It was spring 2016, and into the vast world of growing veggies we plunged. Dan and I built raised veggie beds out of recycled pallets during the autumn of 2015, with the wonderful help of our friends Tez and Helen.
Once constructed, we created what is known as a lasagne bed. A layer of compost placed directly onto the untouched ground, followed by a layer of unbleached cardboard. Another layer of compost after this and then a lovely layer of mulchy mulchy (in the form of straw) as the final layer. This was all left to settle in peace over the winter and following spring.
Fast-forward to March 2016 and we began planting out seeds into the poly-tunnel and praying for seedlings. They appeared! Hurrah! Unfortunately, due to work commitments in Spain we were away for all of May and half of June, which meant we had to plant out the seedlings earlier than we would have liked. The planting out is super simple into a lasagne bed; punch a hole through the cardboard layers and tuck the seedling in 🙂
The straw is supposed to keep the soil underneath moist, and our beds are south facing with zero shade, so this sounded like a great idea. What we didn’t account for was the wettest spring for who knows how long and the complete haven the straw created for slugs. Lo and behold, upon our return the seedlings had been gobbled up by a colony of slugs. All except the spinach….the Ironman of the veggie world (total pun intended).
Feeling a bit gutted, we decided to plant out again. This time directly into the bed. We also removed most of the straw. A few days later….hurrah (again)! They all sprouted. Do a happy dance! Although, the weather quickly changed tact from super wet to desert-like; no rain for 14 weeks on the trot. This was mildly annoying after waging war on the slugs for what felt like eternity. Eventually we combatted the slugs through beer, sandpaper and mashed up eggshells, but we were reluctant to put more straw around the veggies to protect them and the soil from the burning sun, in case we recreated the slug paradise. So we trusted in the lasagne system – the idea being that the roots of the vegetables would penetrate down to the bottom layer, which was deeply protected from moisture loss due to the layering of the cardboard.
Come September things were really taking off; we had a crop of pumpkin, watermelon (admittedly only one!), spinach, chard, courgette, cabbage, radish and lettuce. Although the lasagne system wasn’t as successful as we would have hoped to begin with, it certainly came into its own during the blazing 40+ degree heat of the late summer with zero rain. A total lack of weeds was a winner as well.
We prepped the beds again this autumn ready for next year, utilising mulch and another layer of cardboard. Next year it is unlikely that we will use the straw in spring, but we might try it again if the summer proves to be super hot.