Our desire for homegrown vegetables continued but the time we had to spend in the garden declined. For a few years other family activities, primarily supporting the Student's running career took precedence.
We found ourselves digging, weeding, preparing the gardens, sowing and transplanting the seedlings and then failing to weed or harvest them. The birds and insects must have loved us. A number of our rabbits certainly did. They could spend many happy days munching through the salad and vegetables. At least it didn't all go to waste.
Eventually we were just digging, weeding, preparing the gardens then letting the weeds regrow. One day a month was not enough. The weeds could grow thick and high in that time: docks, nettles and couch grass spreading in from the surroundings, and we suspected from seeds in the home made compost or from the bags of horse manure we were digging in. A lot of effort for nothing.
The solution: stop pretending we had a vegetable garden. We didn't. We had a weed garden in which we wasted not only our time but also money on vegetable plants. We didn't have enough time or energy to make it work, not any more. It had been nice while it lasted and it might be nice again, but it wasn't working now.
We couldn't just walk away and leave it or it would be "re-wilded" within two years and we would be worse than back to square one. We had to find a way to mothball it until we were ready and had the time and inclination to make it worth while. We needed to smother the weeds and keep them smothered.
Fortunately our habit of never throwing out anything we thought "may come in useful for something later" finally paid dividends. Among the many, almost certain never to be used again items, now nearer to the junk than useful end of the scale, we found several rolls of old carpet. Old carpet! The tried and tested method of many an allotment holder.
We blanketed the beds with carpet, patched over with the remnants of a roll of weed suppressing membrane, and left them to nature.
Brambles from the hedge rows saw it as a challenge: a new, apparently abandoned, space to colonise. Tentacles stretched in a network across the garden, a mesh of thorny trip wires anchoring themselves opportunistically to the membrane. The little time we had to garden was now spent pulling out and rolling up metres of green, spiky runners and tearing the membrane to shreds as we ripped them out.
Grass seeded itself in the fibres of the carpets. Twigs and small branches broken from trees battered in storms collected in the beds. Moss colonised the stones and the boarding.
Soon the carpets were hidden under the collecting debris. By the end of the second year we were also using the space to gather up tree thinnings and it was difficult to see there were any beds at all. But would the plan have worked. What would we find when we eventually rolled back the carpet?