16 November 2012

Veg Plotting

Garden65 drawn to scale

The homework this week on the vegetable growing course was to draw our ideal vegetable patch. The first lesson was about planning, so this is an exercise in measuring and deciding what plants go where.

Some people on the course have allotments of their own, and others, like the student, have no access to land at all. I'm in the middle: I have land but don't plan to plant vegetables on it in any volume (not counting the odd tub of tomatoes). However, I thought I'd go with the flow, throw caution to the wind and pretend that I was indeed going to take down all my beloved plants, rotovate the ground flat and turn Garden65 into Allotment65.

Step 1 is measuring out the plot. Luckily, hidden in the back of a cupboard, lurks a 30m measuring tape, the kind used by officials wearing blazers and panama hats to measure the efforts of javelin or discus throwers. I got it at a car boot sale many years ago. Not sure why. I liked the leather case, and it reminded me of school sports I suppose. Who thought a decade later it would actually be put to use?

It turns out Garden65 is about 10m long and 9ish m wide. It was good fun squeezing under shrubs and threading the tape through branches, but I'm hoping accuracy isn't important and that 'ballpark figure' is what we are after.

The measurements were plotted onto graph paper. I realise this isn't a genuine map of the ground. The perimeter is surely not a neat rectangle; the reach of the tree canopies were estimated by me lying on the ground, with the tape in my hand, looking up to find the tips of the longest branches; and measuring the little pond was too daunting, so it's represented by a pond-shaped blob instead.

The result after many sweary hours at the PhotoShop coalface is the neat diagram at the top of the page.

And with the swish of a magic wand here is Allotment65:

The decking has been sacrificed for a greenhouse; the problematic little pond is abandoned to the bees; a seat to drink coffee on is too important not to be included; and the 3 sisters have their own bed.

As for the crops there are two problems, apart from general ignorance (and naivety?). One is my family consists of two teenagers and a hubby from Wigan. Consequently we don't consume a great variety of vegetables. Think frozen peas and pounds of potatoes. Any romantic dreams of overflowing beds of pak choi, Jerusalem artichoke, and chard have to be abandoned. Thus the list of vegetables to play with is limited. Another issue to grapple with in this make believe allotment is that although it is south facing only the middle gets sunshine all day. What do you grow in shaded areas?

This is reminding me of maths homework when I was at school. I've learnt the formula but can't make the equation work so I'm going to hand this plan in to Marva but am expecting a B- at best.

This was an enjoyable exercise. I know my mum will be laughing because I used to do this kind of thing when I was young, although it wasn't gardens I was planning then but riding stables and zoos. However, it does highlight the limitations of transferring the real world onto squared paper, and reinforces my twitchiness about garden designers. Wielding a pencil and ruler creates a seductively organised picture, but this is an illusion.  A plan is only an approach, a starting point. The real journey begins when spade is dug into soil.