Posts Tagged ‘squaremetre’

Raised bed update: successes and failures

September 7th, 2013
This was one of our first decent-sized carrots

This was one of our first decent-sized carrots

A few people have mentioned recently the raised bed we built out of pallets at the start of the year; a couple have even inquired as to how we’re getting on with it. So this is a quick post to keep people updated.

As you can see in the image here, we grew some mighty carrots, with little or no trouble. Some of them did turn out remarkably small – one or two grains of rice, or at a pinch kidney-bean sized – but generally they were fat and healthy, if occasionally stubby. The height of the bed – 40cm – might be the reason why we’ve avoided carrot-fly.

Anyway, here’s an earlier photo taken in May, showing the bed really starting to take off:

Raised bed really taking off

Raised bed really taking off

The vibrant-green leaves are (perpetual) spinach; the grey-green ones are broad beans; the little jagged ones are carrots, and you should be able to see some coloured stalks of rainbow chard (it took much longer to come through.) Overall, we had great early success from leafy veg. The broad beans, on the other hand, were tasty, but not very many of them given the number of plants.

Later on, we made the mistake of planting two tomatoes in the bed: Gardener’s Delight and Alicante. When we got them from the stalls at the front door of Cogges, they were rather small and unassuming. After a week or two after planting, they had gone wild:

Carrots grow big, and tomatoes really start to take over

Carrots grow big, and tomatoes really start to take over. A sunflower droops far right, and a couple of straggly nasturtiums try to escape

The tomatoes have since grown much, much bigger. We’re pruning them like crazy, to try to stop them from branching. But along with the now straggly carrot leaves, they crowded out pretty much everything else. But there are at least a large number of (still green) tomatoes on them, so we’re looking forward to a decent crop. And then rapidly getting rid of them.

The biggest failures have been brassicas: curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli, two of each plant given to us as presents. Because of the crowding from the rest of the plants, we were simply unable to protect them from butterflies with any netting or structures early enough. First we noticed eggs under the leaves, which we dutifully got rid of; then we noticed caterpillars, which were flung to the far end of the garden; but then leaves started disappearing. In the end, we gave up the fight; a few days later, they were all stripped to stalks.

We’re ending the season with a squash plant, running slightly late (it had a check when we transplanted it into the bed; not sure why), many radishes which should happily be ready in a month or two if we can keep the caterpillars off them, and a number of leeks, which I’m hoping to winter but – as they’re still seedlings – might simply expire.

It’s all been a big experiment, and for every disheartening development there’ve been two or three moments of glee, as we’ve picked, cleaned and cooked our own vegetables in mere minutes: as fresh as you can get them. And there are bound to have been setbacks in our first year of growing. Next season, I keep telling myself: next season we’ll get it right. I’m sure of it.

Raised-bed cooking: chard pie

July 21st, 2013

It started with a pallet. Sustainable Witney member J-P dismantled a wooden pallet into its component planks, then built a raised bed out of it . Then he turned it into a mini allotment and when you last heard from him in May, it was doing well.

I’m his wife and I’ve decided to blog about the fun bit: turning what we grow into tasty meals!

Picture of raised bed with greenery in it

Our raised bed in mid-June

By early June, the raised bed was a riot of green, with a lot of spinach and chard. (The picture of the bed was taken after I gathered enough for that evening’s meal.) Here’s my recipe for chard pie.

Pie base

100g grated carrot
100g wholemeal flour
100g oats
100g butter
Pinch of salt
Teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda


Chard (and spinach, if you like)
1 onion
A few garlic cloves
1 egg

What to do

Mix all these ingredients together until there aren’t any offensively dry or offensively buttery lumps. “Crumbing” with your fingers helps to get the texture right.

Then press the mixture into a lined, greased, baking tin, roughly 8 inches in diameter. Chill it for half an hour, or if you’re impatient, freeze it for ten minutes.

Then bake the pie base for about quarter of an hour at 200C.

Colander with green leaves in itIn the meantime, gather your chard. (You can easily add spinach to this too; nobody will notice.) I gather mine in a colander so I can wash it in the same container.

Chop and fry an onion and a few garlic cloves. Chop the green stuff. When the onion is going brown, add the chard (and spinach, if you like) to the mix.

Beat an egg and add it to the mix. Turn the heat off as soon as you add it and keep stirring. Add salt and pepper and keep stirring.

Put the mixture onto your pie base. Top with cheese – any cheese will do, really. Then put back in and bake for about half an hour at the same temperature. Then take out of the oven, leave to cool for ten minutes, remove from the tin and serve!

Chard and spinach pie on table


  • I didn’t create this recipe; it’s adapted from one I came across several years ago. If anyone knows the source, let me know so I can credit it.
  • Making and chilling the base is time-consuming, so I always double up on the quantities, make two bases and pop one in the freezer.
  • While the pie is in the oven you can (with any luck) go out to your raised bed again and get some lettuce for a salad to go with it!

Neat shoots and leaves in a square-metre garden

May 19th, 2013

Those of you who followed my construction of a raised bed from pallet wood might be interested to know that we’ve already begun square-metre gardening in the resulting bed, with some success!

» Read more: Neat shoots and leaves in a square-metre garden