Renew, Repair, Restore
I’m not quite sure where the term “maintenance-free gardening” originated, but in my experience gardening is often an Augean labour of love! After 10 years of hard toil, parts of the vegetable garden are in need of renewal, repair and restoration. As autumn progresses into winter and the vegetable beds are gradually emptied, the ravages of time and weather on the infrastructure are revealed.
The amount of work required varies from fixing a fencing board and replacing rusted catches and hinges to something more substantial. This year we have not had any storm damage, but the annual garden structural survey uncovered some serious signs of ageing. The choice between repair, restoration, renewal or demolition is not always straightforward and can involve some difficult choices. Unfortunately the cold frames have been scheduled for demolition and will not be replaced. After 30 years of service, they are about to become firewood.
At the back of the vegetable garden, beyond the orchard and running along the hedge, are four compost bins, with a section on either side for growing mint and horseradish. These two essential perennials have thuggish tendencies and need to be confined and isolated from the rest of the garden. The compost factory is one of the most important parts of the garden producing the organic matter to restore the structure and fetility of the soil and maintain a healthy population of invertebrates and micro-organisms. Each year two compost bins are in use, while two are inactive allowing the compost to mature until we are ready to add it to the vegetable beds the following spring.
This was one of the first parts of the garden to be built and in the intervening years we have refined our construction techniques to suit our weather conditions. We have been using marine-grade stainless steel fittings and screws for sometime and are now using larger and thicker boards for fencing and the raised beds. We knew that the boards around the compost bins were starting to rot, and this winter it was clear that some of the boards and support posts would have to be replaced.
So while the Head Gardener removed the old boards, the Apprentice was handed a shovel and tasked with removing and spreading the mature compost and finding a temporary home for the half-rotted material.
On a sunny, frosty afternoon, it was not really a case of hard labour, more a much needed work-out at the green gym.