was 8 years ago when my then fiancee and I decided to aim towards a
more self sufficient lifestyle; one where we would earn money on our
own terms, reduce household expenditures, and decrease our carbon
footprint. Since graduating university, I
had worked full time, 9-5 for over a decade and believed there must
be a better way to switch from 'work to live' to 'live to work'
without it costing a fortune.
our own food was always part of the plans. I followed a family legacy
as my Grandfather
kept an allotment and
mother successfully grows nurseries and
I wanted to reduce reliance on store-bought produce which tends to be
inferior in quality, have a shorter life, have a higher ecological
impact on the planet due to the miles food travels, use of
pesticides, and non-recyclable packaging.
decided to use the front garden as for 16 years it never served any
real purpose; the property is set approx 2-3 feet lower
than the road level therefore the front boundary has a wall to secure
this height difference and the ground slopes towards the house.
was inspired by the French-style Potager Garden due to its beauty and
functionality and the plan was to avoid using money and get creative
with reclaimed materials.
the journey so far, my husband and I have remained self employed
continuing to reduce monthly outgoings to minimum spend. We now
regularly reuse/recycle/mend & make do to reduce expenses.
Creating the kitchen garden has now given us a working base to grow
produce in all seasons.
was tough at first as we had to clear the grass and rampant bindweed
which took a couple of years as we did it organically using cardboard
and weed control fabric. During this time we calculated sun
positions during the changing seasons so the crops could get maximum
exposure. We used reclaimed earth and transplanted mature hardy
rosemary and lavender. While developing the ‘potager’ aspect of
the garden we used reclaimed bricks, rocks, and stones from my
husbands building projects as decoration.
was in March of 2020 (as
spare time) that the garden expanded and we began planting our first
crops, including growing from leftovers. We successfully harvested
lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, celery, parsley, sage, broccoli, and
strawberries. It felt incredibly satisfying eating those first
lettuce leaves and tomatoes. They were fresh, nutritious, and tasted
so much better. Also, no packaging!
celery, parsley, sage, broccoli, and strawberries survived the
winter. I also decided I wanted to establish
4 rotational beds for brassica, beans/legumes, roots(carrots,
and potatoes and try new plant varieties including more edible
flowers and complimentary crops which encourage pollinating insects.
new grows started at the beginning of spring 2021 were: lettuce
(seed & water regrowth), rocket, edible cornflowers, runner/broad
bean and leeks. I also picked up some wild flower scatter seeds
which encourage bees into some unused pots. Because last year I was
overzealous seed scattering, it produced more lettuce and cress than
we could consume and unfortunately, it spoiled. So I’d only seeded
smaller batches in pots rather than putting them directly into the
Belfast sink like the previous year.
weather so far in 2021 has been awful. The seedlings had been moved
from the indoors to the greenhouse as the weather warmed, then
unexpectedly we had frost and snow over Easter into the second week
of April and only half of them survived. Even now there has been so
little sun and constant rain, any hopes of quality time in the garden
attention has turned to preventative maintenance as it was quickly
apparent that we would need to reduce
plant pests. We researched using
organic methods. Initially the most straightforward option is to
grow plants that keep bugs away. Companion planting uses catnip for
mosquitoes, lavender for moths, fleas, flies, mosquitoes,
mint/peppermint for spiders, mosquitoes, and ants, marigolds for
aphids, rosemary for fleas and tics, and basil for houseflies.
still swear by egg shells for slugs and snails. I
transplanted regrown lettuce into the outdoor Belfast sink last year
and slugs decided to feast on it. By scattering a layer of crushed
eggshells around the plants the slugs and snails cannot crawl across
also been drying orange
peels as they are proving effective at keeping the local cats away
from using any exposed soil as a litter tray. It was
recommended I try neem oil as it is very effective as a general pest
repellent and doesn't have any effect on edible produce. I also like
the idea of using ladybirds for control of aphids.
and support stakes we used last year weren't effective and our
produce took damage in forms of broken stems during high winds and
pieces that got stuck in the netting or from stakes breaking. As
our crops are still infantile at the moment we’ve no need to
support them, however we have been collecting up disused wooden
pallets and branches to make new support posts and vertical planters
which should prevent further wind
the maintenance of the kitchen garden are now regularly written on
our to do list.
spring we are planning to connect and position the irrigation pipes.
system is currently working in parts but as it was second hand, it’s
been difficult to change some of the drippers and spurs to give more
on the To Do list is to mark out final pathways and growing areas.
The two boxed bed areas are forming part of the rotational areas and
now have the broccoli (Brassica)
in one bed and were intended for the Beans growing in the next.
Unfortunately, the beans were some of the plants that didn’t
survive the sudden April frost so
the intention is to get some established plants for this year as a
have remarked the ‘mound’ where my beloved cat has been buried.
I’ve been inspired by images of false rivers using stones or floor
creeping flowers and have edged a spiral on the mound from stones
reclaimed from Portugal and Oman and laid slate pieces sweeping
around one side to represent a river. The plan is to purchase a
solar powered water feature to install at the top to make it look as
if there is a real river. In between the swirl of stones I intend to
plant smaller sections of succulents for drama and aesthetics
journey has been making me
mindful because when I’m kneeling down and touching the soil it’s
Nurturing the living plants brings
calm. I feel exemplary
a young child growing up in a quickly-changing world, it’s
important to teach her how to grow little miracles. The gardening
process allowed us to test time honored methods, practice routine,
and share responsibility.
are excited about the future because we have been discussing how to
reduce water consumption,
we are researching into solar panels and energy reduction/using
renewable resources. All of which is reducing our waste/carbon
footprint as a family and setting an example for future generations.