Right then, down to the nitty gritty... Last year was our first year on the plot, and to be honest it was in a bit of a mess. The vegetable garden and surrounding areas hadn't been planted or maintained properly for a few years, and as a result had reverted back to the way nature had intended it to be...... just minus any of the nice wild flowers or anything else asthetically pleasing! The perennial weeds were revelling in the lack of attention however, and had grown to quite an astonishing size..... if only all my veg grew that tall and strong!
The hedges around the plot were all well overgrown, and full of masses of brambles twisting through them. In several places the trees were beginning to overhang large areas and cast some dense shade for most of the day. Some drastic action was needed, and out came the felco's. After about errr.... 3 minutes, I realised I was fighting a losing battle, and decided to take the easy option and get the chainsaw on the trees and hedges!!! Did someone say "short back and sides".
Next I had to tackle the Ash tree saplings growing everywhere and get rid of as many of the weeds as possible to allow me to get a few plants in the ground come spring time. I didn't want to spray it all with a herbicide and opted for the organic approach of trying to cut, dig and pull as much out as i could while digging it over...... hindsight is a wonderful thing :) I'm still fighting a never ending war against them all now, and boy oh boy do those young ash saplings have some serious roots!!!
I must say that the feeling of uncovering that lovely dark soil for the first time (ok, it's sticky grey clay really) that was hiding beneath all of those weeds, knowing that before long you will be harvesting your own produce from it, is a wonderful thing. I'm sure Sarah got sick of me repeatedly saying "Look, i've dug a bit more" but she humoured me anyway and would often reply "brilliant" in a not even slightly sarcastic voice.
Eventually, i got part of the plot looking nice, and the soil relatively clean, so i dug in some organic matter and put some nice neat rows of plants in. Picking my first salad leaves from the garden after all the hard work was dare i say it, quite emotional for us (i'm a man, i don't cry..... alright!), but obviously they were the freshest, best looking and best tasting salad leaves (obviously my non biased opinion:) in the world. Crop rotation had to wait unfortunately, as the plants got thrown in anywhere i could get them in as soon as a space was clear, but i'm sure one year without any crop rotation won't hurt, as long as I get some kind of crop rotation plan into practice this year for definite (more on that soon enough :).
When summer time came I was inundated with produce from the garden and the little old greenhouse, so much so that all my friends probably got fed up with boxes of veg being handed out willy nilly every time I saw them, but the excess kept us busy in the kitchen making preserves, pickles and other delightful jars of stored produce. Gooseberry ice cream was one of the stars of the 2010 kitchen experiments..... it made your eyes water and your toes curl when you ate it, but I just couldn't put that spoon down!!
September saw us winning two firsts at the village show with some hastily entered produce on the same morning that it was being staged (Sarah's idea), but two wins out of six or so entries was enough to make me want to win the Challenge cup this year! The rest of the year then went downhill a little bit after that, as time became very short and things (mainly those darn weeds again) started to get on top of me as I didn't have anywhere near enough time around work commitments to get everything done. I am however still digging up various crops now, leeks, spuds, parsnips, carrots etc, and so on the whole I am absolutely over the moon with my first year on the plot, even if I have got a load of cleaning up to do again this year.
I guess if I had to sum up 2010 on the plot, it would be 10 steps forward, 4 steps back, so i'm still 6 steps forward on the whole!! :) Bring on 2011!!!!!