As with elephant eating, so growing vegetables is much easier in bite-sized pieces. I used to have an allotment-style plot, daunting in its size and soul-destroying to weed; by the time the end was reached, the beginning was re-infested.
Putting in raised beds has proved a winner on so many levels. With only minimal loss of space, I can get to the crops without tramping on soil and weeding stints on single raised beds produce results that are instantly more noticeable.
And I’m not alone in making the switch: many of the allotments near me have raised beds and I’ve seen them at countless gardens and several schools.
In Raised Bed Revolution, Tara Nolan attributes this change to the rise in popularity of grow your own and the need to maximise increasingly small gardens; raised beds can be fitted into courtyards and go sky-high on rooftops. You don’t even need soil to stand them on so long as they are deep enough and filled with a good growing medium.
Wine or coffee anyone?
There’s also no need to stick to the traditional wooden rectangle. Raised beds today come in all shapes and a variety of materials. Why not use stone or logs, she suggests, or something recycled such as old wine boxes or washtubs. Even old plastic boxes or drums can be used and disguised by wrapping them in coffee bean sacks.
Part inspirational, part practical, the book is full of ideas to copy and outlines several projects in more detail with well-illustrated and clearly explained DIY instructions.
In fact, it’s the pictures that make this book such a delight although page after page of perfect vegetables did have me looking at my patch in despair.
There are sections on vertical gardening – and how to make simple plant supports – ideas for making a bog garden or pond in a raised bed and tips on sowing, cultivation, plant choice and what soil to use. Surprisingly, the latter includes the use of peat, which seems at odds with the otherwise ‘green’ tone.
There are also more general tips from how to know when potatoes are ready to harvest to using upturned flower pots to keep trailing crops off the ground.
Nolan states that her aim is “not to reinvent the wheel but rather to inspire you”. I’ve certainly got plans for our old wine boxes.
• Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan is published by Cool Springs Press priced £20.
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