Carina Contini: ‘Maybe it is middle age, but we feel so happy in our new garden’

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Who would have thought we could upset the neighbours when we didn’t think we had any?

Victor has found a new love – gardening. Maybe it is middle age, but we feel so happy in our new garden, where we’re about to start growing produce for our restaurants. The garden is incredibly isolated, which made it even more of a surprise when the local Environmental Health officer appeared.

Anyone who has been involved in catering knows the stress when the annual inspection takes place. Regardless of how professional you are, inevitably there is some new legislation that requires implementing. We certainly didn’t expect to encounter an inspector in the peace and quiet of our garden. A neighbour, living half a mile away, had called to complain about the smoke from our bonfire.

Big gardens inevitably produce perennial weeds, dead branches and an abundance of damaged or diseased plants. The garden hasn’t been tended for over two years, so the amount of vegetation to be cleared is staggering. The most practical way to remove it is by setting up small, managed fires.

Environmentalists may object to the carbon dioxide given off and neighbours may object to the smoke, but the ash is a bonus. We will need tonnes of compost to kick-start the soil. This ash, packed with potassium, when added to the compost in a controlled manner, has vital benefits for the plants.

The team also met last week to discuss the Topographical Survey. We now know every contour of the garden. We’ve agreed how it will be planned and landscaped. Rubble, joists and slabs from the house will all be used. It is so exciting. We now know the positioning of vegetable beds, fruit trees, chickens, compost and bonfires.

The site is clear, so hopefully the neighbours should be happy – for a while at least. Or let’s pray to San Lorenzo that the wind is blowing in the opposite direction the next time Victor is with his secondo amore.

• Carina Contini, Casa San Lorenzo (