and planted up these areas as well.
The main downside is the space lost to the slabs and the cost. So far these slabs have cost nothing as they're second hand, but I now need to either wait and see if I can find more free ones or buy some. I phoned for a price today and for the 77 slabs I need it's going to come to £211, which I didn't think was too bad.
What do you think I should do? Buy the slabs and get organised ready for the summer or wait and save money? Also do you think I'm doing the right thing by dividing up the plot so much and loosing the space with the slabs?

25 comments:

  1. I am always looking for concrete slabs myself, Kev. The down side of using them is that they make a great home for ants, slugs and snails to hide under. Just lift a slab up now and again and you will see what I mean. A cheaper paving option would be to use planks to walk on. Again creatures lice under them and they become slimey under foot. You could make green manure paths by sowing seeds like Mustard and strim them down and dig them in later on. or have grass paths? Mustard is a member of the Brassica family so you can't plant cabbages there for a few years. Another problem I find with raised beds and hard paving is that I need to move them every other year for root crops like my potatoes. So perhaps you should make a lot bigger area for root crops, divided with slabs? The slabs son't sound expensive. Are they brand new?

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    1. They're new slabs on special offer (and it's trade price) but only 450x450 in size (18"). I know they do harbour some pests but it's better than the weeds that I never quite deal with! Grass paths always incroach into the plots and I'm terrible at keeping them back, also it's pretty wet here so they'd soon turn into a mud bath!

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  2. Use timber to edge the beds and lay wood chippings or possibly gravel to make the paths. That way paths only need be just wide enough to walk down maximising the cultivatable area. Should changes become necessary, they are easy to execute. I am sure you could lay your hands on scrap timber planks and wood chippings? That's what I did.

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    1. Wood chippings still grow weeds though. The timber planks and gravel might be an idea but I think I still prefer the slab idea.

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  3. I used to worry about how the veg plot looked when it was my 'garden' I now am not so worried as its a working area i we have used cardboard or old carpet as paths and covered with woody garden shreddings or straw or old hay

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    1. It's not so much the looks but also having some control over it. Last year there were so many weeds and they all set seed so it just makes things harder for me in the long run. If I can start to control it a bit now hopefully it will become a muh easier garden to manage and nicer to walk people round.

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  4. We've used wood chippings for the paths too. We have an allotment and some of the tree surgeons dispose of their unwanted chippings there. It goes really quickly as everybody seems to want it. At home, we have used some rotting planks to tide us over until we acquire something more suitable. If it were me, I wouldn't want to buy slabs but would use something to tide me over until I could find some for free. The ones you have - do you really need them laid so tight together? Could you leave a little gap between them for now so you could take one slab from each row to create an extra row? You can always put them back tight together when you have got some extra slabs.

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    1. My brother is a tree surgeon and His mate is planning to leave a load of wood chippings at mine next time he's working this way but they do take nitrogen out of the soil so you have to be careful where you leave them. I'm thinking about laying them around the fruit bushes to control my other really weedy area.

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  5. I like the idea of using the slabs, they can be moved as you see fit to rotate the growing areas. I agree they can make ideal homes for pests, but pests will always find somewhere to live, and if you're lifting them to move you'll get rid of the pests at the same time?
    Dunno about your area, but we used to be able to buy used flags from our local council, very cheap they were, but 3' x 2' and quite heavy. £211 sounds pricey, but I suppose they'll last for ever. Would it be out of the question to make a few? Easy enough to knock a few moulds up using off-cuts, and concrete's cheap enough, you can make the exact size you need and always have the moulds to make replacements if necessary, even put a bit of chicken wire in as reinforcement.

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    1. I agree with you that the pests will always find somewhere to live and with the chickens about the place it should lessen the numbers a bit. If the snails get really bad then I could always eat them! I've never heard of buying flag stones from the council I'll have to look into that one.
      I have thought about making my own but it's the effort and time involved. Then again it would be nice to do some with the childrens hand prints in to make them none slip!

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  6. We're using cardboard underneath,then fire coals on top for cinder paths...that is, if the snow ever melts.
    Jane x

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    1. I've been usign cardboard to keep the weeds down in places.

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  7. I think I would have put down a layer of sand under the slabs and left a gap between each one. The sand discourages the slugs and snails and can easily be dug into the soil if you decide to move the path and the gaps will mean at least one of the slabs can be removed from each row to save a bit of money and make the ones you do have go further.

    I would also have used wooden planks on edge to create a bit of a raised bed to keep the soil in the beds and not on the slabs ... but then that's me.

    This is your patch, and I wouldn't worry too much about it looking slightly messy, as long as it's productive. I think as veggie growers we tend to see the mess in our plots whereas visitors see the food and marvel at us growing food at all.

    :-)

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    1. I think the wooden slabs on the edges will come as I add to the soil each year but at the moment the levels aren't high enough. It's a good idea though and that way I can slowly (and cheaply) make raised beds. I might add some to a few of the beds this year though as thats such a good idea! Maybe the squash beds as they're so hungry for manure I ccan add loads.

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  8. Using slabs as a pathway or dividing path is a great idea. It will save time for weeding. I use gravel and splitted stone for pathway

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    1. It's the time saved weeding that I really want them for. anything to make it more managable.

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  9. Replies
    1. They're surpressing weeds at the moment!

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  10. hmmm check freecycle. but now the bob the builder crossed with the womble in me is coming out. what about getting some pallets and making walk ways. they will only last one year probably as they will become slimey.

    on the other hand, could you pour your own slabs with concrete/cement...? the weather is getting better as long as you sprayed them to slow down the curing... am thinking of a vessel you could pour it into to get the shape.... all I am coming up with is am oblong paint pot. but that would be too small... maybe you could make a frame and then pour it in. to get the optimum size making less areas the weeds can come through.

    there is a cool blog where the lady made lots of things for the garden with concrete...

    http://www.chezlarsson.com/myblog/2013/07/no27-in-concrete-starting-the-project.html

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    1. Good link thanks!
      Not very keen on making any paths from pallets that will become slippy asI'll probably end up breaking ym neck! And as for freecycle I do keep checking but the slabs go really fast!
      I am tempted to make some of my own but thats down to a time thing. also I'd need a way of vibrating them to get the bubbles out to make them strong enough.

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  11. Bosoms looks just as untidy...
    A few weeks worth of hard graft
    And all bill be well

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    1. It's ahving the few weeks that's the problem. I'm sure it will be fine when I'm a stay at home dad and can spend a few hours out there weeding as the girls pull up the vegtables.

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  12. As someone with a mere 3 4x4 raised beds crammed in the backyard, I think your garden looks so impressive! As a very inexperienced gardener, I can't give any advice, though. :)

    Also, this is totally random, but I just want to let you know that I nominated you for a Liebster Award. It’s basically a way for bloggers to show appreciation for their own favorite bloggers, while learning more about each other and gaining some readers along the way. If you’d like to participate, just visit my blog for the details and questions. If not, then act like I was never here! Just know that I enjoy your posts and have a great day! :)

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  13. I think your veggie beds look great, I like the slabs - if you space them out and put cardboard down under some wood shavings you will be able to control the weeds and need less slabs. It's a lot of work weeding without resorting to un environmental solutions-good work.

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  14. Hi Kev - I was just having a bit of a blog wander and became engrossed in your veg plot and the comments mainly because at Easter I am hoping to get my plot off the ground at our cottage in Scotland. As it is only our part time house at the moment and I will not be there to weed (or water I might add) this caught my eye. I have slabs in my garden at home in places and yes they hide slugs, snails and we have had ants and they love sand so if you bed them on sand ants are more likely. We have used Teram with bark chipping, old carpet, straw and planks in the past at different houses. I think it is personal preference as you can tell from your comments above - there is no perfect solution. I am going to lay gravel between raise beds with a path around on three sides but I am doing a very decorative parterre style and we have a whole bag full of gravel to use up. (you will get weeds in the gravel though). In your garden I probably would go for the slabs as they are reusable and very weed proof which is what you wanted. if I were to wait to source some cheaper ones to finish the plot I would use a temporary surface of cardboard or wood chippings or even wood planks with wire netting naild over them to stop the slippery surface. Good luck whatever you decide and keep us posted.

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