Why I will never stand by my beds

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This week I’m feeling quite smug. I am at that stage of the grow-your-own process which I love the most – the one where the raised beds are more or less planted up.

For just a few weeks they look like the real deal – lush and green and full of promise.

I start to imagine the finished product. Plump veg, lying in a rustic arrangement in a large trug, just like on Gardeners’ World, with the twinkly-eyed Monty carrying it along with a swing in his step, a ‘wheep, wheep, wheep’ sound as it gently brushes his corduroy trews.

Well, as I say, the beds are almost planted. I’m not a fan, but I have to agree with the mighty Meatloaf here, Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad.

Beds one and two contain chard (because the chooks, turks and quail love it), raspberries and strawberries (because the blackbirds love them), sprouting broccoli and cut-and-come-again salad (because the mice love both and have become adept at nibbling them down just enough not to kill them, so they grow back to be cropped again – even the mice are better smallholders than me), and Chinese cabbage.

This is our dark horse veg this year. I will report back on developments – that’s if some other passing small woodland creature doesn’t take a fancy to it and decide to cultivate it for its own consumption.

The exciting bit for The Young Master and Mistress is the planting of stuff. Once it’s in, it’s a Donnie Brasco – fuggedaboudit. They feign something bordering on interest when I (very) occasionally kneel there, pulling out weeds or replanting stuff the small creatures have dug up.

Bed three has just a couple of rows of mixed leaf salad in it. This is because a) we will plant out more later, so it doesn’t all get ready at the same time. Not that there’s ever much danger of us looking after our veg so well that we have an actual glut of anything, and b) because this bed is in the chicken run and we need to see if (despite all the netting around it) the chooks can breach it before we commit to large amounts.

But amongst the chaos every year is the perfection of Gamford’s prized tattie crop.

From the careful selecting of varieties at Potato Day every year, to the use of valuable egg boxes to chit them in , to the military precision employed in lining them up when planting, not to mention the hiring of a mini-digger to bank them up when they start growing (OK, OK, that last bit was made up), the care lavished on Gamford’s tatties knows no limits.

Out in the car he is no idle passenger, letting his gaze drift and his thoughts wander. His mind is like a steel trap. He is judiciously eyeing up the commercial crops in the local area, noting their successes and failings.

While I manage to produce the odd strawberry that the birds have missed and a couple of part-nibbled broccoli heads, Gamford always has a good crop of tatties.

There is a lesson there, but I like to think that while my way may not be the most productive it is very, ahem, wildlife-friendly. And low-maintenance.

I refer you back to Meatloaf: “I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you”.