Dr. Mark Gardener
Dr. Christine Gardener

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Our 'Allotment' Garden

In addition to our main back garden we have a small plot just across the courtyard and down a short lane.

Summer 2007 and Spring 2009

This garden is around 16m square and has some very nice views over the countryside. This is the place we intend to grow plenty of vegetables. As the various projects unfold we'll update this page.

Spring 2009 and the new cold frames in action

As you can see from the photos there has been some activity since we moved in.


Garden Projects

So far I have undertaken several small projects in the garden:

Compost area
Raised beds
Cold frame


More will follow..

Check out the Recycle Now website and see if you can get special offers on compost bins in your area.

Compost area project

Every garden needs a compost area. We already have a number of compost bins, these were purchased whilst we were in Milton Keynes from the Recycle Now scheme. However, since our garden has a bit of a slope we need to level the area.

Step one was to decide where to place the bins. Currently they are at the top of the slope by the hedge. We need to get to the hedge to clip it back and keep in under control. The previous owners had a heap at the bottom but this is a bit unsightly and we want to have a seating area down there to enjoy the view. So, the top it is.

Currently the bins are too close to the hedge and inclined (literally) to tip over. The ground needs levelling.

The Link-a-bord system is great for making raised beds and other garden constructions.
Step two was to make a frame for the area to retain the levelled dirt and generally help prevent spills. I am using the link-a-bord system to make raised beds and the (recycled) plastic boards are great for this type of construction. The sections link together using link pieces and plastic dowels. These are cut to size and used to keep the sections together.

These plastic dowels are easily cut to size.


The dowels key into the link sections to keep the boards together.

The finished construction more or less laid out in position.

Step three was to straighten the frame and mark the position so the turf could be cut away. Something of a tedious job and the ground was also quite stony, which did not help.

Cutting away the turf in preparation to receive the frame.

Step four was to replace the frame into the de-turfed area. It is not terribly level so the next task will be to chop away the ground to level the frame and then to level the ground within the frame.

The frame is replaced but is not very level (yet).

Step five was to level the ground a bit by raking and replace the turf. The turf has been in the compost bins for a couple of weeks, not long but enough to kill off the grass. A few bits needed chopping up but in general it went okay and ended up reasonably flat.

The extracted turf has been composted down for a couple of weeks and now replaced in the frame.

Step six was to move the bins to their new home and to refill them. There was a bit of an old stack at the bottom of the garden that needed to be 'tidied up' and moved into the new bins. Grass clippings by themselves make poor compost as the material becomes compacted, fermentation is then anaerobic and not very pleasant! The old heap contained a lot of straw and bulky material so this was used in between layers of grass clippings to provide aeration.

Now the bins can be moved into their new home and filled up.
They are fairly level (especially compared to the one in the back corner of the picture).

Visit Recycle Now for information on composting and how to get cheap compost bins.

Final stage: tidying up and making compost.

The bins are now in their final home and reasonably level. I've managed to fill most of them with a combination of grass clippings and old straw/compost from the old heap (left behind by the previous owners). By the spring the compost should be pretty well ready to go into my new vegetable beds (the next project). For more information on composting and how to get cheap compost bins visit the Recycle Now website.



The old compost heap contained a lot of straw and was used to help provide aeration in the new bins.

Not too much of the old heap remains.

The next project will be making raised beds (for vegetables) using more of the Link-a-bord boards.

The bins refilled and in their new (mostly level) home.

In their new position the bins catch the sun but don't interrupt the view.


Raised beds project - phase I

Raised beds are useful for several reasons. They are neat and tidy, the soil drains well and warms up quickly. I already have the materials to make the raised beds from the link-a-bord company (see the compost project for example). Now I am ready to make a start on the first (of quite a few).

Step one was to assemble the frame for the raised bed. This bed is 4 metres long by 1 wide. I used short pieces of tree stake to mark the corners once I had positioned the frame on the ground.
Step two was to cut away the turf from the frame. I started by cutting out the middle of the frame and then marked the outside, moving the frame off to remove the turf and replacing the frame afterwards (this is where the stakes came in handy to relocate the fame).

First the middle turf is cut away..

Then the frame removed to allow the rest of the turn to be cut out.
The frame slips back into place over the corner posts.

Step three was to dig over the bed and add some compost. After emptying one of the compost bins I moved the turf stack into the empty bin. Had I been more thoughtful I would have used a tarpaulin rather than stack the turf directly on the grass!

The removed turf will end up in one of the compost bins
once that is emptied into the new bed.


The new bed in place, ready for planting.


Raised beds project - phase II

Now the first raised bed is in place I need to add paving. Grass would do but it needs mowing and can get worn out. I decided to go for brick paving, if I could get it cheap enough. Well, a trip to the local building supplier was fruitful and not long afterwards several tons of driveway block were delivered.

  Step one was to place the bricks in place over the turf. Next I cut around the bricks and removed the turf. The turf is stacked up at present and hopefully will be put back in the beds once the grass has been killed off.

The first bed has had the brick surround put in place.
The 2nd bed is now placed in position and bricks are placed on top of the grass prior to cutting the turf away.

Step two was to level the ground with a rake and remove any large stones. Then sharp sand was laid over the soil and the bricks put in place. The next raised bed was then assembled and put in place ready to be paved in.
Step three was to carry on adding beds and the surrounding paving. Each bed was dug over and had plenty of compost added. The old turf was taken off the stack (see above) and buried deeply. Plenty more turf is in the compost bins and on the stack but it will eventually be incorporated into the beds. At this point (Oct 27th 2007) I have 3 beds in place and the 4th laid out ready for the paving to be fitted around it.

So far 3 beds are in place.

November 14th and now I have the fourth bed in place and all ready for planting. The next phase will be to add another series of beds to complete the block, however, I am a bit busy in the back garden taking out some conifers in order to make room for some fruit trees.

The first four beds in place and ready to plant.

December 10th and I now have added the 5th bed. The sixth has been placed down and so far I have managed to get some of the brick paving put in place. I should get a bit more done before Christmas as the weather is looking fairly dry. A while back I also managed to make a small rectangular area to stand a couple of cold frames on (you can see them on the left of the picture below). Nothing in them yet but I might try sowing something in them soon.

The 5th bed is made up and no. 6 placed ready to be cut in.


February 15th and at last the final beds are in place. The nine beds are now complete. Each one has been dug over and had some compost added. Then turf was placed at the bottom and buried (this being done in stages, with a trench dug, turf added and then filled over). The final bricks are now in place - some fiddling around was required and I had to cut a few into smaller chunks to fit. This was fairly easy with a hammer and a cold chisel.

All 9 beds in place and ready for planting/sowing

In the picture above you can see all 9 beds. The compost bins are in the far corner and to their left is the spoil heap of unused turf. To the right of the beds you can also see a couple of cold frames.

Some of the bricks had to be made smaller to fit

The next job will be to get planting/sowing. At some stage I will also put in a shed but since the ground slopes a bit of 'tweaking' will be required. Keep an eye out on these pages for further details..

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