Tiny Potager Update

Do you remember that part of my garden revamp, (aka reclaiming the corners of my garden), was to create a small but beautiful veg patch? Well here’s the development so far.

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It really is tiny- approx 2.5m x 2.5m, I started off last autumn by emptying my compost bins onto a layer of cardboard then topped that with well rotted manure & an old carpet & let the worms do their stuff.

In spring I started getting it organised, remember my mantra – ‘if it isn’t pretty, it isn’t staying’ – so it had to look good.  I used a large pot as the focal point & planted a lovely standard dessert gooseberry in it & have sown edible flowers in the pot too. The front edge of the bed is planted with wild strawberries, & the left border with herbs & edible flower mix. I have a row of 4 tomato varieties at the back & the 3 sets of bean poles have climbing french beans,  runner beans & sweet peas (underplanted with squash to grow up the trellis too). 2 corners have dwarf maypole apple &  pear trees. In the little gaps I have some broad beans & lettuces & will sow more salad crops in succession.

Oh & I have a very nice crop of mushrooms – thats a good sign apparently!

Hope you like my little veg plot:)

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Garden Revamp #5 (potager)

The garden is starting to spring to life & I need to get on with the last corner in the new revamped garden – the veg plot. I have decided to try to make a little potager garden- a mix of fruit veg & flowers, all grown together to look pretty & act as companions to reduce pests by confusion /distraction. In France this is a common style of productive but pretty gardening,  my plot is quite tiny, approx 2m square, I will try not to get too carried away……

   

 
 
At the end of the summer I covered the area in cardboard & then emptied emptied the compost bin on top & then covered with well rotted manure. We found an old carpet & more cardboard to cover over winter & to encourage the worms to do their work, so now it should be ready for some planting. 

My plan is to have a permanent structure of columnar fruit trees / standard bushes & then grow some beans, sweet peas, squash etc up obelisks & edible salad & flowersin the space around.

The trees are ordered & should arrive soon but I need to purchase or make some type of obelisk & decide on some veg varieties. 

This is the picture in my head – watch this space……………

  

This is the tiny potager in a beautiful Berkshire garden – see here for more stunning images from this garden.

Garden Revamp #4 (I really need to stop spending money now)

Sorry I haven’t updated my blog in a while, I have been busy with various projects but haven’t found the time to write, partly because our dog is no longer waking me up at silly o’clock thank goodness! Although I did fit much more into my day by getting up at 5.30am!

Remember the view from my kitchen window that I really wanted to change?

 

well this is the view now after 6 months of work……

  ……much better don’t you think?

We have 2 new low maintenance flower beds with similar planting, the one nearer the house has lower growing plants so that this bed no longer blocks the view of the  rest of the garden. The third bed at the back on the right will be my veg patch. There’s still lots to do but it looks so much better already!

We decided to clear the bed nearest the house of everything except the two beautiful,  Japanese Acers. We moved two huge phormiums from this bed & replanted them at the bottom & right of the garden to draw the eye to the boundary, to my amazement they seem to have coped with being moved & are both doing ok. We also lifted & salvaged all the black grass  & Verbena Bonariensis that had spread. After clearing & digging we covered both beds with strong weed suppressant fabric & pegged it down & then began the exciting job of planting. The bed furthest away was tackled first 

   

  Starting to plant up the bed furthest from the house
 Both beds have a mix of small trees, shrubs & perennials. We tried to reuse as many existing plants as possible, We moved the tall zebra grass Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus  from the bed near the house – splitting the existing clump & planting some at the back of the new bed at the bottom of the garden, it grows tall & thick & should form a bright backdrop in one corner. We had an existing Acer Japonica in a pot (can’t remember the variety) which went in, & I bought a lovely Forest Pansy – Cercis Canadensis a small tree with beautiful heart shaped leaves that turn red, I also bought some purple Euphorbia and for winter interest, a couple of  Pittosporum Tom Thumb – they also pick up the colour of the Euphorbia. I added a clump of purple fountain grass – Pennisetum rubrum & pony tail grass- Stipa tenuissima from elsewhere in the garden. This gives lovely movement & texture to the bed. I used some of the black grass to fill in some gaps together with an existing penstemon, some dark red Sedum & the some Verbena Bonariensis. We then used slate & garden pebbles to cover the weed suppressant fabric. This bed was completed in August & has already filled out well.
The bed nearer the house is planted in a similar way to pick up some of the shapes & colours of the other bed but with smaller & more compact plants. We left the 2 existing acer trees in situ & added a gorgeous Katsura tree – the leaves smell of burnt sugar when the sun hits them. We reused some of the black grass & an existing Hebe, the same Euphorbia, Stipa & Pennisetum varieties, a different penstemon, 3 box plants which will be clipped into balls, mirrored by 3 bright green balls of the dwarf  Hebe ‘Emerald Gem’.  I have also added a lovely compact Nandina Domestica & the new  Mahonia ‘soft caress’, together with some Hellebores & Cyclamen for some winter colour. I also transplanted some perennial violas from another part of the garden to this bed which should give some lovely colour & scent in spring.

The centrepiece of this bed is a birdfeeding station so I can watch the birds from my kitchen window, it took a few days for the birds to realise it was safe to use but now we have a regular show of visitors including our resident squirrel!   


We covered the weed supppressant with large gravel in this bed as was the cheapest option but I think it really lifts everything. Obviously it’s a little bare at the moment but I can’t wait for next spring to watch things come to life.

I am so happy with the work we have done in a few months & very grateful to my friend Jackie who has helped me get my gardening mojo back.  She runs a gardening business & a lovely shop selling gardening goodies please visit her new facebook page The Garden Room

Next job is  to plan my little veg patch……

Mutant Flowers

If you saw my earlier post re: Essenden open gardens you will know that I purchased several plants from the gardeners during that day.

One of them was this magnificent Argyranthemum or yellow Marguerite, it has been amazing & has really taken off since I planted it 6 weeks ago. The flowers are plentiful & a really vibrant zingy yellow, fading to cream as they age – it looks great from my kitchen window – its a real splash of colour.  

The other day I noticed something strange – a couple of the flowers were ‘Siamese Twins’ – the stem had 2 flowerheads that were back to back – a very strange mutation which I think is called fasciation?? Although -these flowerheads are not deformed -there are just 2 of them!!

   
    
 
Interesting phenomenon – much prettier than the usual fasciation where flowers look weird & abnormal – these are perfect identical twins.

This part of the garden is coming along nicely now, we have reduced the size of the bed, added strips of turf either side, the compost bin area has been tidied up & we have used old slabs that were lying around to make a ‘paved’ area – this is temporary as we will replace the shed soon.  

   
    
The bed has been planted with yellow, orange & blue/purple colour scheme. We kept the existing Strawberry Tree & dwarf Conifer & planted a Phlomis shrub, the yellow Marguerite, a couple of orange Gerberas, 3 Verbena Bonariensis, some orange Geum, (not flowering yet), a blue Geranium & some blue Asters & orange Californian Poppies from my mum’s garden. Hopefully by next year it should be in full bloom & looking great.

(The dog has already christened the new turf!)

  
The view from my kitchen window is beginning to look much prettier!

 

Does My Butt Look Big in This??

 This was a very sad corner of my garden, I was given this water butt about 10 years ago, we connected it to the drainpipe via a diverter & then to a seep hose for the dry side of the garden.

Water butts are really expensive – even ugly ones – so I have been putting off replacing it, & spending money on other things in the garden. It’s by the back door & not something I can see all the time,  so I could ignore it, but it really spoilt the look of the patio, and, as my new mantra is – ‘if it isn’t pretty,  it isn’t staying’ – it had to go. 

So when my friends asked me what I would like for my birthday, it seemed the perfect opportunity to replace it with a prettier one. I had seen beehive shaped butts & ones made out of old barrels so that’s sort of what I had in mind. 

   
   
 

 This really great recycled copper tank looks fab too but not right for my garden. 

I trust my friends so left it upto them & this is the one they chose.  

It’s a huge 245litre  ‘terracotta look’ butt by Cascata, made right here in the UK.  It has a lovely old fashioned brass tap, a hose connector & you can even use the top as a planter like this…. 

How amazing is that I love it – a fantastic birthday present! Great design but totally practical too. 

Just for your info it’s available from various places online see here: Cascata Water Butt but the cheapest I found was £139.00 inc delivery from Internetgardener.co.uk . Cascata do a couple of different designs & sizes & they have the look of terracotta but are actually lightweight polypropylene – guaranteed not to chip, crack or fade.

It takes a little bit of time to fit all the outlets properly using the included PTFE tap on all the connections to prevent leaks, but I did it in about 15 min. 

You could have the drainpipe going directly into the top, but we already had a diverter kit which sends rainwater into the barrel until it’s full, &  then excess water goes down the pipe as normal.   

We had some old bricks leftover from a building project so we made a little platform raise it up to the right level for our diverter, & then prettied it up with a few pots. 

My butt definitely looks big but doesn’t that look better??  

Garden revamp #3

So my project to reclaim the corners of my garden is really coming along, remember this space??


it now looks like this…. 

 Still a work in progress bt we have created two raised beds from sleepers, with lovely brick edging & path between – using leftover bricks from a building project. The larger bed will be a low maintenence flower bed – minus the Rhubarb:) I can’t wait to get started planting this, but it’s not quite ready yet, the other will be a small vegetable plot. Next step Lasagne….

  
……. The soil in my garden is very stony & quite dry – not good enough for growing veg- so I am layering thick cardboard- weed barrier layer, newspaper & the contents of 3 compost bins (in various stages of decomposition) onto the bed, & will continue to add layers of grass cuttings more paper & a layer of manure from a local stable & let the worms do their stuff over the winter, so next year we should have a lovely no-dig veg plot. This technique is known as lasagne gardening or sheet composting as described here Lasagne Gardening.

This is a fantastic way to start a new bed or revitalise & condition poor soil. No-dig gardening is great & takes lots of the hard work out of gardening by letting nature do the work. There’s loads of info around but check out these links which I used – Accessible Gardening and Sheet Mulching. We have had to cover the bed temporarily as there was something very stinky in one of the bins & Tilly the Sprocker Spaniel even abandoned her tennis ball to try to drag it out of the wheelbarrow, I have no idea what it was but it is now buried & covered in tarpaulin until it rots down! 

 This years crop is a little sad – a few tomatoes, beans & squash in pots & growbags 😦 never mind next year will be more productive!  

I had a very curious little helper whilst emptying the compost – a juvenile robin who followed me everywhere & was joined by mum & siblings later. Robins just love to ‘help’ gardeners don’t they.

Today I will be tackling the seating area next to the veg plot, where an old greenhouse used to be, it was a pretty white octagonal shape greenhouse but very impractical  as there was alot of wasted space & eventually too many footballs got the better of it & it had to go! 

Bye for now. 🙂

Garden Therapy – Mum’s Garden

This week is the first anniversary of my sister’s death, she had breast cancer for eight years but sadly lost her fight this time last year & I have come to Lincolnshire to be with my parents at this time. 

Weirdly it feels even sadder this year than last – perhaps because we have less to do, or that we are surprised that a whole year has gone by already. We took flowers to the cemetery, but decided we needed more receptacles as two vases are not enough to make her grave look pretty – so we went garden shopping….

That turned into a garden centre ‘sweep’ as they had a sale on & we found ready planted window boxes for £8.00, which were just the right size for the front of the headstone, we bought 3 of those, some bargain bedding plants & a couple of hanging baskets to jazz up mum’s garden which needs some tlc too.

Once home to mum’s we decided to get going & plant up the things we bought. The hanging baskets were not to hang but to put in planters at the front of the house – instant planted pots – a great cheat, & so easy. A couple of the window boxes too & voila! the front is all cheered up in a flash.

Mum is a fan of old fashioned, bedding plant borders, she doesn’t like ‘messy’ cottage garden style planting – which I love – but I am trying to persuade her to introduce more permanent shrubs & perennials, I have brought a small penstemon cutting from my own garden which is a start!

  
Outside the kitchen window is a small paved area & rockery, & years ago a prostrate conifer -a blue juniper -was planted there & had completely taken over. 

   
It was drowning a lovely Azalea & providing a home for mice & maybe a hedgehog or so we thought! Anyway we decided it had to go, so dad & I spent a couple of hours yesterday evening getting to grips with it.

 It covered an area about 2m x 3m & took all of 2 hours to cut back to expose the roots, todays job is to dig it out…. & then think of what to replace it with.

It took another whole day to remove the roots – there was just as much below ground as above! No sign of any hedgehogs or mice but we disturbed a nest of miner bees, they were fairly docile but obviously not happy- I got stung but luckily the sting is mild compared to other bees. 

We planned to take some existing plants from around the garden & redistribute but I headed back to the garden centre & found lots more bargains – Geums for £1.00 – I bought 10 as I ‘need’ some too! Cistus, Scabious, Nemesia & a very sad Heuchera, all will be ok with a bit of watering, I got a car full for £30.00! 

 

This is looking sooo much better now, I planted a white Lavender & a Penstemon that had been in pots for a few years -hopefully they will really thrive now they are in open ground & together with some of the new plants, should fill out this space quite quickly. The soil is very sandy & free draining so its easy to dig & weed, most things  will grow as long as they are watered well at the beginning.

 I will split up the Asters at the back & spread them around, plant bulbs in the autumn & next spring this bed should look lovely. There’s also a clump of California Poppies & daisies that need dividing at the other end of the garden so we can use those in the side bed with some more shrubs (I will be back bargain hunting soon), there is also a bed at the front of the house that needs some more permanent planting but this is all I have had time for this visit.  

I love the combination of these two plants & have taken some for my own garden & some of the Asters which are spreading themselves around.

This little project has kept us busy during a difficult week & we all feel a sense of achievement that comes from making positive changes, we are also quite tired…….