Garden beginnings


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!