Garden Journal: The Big Makeover & How It All Began

garden journal : the big garden makeover
I grew up with access to a big garden. It was well played in but overgrown with weeds, vines and an old shed that required two people to open. Few flowers but the blackberry bush flourished across the garden and apples from the neighbor’s tree occasionally rolled in worm filled and uninvited.

I share this because it helps set the scene. In all honesty, my growing love for gardening sparked somewhere between being inspired by other people’s gardens on Instagram and a need to connect with something outdoors. I was looking for a hobby that was away from technology, outside and connected me with nature. I soon discovered, that nature fix is quite something. It has been a major factor in helping me deal with anxiety among other things.

August 2016

the messy before

I decided that I wanted to makeover my awkward jungle of a garden. Turn it into something that resembled those magical gardens you see on TV shows coupled with my imagination's ability to simplify the image of an allotment and Ground Force's quick turn around time. It was the end of Summer. Desperate to take action, but lacking the time and skills, I hired some people to wield a few power tools and mow down the jungle of overachieving weeds and bushes. (Side note: they found a sleeping fox in that tall grass down the back where nobody dared to go. Cute but also worrying as my little cats play outside). 2 hours later, they were gone and we were left to work with the bare bones of dried, sandy soil riddled with knotted roots.

In the two weeks that followed, my mum and I hacked away at the remaining weeds and roots and dug up the sandy soil in an attempt to level it off. That broken, haunted house shed was cleared out and demolished and 5 days were spent carting things from the garden to a skip in the driveway. I hadn't even started growing anything nor owned a packet of seeds and already much blood, sweat and tears had transpired (side note: not just from me, it was a family effort). With Autumn in full swing, the garden suddenly looked like a flattened, grey space of nothing. It was cleaner, there was more light but less depth and excitement. It remained this way until Spring the following year.

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April 2017

Upon returning from Berlin, I was antsy to start sowing seeds in Spring wearing cute garden gloves with a patterned cushion to sit on in the garden. If the start of my story wasn't warning enough, I'll remind you that I had a very childlike vision of how planning, creating and maintaining a garden space would work. In fact, I wasn't really into the planning - of which you'll soon learn.

At the end of April, all I'd done was dig up the weeds that had emerged again down the end of the garden. There was nothing fun about this and I felt like I was playing a losing game. So, I ordered a small "build it yourself" greenhouse from Argos. It was £20. Spoiler alert: I'd recommend you not bother unless you only plan on growing small pots of herbs and flowers. We drove to a pretty garden center that was expensive and had a ridiculous amount of choice. It was a beautiful morning and we came away with some seed packets of herbs and tomatoes, pots, a ridiculously priced watering can, compost and powdered fertiliser and a little starter strawberry plant. Another spoiler alert: buy liquid plant feed, preferably tomato feed for your strawberries and tomato plants. That afternoon, my mum and I set up the greenhouse in our conservatory, potted on our starter strawb and sowed some seeds into plastic starter trays (also expensive).

the after so far

my Planting Journey

Cat Grass

This was supposed to be the easy one. We ended up with some long strands of grass spaced far apart. The cats tried to eat it but when they pulled at the grass, all the soil came up with it. That ended in a fail and a mess and they continued to eat the tufts of grass they could find outside and looked at us like we were weirdos.

Coriander

This was the one we were most exicted for being corriander lovers. The first lot we planted into a small pot died pretty quickly. It was straggly. The second lot was also a bit straggly but flourished for a few weeks and we got some good fresh leaves. It then started going "to seed" by producing tiny delicate flowers. The third pot was flourishing but then grew straggly with yellow leaves and has been given an eviction notice.

Lessons learned:

  • They need enough light and covered over with clingfilm to stop them growing tall too fast with spindly stems.
  • Water well and put into a bigger pot as coriander likes to plant deeper roots.
  • It smells strong so if you don't like the smell of coriander (we do) then don't grow this.
  • Our cats like to sleep near this herb.

Flat leaf PARSLEY

A pretty similar story to the coriander and the lesson learnt above all was to not freak out when it doesn't work the first time. Keep trying and learning from your mistakes. Even with all the research and videos we watched, it's not an exact science and the hard work is for the plant to do so we need to do our best to provide the ideal conditions. It's definitely a lesson in patience, something I talked about in my guest post on slow living with plants.

Chives

After a first failed pot of chives, the second batch flourished for about 3 months and is now on its way out. I'm considering doing a mixed big planter of herbs now and bringing it inside. I'll save the strawberry and tomato stories for a separate posts.


June 2017

Deciding that the weeds had to go for good, I bought several bags of organic chipping and landscaping fabric to fill the weed infested dry, gritty soil with it. It looks tidier and I have every intention of adding some lavender planters out there because the sun hits that space well. The patch of cracked concrete at the back began to flourish with tall leafy plants that looked like lettuce but most definitely were not edible. After chopping this out 3 times I got fed up again and lay some more landscaping fabric and bulk bought slate gravel to fill the space with. That was another funny story trying to push it up the pavement on a pallet trolley with the delivery driver at 9am in my PJs.

The space needs decorating next Spring. I'm envisioning a quite reading space with a few little trees and a bird bath. For now, one of my cats, Jem, has made it his area. We still need edging of some sort but I'm tired and the days are getting shorter and I'm not made of money.

We tackled the vines and pulled out the fake grass that looked like exfoliating carpet. There's a massive ants nest that no one will go near and the evergreen hedge will eat the house soon. My new hobby is to collect wooden pallets which I've been using to create a raised decking space for all the plant pots.

BEFORE
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In a year, I’ve learnt that so much patience goes into creating a garden space. And for the next few months, I plan on enjoying the process of choosing what to grow next and just going for it. Our successful tomato yield has given me the confidence to keep trying and enjoy the process. Here’s hoping that this time next year, I’ll be handing out little baskets of harvested produce to friends and family.
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Sarirah Hamid