One of the things that drew us to this house was the fact that it had a garden. Or rather, it came with a nice big blank expanse of lawn that might one day become a garden. I’m not too keen on lawn, but I’ve always liked growing vegetables, and was excited by the prospect of finally being able to do so in a garden of my own. The space we have here has some advantages – its on a south-facing slope that gets a lot of sun. But it has some disadvantages too: the soil is the worst kind of claggy clay, not at all fertile, incredibly wet and boggy, and very poorly drained. Our house is part of what was once a farm, and from old maps I have discovered that the top of our garden was once home to a water wheel, a stone building, and associated machinery, which were used for timber cutting and processing. A small amount of investigation quickly reveals the traces of the land’s former use – it is full of rocks and water. And even if I could dig (my balance is so poor that I just fall over), it would take an enormous amount of work to improve this soil. I have a compost heap, and a good source of manure, but rocks and clay just aren’t that good for growing vegetables.


Last year, I got round this problem by growing things, with some success, in pots and planters. This year we decided to get a little landscaping done, and put up a potting shed, which would allow me to bring on plants efficiently rather than (ahem) taking over every room in the house with seed trays and seedlings.


I am showing you this slightly loopy photograph of me on a ride-on mower so that you can gain some sense of what things looked like at the top of the garden previously. To the left there’s a nice summer house, and to the right a bandstand-like area of decking, both of which were put up by the previous owners. We had the decking removed, took out a couple of trees at the back, and laid concrete foundations alongside the summer house for the new shed. In front, we took up the turf, put down gravel, and set up raised beds. (I say “we” but what I really mean is that we hired some blokes with a mini-digger). Here are the new raised beds.


This set-up is absolutely brilliant for me – there is room for me to get around the space easily, and with my kneeler I can work in and across each bed with minimal difficulty. Once the mini-digger had departed, Tom and I got to work painting the new potting shed and the old summer house. Ta da!


I can’t tell you how happy the new shed makes me. I now have a space which can house my tools and seeds, in which I can bring on my seedlings, and in which I can attempt to grow the greenhouse vegetables to which I’m stubbornly drawn, like cucumbers and tomatoes.


The shed has potting benches, lots of shelving and staging, and my solar-powered radio. I can check on my plants, sit in there and knit, and enjoy a cup of tea.


(this apposite hanging was made for me as a gift when we moved house. Thankyou, Anne!)

I’ve planted out my potatoes, courgettes, strawberries, salad leaves, and the peas and beans.


Yesterday Tom and I built and painted up a pleasing planter . . .


. . . which is now home to some jolly geraniums.


There’s also a border, in which I’ve planted some flowers and shrubs I’ve always wanted to grow, like aliums, and this ceanothus.


We’ve installed a giant water butt, set up another big composting bin, started up the wormery again, and today I think I’ll move the brassicas (which I’ve been bringing on in window boxes, while I was waiting for the raised beds to be built).


Not for the first time, I feel incredibly appreciative of my present situation, and the potential we now have in this lovely productive space. I’m looking forward to many happy hours in my new shed and garden!


54 thoughts on “Garden beginnings

  1. Fabulous! I love seeing you on your lawn mower! Your home is so full of beauty, energy and love. It Just makes me smile. I doubt that I will ever be your way, but if you come mine, please stay a while. I have a lovely garden on a peaceful creek. I’d love to sit and have tea with you. Thank you for the wonderful blog and photos and sharing your life.


  2. Wow, love your raised beds. We put some in a few years ago. We have really poor soil so it seemed like a no brainer for us at the time. After struggling with a neck and shoulder problem for the last year they have proved a worthy investment as it still means I can potter outside and do a little.

    There is something so gorgeous and fulfilling about growing your own. I love spending time outside and watching everything grow, plus I am convinced everything tastes so much better.

    I’ve also become a lot more conscious of the huge number of varieties of vegetables out there, how limited the choice in supermarkets is plus how so many varieties are in danger of becoming extinct. We decided very early on if we were going to grow something then we would try and grow something we couldn’t buy and preferably support heirloom varieties. We discovered a fantastic company called Real Seeds who do a beautiful selection of unusual seeds plus are trying to bring back a number of varieties from extinction. I love the fact that my garden is giving a home to telephone peas that have been around since 1885, touchon carrots dating from the late 1700s, dragon purple carrots (because I love the name) and my pride and joy a pitmaston pineapple tree which were first bred in the 1780s, to name a few.


  3. Kate so glad you are happy and content with your life now and where you are surrounded by such amazing open space and countryside..getting your hands in the earth I have always felt too is such good therapy

    I must say that you seem to have taken on a big project your green house ..with a sink and toilet , I could just about move in LOL,…happy days …pat j


  4. How fun!! I’ve been discovering the joys of gardening lately! Of course, I haven’t delved into the vegetables yet, but herbs and flowers are where I’m beginning. Looks beautiful, and definitely jolly!


  5. Your garden looks beautiful and right now I’m very envious! I stay in flats, so the only space available are window sills or little spaces in front of these windows. I planted a few seeds a month ago, but most are withering away. It’s been a really hot summer here, so before I start the next round, I plan to wait for the monsoons which should come in June. Of course then, sunlight might be a problem. Still, hoping for the best.


  6. What a lovely veg patch you’ve got! I know that you’re working in the raised beds, but just in case you decide to expand your space (trust me, it’s likely), with some time and lots of compost, clay can really work. The garden in which I’ve grown up is built on a slightly raised clayey flood plain, not even 5 m above sea level. We started with runner beans in the poor, lumpy, compacted soil, and over time they have made a brilliant patch of soil.

    For you, it may require some assistance from Bruce, but runner beans seem to be a really good soil improver when it comes to clay. Just some food for thought for next year. :)


    1. Wow – the work your beans have done for you in your clay soil sounds amazing. My problem is that due to my poor balance I am unable to dig this soil at all, which makes preparing any sort of bed impossible, but Tom may be persuaded to dig and improve things with nitrogenous plants. You are absolutely right that expansion is likely. . .


  7. not sure what is happening… this is the third comment i have posted . the other two did not show up

    the garden and hardscaping and buildings are looking lovely. one question – why the different sizes and heights for the raised beds?


    1. to be honest, there’s no real reason – it is just what we had, or were able to construct out of what we had. The shallower beds will be fine for salads and my sweet peas!

      I’m sorry the comments take a wee while to appear – I have to watch the spam filters.


  8. I can’t work out what I like the most! I would love raised beds but we have nowhere to put them, so I’ll have to vote for the potting shed which is just lovely.


  9. Lovely lovely garden and potting shed. So light and airy and perfect. I live on the Kent Marshes which is also claggy waterlogged clay and I am inspired by your raised beds to do the same, only on a much smaller scale as my garden is very tiny. I grew brassicas once and all I can say is watch out for those cabbage white butterflies. Their caterpillars can shred a whole bed of cabbages down to sad stalks within one night. Good luck with all your growing.


  10. How wonderful. So much evidence of hard work already done, and so much possibility! Can’t wait to see photos of mature plants and the harvest.


  11. That is a beautiful shed indeed. I have a living room full of seedlings and tomato plants at the moment…but a communal back garden so no shed for me. But I have taken over the beds and planted peas, borlotti beans and courgettes….it will be nice to grow some food. Can’t wait to see how your garden develops.


  12. I find it very satisfying to grow my own food and have preserves (pickled beets are a favourite of mine!) for the winter months. Your new gardening area and potting shed look fabulous. I hope you get lots of enjoyment out of both of them.


  13. Oh Kate, I love your garden and shed! I’m so envious wishing I had the room for such a fabulous gardening experience. Enjoy all your lovely veges when they’re ready to harvest.


  14. I can understand that you want to do your knitting in your lovely shed I sometimes have my lunch in the greenhouse which is ideal if its not warm enough to sit outside but still feel part of the outside space.


  15. How wonderful and well deserved. Four years ago we moved into our 30’s house and took on a very unloved garden. First we had to clear away (entire garden back to bare earth) 50 No. 30ft high leyandi, a delightful but derelict green house, a leaky pond, decking with steps that led into the pond (?) … it goes on but now like you we have beds for veggies and soft fruit (now with walk in cage after last years battle with the birds), apple trees, various shrubs… It is amazing how quickly plants establish – when they are planted in the right conditions and well looked after. Two books we have relied on are ‘Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland’ and ‘Garden Plants for Scotland’. Highly recommended them both – if you haven’t got them in your library.


  16. I love the potting shed. I was hoping to get a green house this spring, but all advice is against this because of the wind we get in our garden – we live in the Rhinns of Galloway. So tomorrow we’re going to meet someone who will make a shed to our specifications. And now I have a great idea for what I need. Thank you, Kate.


    1. Ah yes – I confess I was somewhat concerned about the effect of the westerly winds on a greenhouse – which is why I settled for this shed, with its greenhouse-like frontage which has perspex instead of glass. Time will tell! Enjoy your new shed!


  17. Well, seems to me a bit of a tune is in order…”Tom and Kate live by a gate. Through the Gate a Garden waits…Oh and what have we here…It’s Tom and Kate in their Garden so dear. Now Kate and Tom, they dig on and on….the more they dig the more it makes, and there is Brian, taking a lay in, keeping the tatters warm! before they know it that digging did grow it and now there’s too much to store. Kate looks at Tom, with her biggest smile on….you know what we need, a fine cellar indeed …to hold what the Garden grew!”
    Looks like this are coming right along… By the time ya’ll blink you’ll have yummy things to eat! Have a wonderful Weekend, or what’s left of it!


  18. Love your garden and amenities! I am green with envy over the potting shed, but I am fortunate that my soil has very little clay. And now I’m going out to plant those tomatoes and cucumbers that are so wonderful. (I already planted the potatoes. Now I just need a dog…)


  19. Well Kate I have to say your abode is a little piece of heaven. You certainly will be spending many many happy hours in your garden. The photos, as usual are just lovely.


  20. An amazing space–but don’t you have to worry about animal predators? Here in Canada I know I’d have to surround everything with screens to keep out the wildlife.


  21. Sitting at my ‘dining’ table which is currently overrun by plants and fantasising about moving out of the city – this is all so lovely!


  22. It’s such a lovely space, congratulations and well done! I envy your potting shed, and have yet to find a suitable space for my own compost source. Why can you not grow cucumbers and tomatoes easily? Is your season too short?


  23. Such a beautiful property!! I would be tempted to sit in the shed and knit too!!
    Lots of luscious vegetables coming your way. Isn’t Bruce a digger? Perhaps he can help you in some way!


  24. Everything looks amazing! We have have had some challenges in being able to prepare our soil, so I can sort of understand. We have ledge not too far down, so we can dig a bit, but can’t go far. Fortunately, far enough that last year we were able to till in manure.

    And your green planter! It’s lovely! Have a good time this season.


  25. Your garden is fabulous. Like you I am not a fan of lawn, and several years ago we dug all our lawn up for flower beds, which I much prefer, as well as having colour and scent it’s home to all sorts of wildlife. I grow my veg in large pots, which have made a take over bid and I am currently banned from buying any more :) I can’t think of anything nice than sitting outside knitting, with a cup of tea, surveying the fruits of your labour, for me this is heaven.


  26. Oh, Kate…..and Tom too! This is so lovely and so inspiring! Gardening is much like knitting, with lots of choices, textures, colors…..creative women love everything creative, I find. I wish you many happy hours of wishful thinking and daydreaming as you putter around your new little plants. Progressive photos please!

    Meanwhile, back in southern Pennsylvania, I face very unruly beds after such a long cold winter! But you have inspired me! Here is my recipe for “from the ground up” gardening (no digging) First, a thick layer of newspaper to smother grass and weeds. Second, a six inch layer of straw. Then lots of leaves, compost, and dried manure……more straw on top. Winter over, and the next Spring, its ready! Every late Spring I add more newspaper, compost and dried manure as I work and plant. I rarely ever have weeds during most of the summer! That is the best part. Late Autumn, a thick layer of straw to keep perennials warm over the winter.
    Best of luck with the knitting and the gardening, everyone!


  27. I can’t believe how much you guys have done since moving there! The new shed looks wonderful but I wouldn’t get any gardening done I’m afraid….I would spend all my time sitting in that lovely warm sunshine knitting!!!! xxx


  28. Absolutely lovely! Shed envy arises. Could you possibly share the design for the jolly geranium triple decker planter – or point me to plans?

    Hope your weather this bank holiday is perfect for planting out.


    1. I also love the planter. I’ve been looking for something like that for years. I’m green as all your happy plants to see the wonderful garden you’ve built. Thanks for letting us all have a look in.


  29. Happy planting! Looks like a great set up – I am feeling pleased that I managed to bag some leek seedlings and broad bean plants in the reduced section at the supermarket this morning. It will help fill the gaps in our allotment! But I wish I had a potting shed like that ;-)


  30. Wow, Kate, all this work looks wonderful and the view from your shed is amazing. Enjoy your new retreat and the great food you will produce. No doubt we will see some wonderful designs from you which are inspired by this wonderful pursuit.


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