My secret veg patch

We’ve lived in our house for 44years. My husband continually complained how untidy the veg patch was and how it spoilt the otherwise lovely garden and said that it would look so much better put down to grass. I refused to do this until five years ago when he was excavating the front garden and needed somewhere to put the soil.

A 2ft high raised brick border was built on the narrow strip of ground down the north side of the house and the excavated soil was deposited behind it. My secret veg patch was born! I dug in some of our neighbour’s horse manure, along with the contents of our old compost heap. We were ready to roll!

I noticed that the sun was on the raised soil bed most of the day, this and the fact that the veg patch is enclosed by walls on three sides and a decorative high fence with a beautiful eclipse stain glass window on the fourth side – meant that a sort of micro-climate was created.

A sort of micro-climate was created

I have restricted the summer planting to pick and come again crops. I have one each of 10 different varieties of tomato plants, from red, orange, black and yellow – large, plum and cherry. I have runner beans and french beans, 2 courgettes, 2 cucumbers and a chilli pepper.

A colleague gave me 7 seed potatoes which I wouldn’t normally grow because they take up too much room, but I planted them in a slightly shaded spot and they are doing well.

A good tip is to look out for herbs in pots being sold off cheap in the supermarket – these trimmed down and planted in the soil do well. Salad leaves in a carrier which I bought for 25p from the Co-op were split into clumps and planted in a large pot; I now have more leaves than I need.

I’ve planted a row of leeks the full length of the bed at the front. It has neatened the bed and has added a texture and form which is pleasing to the eye.

Two years ago, I planted three climbing roses from a 99p store against the long back wall. They have been amazing this year and have such a lovely scent. I have allowed some self- seeded hollyhocks and foxgloves against the back wall to stay. They have added colour and variation of height and the flowers attract the bees, which are always good to have on board.

I have been one step ahead of those dreaded white butterflies and have planted purple sprouting and calabrese in pots and covered them with thin fleece. The plants are already a good size and will not be put in the ground until the caterpillars are long gone, when space becomes available later in the year.

My dad was a great gardener, certainly on a par with Peter Rabbit’s Mr McGregor; he rotated his crops and gained optimum output from his veg patch. It’s taken me, having to adapt to a restricted space, to do a scaled down version of this.

People don’t realise I grow vegetables and are surprised when I take them through a door in the conservatory to reveal my pride and joy. It’s like a ‘Narnia’ moment and verging on being beautiful. I love sitting there.

I grow fruit in other parts of the garden, such as cox’s apples, black currants, red currants and gooseberries are used to edge a border, and I have a 15year old, very productive lemon tree which is put outside until mid-October and a large excellent fruiting fig tree on the south side of the house. The fruit of my John Downey crab apple tree makes a lovely sherry like fortified wine.

I am so pleased that my old veg patch is put down to grass, especially when it’s warm, as we can now sit under the shade of the old apple tree, which was in the old veg patch before.

What I have come to realise is that the less ground one has the more likely it will be organised and productive without being over taxing. When I enter my veg patch and pick a load of veg to the cook straight away, I feel a sense of pride and satisfaction, which some people might find a bit over the top. The only downside of having such a high raised border is that I need a step ladder to reach the beans at the top!

Contribution: Linda Millin
Photo: Linda Millin