Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Skint Garden: March. A Natural Disaster.

Last year I moved into a rented Victorian house as I am working away from home and am dividing my time between here and home as best I can. The garden looked okay in the photos, it is a typical long strip the width of the house, but was a bit of an eyesore in real-life. A few half-hearted pots of annuals went in and they really cheered the place up but apart from that, with my horrendous workload and a slipped disc nothing has been done to it since last October and it is looking a bit sorry for itself. I can't even cut the grass as there is so much surface water on it at the moment due to it lying on clay. The garden is really long. The photo below doesn't show it all.


So, I am going to create a new series of monthly posts on reinventing the natural disaster out back and (hopefully) turning it into an oasis of cottage garden loveliness. I know that the place isn't mine but I love gardening, it takes me out of myself, cheers me up and lets me relax. Not being a very talented gardener I feel so utterly happy when anything grows. Plus, all the spare plants can go in my other garden or get swapped for stuff that I haven't raised myself. The garden is mostly grass. It is not smooth at all and is full of hidden dips which makes it dangerous to mow or to walk on unless you know which bits are okay. There is also a large area which is laid to gravel but was laid without proper weed protection material underneath making it a pain to keep up.


There is a tiny budget allocation (£100) to cover everything for the whole year, or until I move out, to be spent in chunks. There is more info on my "rules" here. I don't really want to throw money away on someone else's garden plus I am really cheap I want this to be a challenge and to encourage recycling, swapping and reuse of found things. As it was so lovely last summer outside it would be really nice to have somewhere to sit and read or knit in when the better weather finally arrives.

MARCH:


The weather this year has turned the garden in places into a recreation of the Somme. Soil in the garden is appallingly bad, mostly clay and terrible sub-soil filled with stones. A lot of it was dug out and riddled last year but is now covered in weeds. The soil is pretty loose still thankfully which has made weeding quite easy. It will need some grit and sharp sand dug in at least a couple of the beds as I plan to grow lavender, rosemary and thyme and it will all need some organic matter and a good feed with slow release fertiliser before it gets planted up properly.


I am a cheeky mare. One of my neighbours is renovating the empty house next door and I asked him if I could have the bricks that were skipped. Heavy work, I can only lift 4 at a time, but I have been using them to divide and edge each section of the border along the fence to the bottom of the garden. It is slow going as I am finding the heavy lifting and digging tough. Worth the effort though I think in the end. They are currently sat in a pile on the "patio area" which looks like the place that old slabs go to die and is in a shaded corner of the garden making it a bit useless for sitting out on. I will have to lift the slabs and re-lay them but it is far too muddy for me to even think about that just now.

Existing Plants/Seeds

There were some orphan seed packets lurking in a drawer in the kitchen so there is the following:
  • HERBS: Basil, Dill (x2); Thyme (x2); Chives (x2).
  • VEG: Swiss Chard (x2); Spinach; Courgettes; Globe Courgettes.
  • FLOWERS: Heliotrope; Dwarf Scented Lupins; Nasturtiums (x2 - one "Empress of India" and one trailing mix) plus a packet of blue Lupin seeds that I found in a drawer upstairs.. 
There's was also a packet of 2 tiny rooted Aquilegias (that were actually 3 -  complete bonus!), 2 small rosemary plants, the stragglers of my herbs from last year and a climbing red rose bush in my stash. All of the above don't count as they were bought before I had this idea (see I am cheating already). The garden was also infested last year with Lemon Balm (Melissa) which is lovely and there is some which has been overwintered in a pot. I also have a rhubarb in a pot but I am not sure if it is still alive.

I already have a spade, some hand tools, some tree loppers, a riddle, a saw, secateurs and garden twine. It is not a lot. Buying seed trays is out the window so they are going to be recycled from some plastic ready meal containers and fizzy juice bottles.

The Plan

I have also ordered Aquilegia "Nora Barlow", Thyme, Bee Balm and Garlic Chives from eBay. (£3.96); Vervain, Shasta Daisy, Cosmos, Feverfew and Lemon Catnip (£5.25); and bought a rake, seed and cutting compost, plant labels and some blood, fish and bone meal (for the rose bush) from Asda (£9.26). I also bought three packets of seeds from Lidl for 29p each, bless 'em. (Cornflowers, Cosmos and Californian Poppies) and also bought some seeds from Wilko (Linaria, Borage, Echinacea, Swan River Daisies and Achillea) which came to a total of £3.50. On the whole the colours scheme will be whites, reds, pinks, blues and purples with the odd dash of pale yellow flung in places. Most of the plants that I have chosen are the "beneficial for pollinators" kind as I love butterflies and bees. I am also going to try to grow some of the seeds in the waste ground at the back of the fence which is really another part of the garden. It belongs to the house but is just full of rubble, nettles and brambles. It gets lots of butterflies.



No idea what will come up or indeed if anything will. The border is well over 60ft long and about 3ft deep sloping down to about 2ft. That is a whole lot of plants. When I moved in there were a few stumps in the borders which are growing back in as Laurels. Not my favourite plant but at least they will provide some structure and greenery. The place is a complete mess right now but I am really looking forward to seeing what I can do with it. Gardens always look a bit forlorn at this time of year. I will tell myself that anyway. I am actually looking forward to all the hard work ahead and have been binge watching Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh on Netflix. Don't mind not having their budgets but I really do wish that I had someone to help me with the hard landscaping parts. Still no pain, no gain!

March Total Spend: £22.84
Total Remaining: £77.16

So do you have a garden? Like to grow things? Have any tips for creating the perfect cottage garden or have you got a different planting style? Do you find gardening difficult or think that napalm or mono-block is the answer to everything? Do tell.

Kxx




16 comments:

  1. Ooh this is interesting and I shall look forward to more progress. I am onl a vicarious gardener as we have no outside space at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maryanne, thank you. That is a shame that you have no garden. I like being outside but am not a huge park person. Too many people to see me in my shorts! This one is huge, especially for someone with a dodgy back that works 24/7 but I walk through it to the car everyday and it is making me miserable as it looks so forlorn. I love gardening and growing things so an determined to at least give it my best shot. I have done quite a lot to it since these photos. Xx

      Delete
  2. What a lovely project! I love that you are doing it on a budget, and really looking forward to seeing what you do with this garden. I have a large garden and love walking around it every day to see what is growing/flowering. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Linda. It really is a big project and looks way worse in photos than it does in real life. It is just a complete mess just now. Gardens are great. I love being in them. You are right, when you are growing things there is always something new to see and do. I love flowers especially scented ones so hope that at leat something grows. I will need all that luck growing everything from seed. Xx

      Delete
  3. I'm really going to enjoy following your gardening progress. I'm all for spending hardly anything and aiming for maximum results. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vix, I can see why this would appear to you being the thrifty super creative genius that you are :) I almost took an old sink out of the skip next door but hesitated at the last minute and they had emptied it by the time I got in from work. I did pet a pair of wall lights and some wood. They are all going into the garden. I have a plan and no money so this will be fun! :) Xx

      Delete
  4. Now that looks like a big job! But it will be so rewarding when it is done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Linda, it will be indeed. It is a complete mess. I have done a fair bit of digging since these photos were taken though. I am so looking forward to having somewhere nice to sit. I love a nice garden. Xx

      Delete
  5. This sounds like a great project, I'm looking forward to reading about it. I've found chard and courgettes grow and crop really well. I love cottage garden style and you have a very blank canvas to start with!
    I didn't realise you were splitting your time between two places, that in itself must be exhausting but I agree that gardening really helps to relax. I can get so caught in the moment that it's almost like meditating. Lots of luck and fun with this project. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sally, thank you! I am sure that I do need luck with my lack of green fingers but it will be a lot of fun if nothing else. You are right about the veggies. Both are so easy to grow but the soil will need improving a lot, especially for the courgettes. That is such a polite way of saying that it is a tip. :) However, it does have great potential and I also find gardening to be almost like meditating. You can lose hours just pottering about. Splitting time is quite hard but better now that Sprogzilla is here as I don't go back to Scotland so much. I do like being down South too. The weather is so much better and I am enjoying going into London a lot. It plays with my head that I can be there in less than an hour as my brain is still up north. Xx

      Delete
  6. Oh, the slipped disc sounds awful. Back pain is ghastly.

    I've ordered some seeds this week, and will have more tomato, cherry tomato (I put those in hanging baskets), coriander and Thai basil seeds than I'll need, if you fancy any of those. I can easily pop some in an envelope and post them to you. Also, I'll have way too many lemongrass seeds, though those need to be grown on a windowsill indoors if you fancy giving those a go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mim, Thank you so much. Only if you let me swap you some flower seeds. I have a ton of them and although I have a lot of space to fill and no idea of germination rates I do have some packets with 1-2000 seeds in. How many aquilegias does a person need (answer: loads 'cos they are lovely)? I have never grown lemongrass. Is it easy? I have a lot of chive seeds and bought some garlic chives which are bigger with white flowers. They are really easy to grow too. I am so excited to see what comes up. :) Xx

      Delete
  7. Kellie you sound like Monty Don! A real pro is what you are! It sounds as if you have bought some wonderful plants/seeds and I hope they all grow beautifully for you. I would love to see what Heliotrope looks like; I know it's a colour but I had no idea it was a plant. I believe Aqualegia is a great self seeder (as are Hollyhocks) so you should have loads in no time.

    I went to the Tidy Tip today to get rid of kitchen cupboards and a sink and came home with 5 ceramic plant pots of differing sizes and shapes. We have a small courtyard garden so have to grow things in pots and containers. One benefit of that though is there is no grass to cut and very little weeding!

    Hope your garden is bursting in bloom with all the great weather we've been having and are going to have.
    xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Veronica, thank you so much. I don't have green fingers at all but I did learn a lot from my Mum and used to work in an agricultural college and shared dorms with a load of horticulture students and learnt so much from them. I adore Aqualegias and have a garden full of self-seeded "Black Barlow" in Glasgow. Never ever got Hollyhocks to grow but I will get some seeds on your recommendation.
      That was a great find at the tip and I am so green about your courtyard garden. You must be able to grow loads of plants that would be hard to in the ground. No cutting grass and weeding would be a huge plus for me too. Things are coming into bloom but mostly dandelions. :)

      Hope that you are enjoying this fab weather! Xx

      Delete
  8. Looks like hard work.... ours is a large garden, a hundred foot by sixty - ish. And since I cant do much in the way of heavy gardening, Himself has to do it all with a little help in the light weeding department, seed sowing, from moi. We have raised beds for veggies, and the garden is divided into areas, and then there are large beds with annuals, perennials, shrubs etc., that don't take much looking after, plus a gravel garden which takes no looking after really. A long narrow garden can look daunting, you sort of get it all in one view don't you, but it can be more interesting by the addition of diagonal paths zigzagging their way across, using old bricks would be good. I'd happily send you a mix of seeds, veggies and flowers, if you were interested. I don't have a blog any more so only contactable via email. I'd have sent this sooner had I thought to look....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Edwina, your garden sounds absolutely gorgeous and from the photos that I have seen really is. I am not going to tackle too much in the way of hard landscaping in this garden as the house is only rented. It would look fabulous broken up into "rooms" like yours but I don't really have to time at the moment. Thank you for your super kind offer of seeds but I went a bit nuts in Wilco and on eBay so have about 20 packets that I am still to sow. you really get a lot of seeds for a little money. I am so happy to have the first of the perennials in and have the second wave (the will be a third) in trays sprouting away. I am so sorry to hear that you don't have your blog any more and hope that all is okay. Xx

      Delete