New year, new garden

our new garden

As my father says, in life there are years when little out of the ordinary happens, happy peaceful years that will however not stand out in memory, and years when everything seems to happen at once. 2015 was an intense year, one of the most intense of my life. On top of the things I usually do, like teaching, writing articles, photography and gardening, I wrote a book. Which is kind of like saying I had a baby without taking a maternity leave.

my book Tuin smakelijk

My book came out at the end of November and I am so proud of my beautiful baby.

But by the end of the year I was also very tired and in desperate need of a break, from writing, photography, blogging, even from gardening. I did my best to fill the well again, which for me means a lot of yoga, reading and running. Like last year, we spent the Christmas holiday with my family in the Czech Republic and it was all very low key and peaceful.

Now that the days are thankfully getting longer, I feel like I’m resurfacing again. Which is a good thing because the other potentially life-changing thing that happened last year was buying a garden. Fulfilling a long-time dream, we are now owners of a 960 square meter (1/4 acre) plot. And it’s about time to make plans!

new garden
The plot is very close to our old allotment (like 200 m) and it measures roughly 21 x 46 m (69 x 150 feet). About two thirds of it were planted with annual vegetables last year and this part is still mostly weed-free. The soil however seems quite low in organic matter and the previous tenant is rumoured to have used inorganic fertilizers – yikes. A situation not unlike 3 years back when we took over our current allotment. The last third has a few trees on it (1 pear, 2 plums and a very large hazel) plus a lot of perennial weeds. The soil is bound to be in a better shape here, but a lot of work will be needed, too.
In December, Remco with a couple of friends started working on the fence. It will consist of chestnut poles and wire mesh and hopefully will be rabbit-proof, to which end the mesh needs to be buried at least 30 cm deep.
raised beds

The plan so far is to use about 1/3 of the plot for annual vegetables and cut flowers and to plant an edible forest on the rest of the land. Last Sunday we moved the first two raised beds from our old plot to the new one. We filled them with compost ( 5 wheel-barrows per bed).

I also replanted 3 pears that I grafted last year (‘Herzogin Elsa’, ‘Red Williams’,’ Coference’). They have grown very little in 2015, but are not dead either and I hope that given more space, some lime and a thick layer of half- composted wood chips, finished with the remains of our Christmas tree, they might make more progress this year.

pear tree
We are planning to ‘colonize’ the plot slowly but here are some of the things I dream about:
– A pond, mainly for wild life, but with some edible aquatic plants too
– A mixed hedge with native fruit bearing bushes
– A small lawn for picnics
– A long bed with asparagus so that we have all the asparagus we can eat (which is a lot)
– Lots of cut flowers, both perennial and annual
– Walk-in fruit cage for growing berries and cherries
I am also compiling a plant wish list which I would like to share in another post.

Improving the soil and growing an edible forest are things that do not happen overnight. But because this is our land, we can finally think long term. And it is so much fun to be starting this new adventure! Who knows, maybe one day I might write a book about it…

6 comments for “New year, new garden

  1. Annie Milicia
    07/03/2016 at 05:04

    I’ve never written to someone about their website but I have to say that yours is one of the most beautiful and interesting that I have seen. You are so inspiring and I admire all that you do. I have been reading your posts for a few years but finally I just had to let you know that you have a big fan here in Cleveland, Ohio!

  2. Jo
    13/01/2016 at 14:58

    It has been a busy year for you. Many congratulations on the book and also on the garden, it will be a wonderful project making it your own and getting it exactly how you want it.

  3. 13/01/2016 at 14:05

    Oh, I am so much looking forward to seeing more of your new garden, Vera! It is so wonderful for me to read this post as we too are planning our new garden.
    When we moved to Björkåsa last May, I started immediately to sow and plant in the overgrown kitchen garden the previous owners have had. We could harvest a lot, but the garden needs a different structure so that it will meet our needs. I want the kitchen garden to be much closer to the house so that picking lettuce for dinner doesn’t turn into a 15-minutes project. Also, I want to get rid of the lawn, it is so much work to keep the grass short and I’d rather have a large wildflower meadow anyway. We have made a five-year-plan, this year on our list is to build proper cold frames, an earth sheltered greenhouse down the slope and to turn a large part into a gravel garden (it is so dry and sandy where we live that it is easier to have raised beds). I won’t be able to grow as much this spring as I would want to because large parts of the garden will look like a building site, but there are more springs to come 😉
    Your posts always inspire me so much and I am going to re-read your older blog entries while sitting over the lists with seeds to order for the coming months.

    Sending you sunny greetings from Sweden,


    (Also, congratulations on your book! I think I said it before, but one cannot say it often enough – you did a fantastic job last year!)

    • vera@gtc
      13/01/2016 at 14:37

      Thank you, Juliane for the sweet words! We can cheer on one another in our future gardening adventures 🙂 I think you are going about it the best way, creating a long term, realistic plan. As long as you know where you’re headed, every year you’ll get closer! We, too, have decided not to put too much preassure on ourselves and not to try to do everything in a year. It’s better to do things right, than to do them fast and then have to redo them. I am looking forward to all the beautiful photos that will come from Björkåsa this year!

  4. dori
    13/01/2016 at 10:51

    It’s so intersting to see a project like this at the begining.
    We have a similar plot, but it was empty when we bought it. At first we thought: so much space, what are we gonna fill it with?
    And 6-7 years later, we’re :so many plants we can experiment with, where will we plant them?
    Hope the plot is big enough for all sorts of experiments and for the bees to have a nice playground.

    • vera@gtc
      13/01/2016 at 11:21

      Thank you, Dori! Totally true: at first we found the size of the plot quite intimidating, but when I started drawing a plan, it started getting crowded quite quickly 🙂 So many things I want to try out!

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