A few years ago, I can’t remember exactly when, I got hold of a large quantity of industrial sized pallets. They measured roughly 3x2 metres, and the stringers/runners which are usually more or less the size of a 2x4 were more like 4x4s. It took some work dismantling these beasts as the huge nails used to hold them all together were well and truly embedded. It was inevitable that some of the boards would split during this process but I salvaged as much as I could and ended up with a lot of good, usable wood. First things on my list of projects were a pair of raised vegetable beds and a potting bench for the garden.

As you can see from the photographs, I kept my designs as simple as possible. For the shallow bed, which we use for salad items like baby lettuce, rocket, radishes, pak-choi , I just built up the sides with the heavy duty runners and overlapped the corners for extra stability. 

I also built a frame to hold a butterfly net which prevents them from laying their eggs and our patch being overrun with caterpillars. That’s the idea, anyway. The second box is slightly deeper which is good for vegetables with stronger roots. Last summer we had three cherry tomato plants tied to bamboo supports, and in previous winters our cavolo nero (kale), and broccolo fiolaro both thrived out there. We’ll definitely be having tomatoes again this year.
On Saturday it was time to get our hands dirty and prepare the beds for the coming months. We refreshed the soil by turning with a shovel and breaking down any big clumps in our fingers and a small hand held hoe, getting the earth nice and even. 

We put down celery, rocket, parsley, basil and small salad leaves. We’re looking forward to eating our own produce.

Meanwhile in the front garden I’ve noticed that now April has arrived everything is seriously in bloom. The persimmon tree that I trimmed and pruned back in January I believe, that a few weeks back looked on the verge of dying has now got its first few buds beginning to open up. Come May it’ll be full of leaves making a cool sunshade and giving us a bit of privacy from neighbours when eating outside in the summer.

A cracked terracotta pot is home to the lemon thyme, a bit of a chefs secret that one. There is also a sage plant that grows like wild fire – it must like that spot (though that peppermint underneath it doesn't look that bad either!).  A bay tree occupies the left corner along with a small fig tree.

As an ex-chef it’s inspiring and I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such great ingredients.
I don’t think the many strawberry plants which popped out just down our front steps will yield any fruits though. They are a nice welcome to anybody visiting nonetheless.

Until next time.

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