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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 09:30 UK time, Sunday, 20 February 2011

I was supposed to clean the house so it would be tidy when H came home. But I just 'cleaned' the garden instead.

Alys with her hens

I dug out the deep litter bed created by the chickens. Pretty much all the compost goes straight into their pen, they have a good scratch and what's not theirs goes into the bin. Every now and then I put down a layer of straw, particularly if it's very muddy.

Alys and hens

Overtime this means their pen has risen in height as they've created more and more compost. If you dig over a little bit it's crawling with worms, literally 20 or 30 per spade full. The girls love to scratch through this, so once a week or so I dig a bit over for them.

It occurred to me that this awesome soil was slightly wasted on them, so I hauled a foot or so of it in tub trugs and filled in all sorts of funny lumps and bumps that had appeared over time in the garden. I mulched all the soft fruit that are dotted up and down the garden and gave the rhubarbs a layer for good measure.

All kinds of perennial and self-seeding salads are coming up (Sedum spectabile, Claytonia perfoliata, minutina, sorrel, land cress (note to self get some variegated kind growing this year), February cress, and the first tiny shoots of perennial rocket that I thought the snow had killed off.

My attempts to get more early bees into the garden with more snowdrops, hellebores and other small early flowering things are paying off. I've mainly planted these under the rose and soft fruit--spaces I considered wasted if they don't have something under planted. There's something very pleasing about a blackcurrant with swelling buds and a ring of snowdrops and daffs pushing up.

But here's the thing. I'm not sure design wise it's up too much. I've pushed to the edge it terms to laissez-faire gardening, but at best it could be described as a slightly psychedelic wildflower meadow. There are moments of brilliance, but in truth they are mostly accident.

I've always been a little reticent about design. I, like everybody, can recognise a brilliant design when I see one because that's the defining factor about good design, everyone gets it (think of The High Line in New York, a Capability Brown landscape, the Tate Modern or a the brilliance of local vernacular, a Devon cottage for instance).

So good design is great and everything else, well it sort of falls into that 'taste classifies and classifies the classifier'. I'm not sure I'm not all taste (quite literally). And that despite all my best efforts this winter to make my garden look a little more designed, the truth is my design tool is still my stomach. Still I suppose you have to design with something in mind.

I've started chitting potatoes even though I'm not a great believer in chitting, but when I looked inside my brown paper bags, the earlies had decided to go ahead without me. The broad beans are up (I pretty much always start them of in modules where I can keep them away from the mice and plant out once they are a pair of leaves) and I scored the bargain of the week, 40 Allium moly bulbs for 49p. I'm going to make a bank below a small wall in the garden. It's a lovely sheltered, free draining spot and come summer I can harvest a good proportion to eat. They are a traditional foraged food in Spain and you can eat bulbs and shoots like you might Welsh or Spring onions.

Oh and as an aside (though it's a giant one). H is out of hospital (for a bit at least).

Oh and I also read this by Kurt Vonnegurt.

"I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the centre."

I thought about this a lot in the last week. I think I've been on that edge a lot recently. And he's right things do look very different there.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Alys,

    when you mention a deep litter bed system, do you mean in your chicken run or actually in the coop? I have come across this method but think i cant do it as my coop is elevated? any advice you have would be great thanks

    p.s. are you going to be doing another edible garden this year, ive watched your series about 5 times now, wicked

  • Comment number 2.

    As one of your fans would you please annouce that you are going to open your garden so that I can see what you are talking about. Expect to love it!

  • Comment number 3.

    Wonderful Alys!

    Design: I think it depends on how you look at it. Your's is esentially a cottage garden, is it not? No other design needed, it's lovely.

    I like the quote. So pleased to hear your H is out of hospital.

    Have just had to register so I can comment on your posts!

  • Comment number 4.

    Great post. I think that if you design your garden then you can't experiment with it which doesn't make it as fun. Glad to hear H is out of hospital :) I would also like to see another Edible Garden this year. Last year's was great!

  • Comment number 5.

    much rather "clean" the garden than the house!love your blog, so glad H out of hospital. would love to see another edible garden, so enjoyed your 1st!

  • Comment number 6.

    For me, design is really about whether the garden pleases the eye. Whether a path seems to curve the right way, whether the space between two trees seems to invite, whether a set of formal raised veg beds are level, and line up. In my long estabished garden, created by others, if things don't gel I tweak until they do (to my eye at least). But I don't worry about 'design' as such.

    Good to hear that H is out of hospital, even if just for now.

  • Comment number 7.

    The design should be something that pleases you, whether this is becuase it is functional and therfore has been designed correctly or because it is beautiful. Very few designs do both well, but as long as it does what you want in the correct proportions then it is perfect.
    You series on the edible garden really inspired me and I'm seeing what I can grown in my tiny city garden this year, but I did miss a few of your programs. Do you know of anyway I can get my hands on the series so I can watch it again for more inspiration? And is there going to be another one this year?

  • Comment number 8.

    Hey Mandy

    I mean my run (which is now much larger than the picture, they've basically got the bottom of the garden to themselves). I put down straw, any garden clippings I think they might like, some more straw when it looks a mess and so forth, eventually it turns to compost. You could do it to, as its got nothing to do with the bit where they sleep, just the bit they run around in, if that makes sense?

    KnightMare (great name!) and Pany123- there's no plans for another Edible Garden at the moment, but if you keep asking you never know. . . As for Iplayer, it's up for a month after its' broadcasted and then get taken down again or at least I think that's how it works. Sorry to not be of more help on that one.

    And to everyone else- you're right, design is mostly about pleasure and this funny little space does plenty of that for me. I guess I just feel that perhaps it should be more considered or should be more hard work. But that's part of a small gardens charm, you can get away with quite a lot!


  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Alys!
    I live in south west Ontario Canada, and recently discovered "The Edible Garden" program on "One" network here in Canada and I absolutely love it!
    I like the whole artsy feel and filming techniques, and love all the tricks and tips starting your own veggie seedlings - lots of great ideas and inspiration!
    I did a search with the program name and have found lots of great gardening links via the BBC.
    Our last frost date is much later (3rd week of May), but I will be using many of your ideas for this year's garden.
    I have 67 acres - 21 acres of hardwood, 40 acres of workable farmland, and another 6 acres around the house (5 1/2 hrs to cut the grass on a riding lawn mower ...) My veggie garden is about 50x75 feet and I think I will get more creative with a design more akin to yours - love it!
    Thank you for your program!

  • Comment number 10.

    Kim P

    How exciting that the Edible Garden is on in Canada. I have cousins in Toronto, can't wait to tell them. You've certainly got lots of land (very jealous would love to own a wood). Good luck with growing this year


  • Comment number 11.

    Oh dear..same for me. I decided to pay the extra, and i'm poor mind you, so i could watch The edible garden , on the One network. I'm 38 and it will be the first time in my life...that i have a garden. I cannot express the joy it gives me, i day dream of it. Because of our cold weather here in Quebec, it was not a success. But i am building a green house my self ( yeah ! ) and next year will be puuuuurfect . I managed to grow tomatoes , broad beans, herbs, lettuce, so far. I planted other veggies but it needs to be warmer. I'm patient. But..i don't think there was something more joyous than tasting my very first tomato. I mean, it's very special isn't it? I'm addicted, and i found myself into gardening, a side of my personality i did not know. I think it's some kind of therapy to me. Your show ( and you heard it all before ) is splendid. You are a shinning lady, full of life, and my best friend have a crush on you ( random useless information). Haha.


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