Suppressing weeds between raised beds

From afar it looks… intriguing.

A sort of study in brown.

But now that I have three beds up and filled and ready for crops, I need to work on weed suppressing paths in between.

I am well aware that you are missing a HUGE number of pictures showing the progress this past month. Enforced isolation has meant that I am indulging in hours and hours of work on the project.

So forgive me for going backwards. I could spend ages scrolling through the picture library, and never actually getting round to showing you the work.

So today I give you the in between bits.

What do most people have in between the rows of their raised beds in their vegetable gardens?

Grass? Brick? Mud? Gravel? Weeds?

If it’s for a photo shoot it is always suspiciously neat and tidy. I’m guilty of that. You always see the paths in my potager all orderly and uniform. Because I ALWAYS show them to you once the work is done.

But the reality is that my decision to change this entire vegetable garden was when I realised I was spending more time weeding the effing bindweed tendrils, the escaping raspberries, the escaping marjoram, the unwanted plants out of the path than dealing with the actual crops in the beds.

So once three of the six raised beds were up I decided to get the paths sorted. It’s warm here in the south east of France. And I have been working like mad to get everything landscaped and sorted before the weeds woke up.

So here is the plan. It’s not foolproof but it is going to be better than the paths I had before.

Weeded. A layer of landscape fabric (that’s the white material you can see) then over the top the impermeable fabric from the swimming pool cover that expired two seasons back.

And on top of that.. gravel. Lots and lots and lots of gravel.

It was piled up by Nicolas way back in November when I had this mad scheme. And I needed to shift it back to the new paths. Using buckets. Half filled so it wouldn’t kill my back, but endless. Oh endless. This took me two days.

Still, it’s the material I have to hand and I love the look of sort of shingle beach in the mountains. It gives underfoot. It can be topped up, it looks neat. I would love to have neat grass, but honestly. Who does? You can mow the paths, but what about the edges right up against the wood of the raised beds? And how about that wine barrel in the middle? I just didn’t design this garden for wide paths of lush green.

And my dream for this vegetable garden is to reduce maintenance. Not add more.

The tricky path is the central axis right in the middle. It’s a slope. A considerable slope. And you know what heavy gravel wants to do when you step on it without going carefully.

Yep. A slide. So I have carefully and very laboriously dug out the old soil under the path, removed the roots from that pesky self-seeded fig tree, and then added back old soft soil. Down with the two layers of fabric. And then I secured the steepest slope with granite stones.

Add about 15 buckets of gravel and you are good to go.

But of course it’s not finished. Nothing is complete. And it’s annoying as every shot I see shows either a random bucket, an out of place pot, mess. Mess. Mess.

I think this week Nicolas will break out social distancing rule and build the fourth raised bed. I will then have to see if I have enough of the impermeable liner for the interior (curse this shut down!) and get on with the even more tricky job of filling it up.

It keeps me busy. And then for an encore I’ll try and do more of the paths.

I hate how this one is sloping like mad. And the barrel is slightly off centre. But we are all learning to have things in perspective right now. And I’m dead pleased with most of the work.