Welcome to the first post in a new series of The Travel Hack! I love a series of great posts, so I’m excited to start sharing monthly updates from my own garden.
As you may know, we recently completed an addition to our home and are now at a stage where we can finally enjoy it. One area of the house he hasn’t spent much energy on is the garden. I knew expanding would mess up my garden, but I didn’t have the time, energy, or money for it. But now we can and we couldn’t be happier with our new garden project!
So I’ll be sharing all the planning and preparation I do in a monthly post!
We recently finished landscaping our garden and built a large, raised patio.
Our garden floods, so our patio is bordered by a stone cage. So building a wall around the patio wasn’t an option. Floodwaters can flow through the stone cage without causing major damage or disruption to the patio (well, that’s the plan anyway!), whereas a regular wall would give way quickly. I wanted it to be taller so it would be the same height as the house and I’m very happy with how it turned out. It feels very spacious and makes great use of space. We chose porcelain paving slabs in light gray with black trim. Porcelain slabs are quite expensive compared to things like sandstone, but this is our forever home, so we didn’t mind paying extra. This is also a damp, shady area next to a river, so the sandstone is covered with moss and algae and requires constant jet cleaning.
One of the main requirements when choosing materials for our house is that they all be low maintenance. We want to keep this to a minimum as the weekends are short and neither of us want to spend Saturday afternoon jet washing the patio!
Choosing such a light colored slab was a last minute decision as I always knew I would use a slate one, but I love how bright it is. When the sun comes out, it looks dazzling from the patio and makes the kitchen feel very bright.
Cutting down the old apple tree
Last weekend we cut down an old apple tree in our garden. In fact, I don’t know why I kept it for so long. This tree has never produced fruit and had previously been left to grow too large to be cut back to a nice shape. It was just taking up space and creating unnecessary shade, so I’m glad it’s gone. That said, I always feel guilty about chopping something down!
My flower bed
A large flower bed was naturally created. I didn’t intend to put it here, but it just happened to be that way. When we built the patio, there was a little mud here, but then we had a bad flood in January and the mud spread out and created this bed. This was the worst flooding in our area since 1999, so we don’t expect something as bad as that to happen again anytime soon!
I expected the grass to recover as usual after the floodwaters receded, but I don’t think that will happen, so I decided to accept it as is and turn it into a large flower and vegetable garden. The more you look at it, the more natural it becomes, and it feels like it’s actually there, and you can’t help but fall in love with it.
I started laying two paths in the flower bed so I could reach everything. I’m going to be planting lots of flowers for cut flowers, and I’ll probably be tucking the vegetables into beds as well, so I’ll need some space to walk between them.
If this space feels too big, or if the river floods again and all the flowers die, I’ll probably re-seed this area for next year, but I thought I’d give it a try. If that happens, there’s no pressure. Don’t exercise.
My raised veggie beds
One area of the garden that I’m really, really excited about is our raised vegetable beds. Sam made these for me last weekend (he’s one of the many perks of having a handy person around!). I’m currently filling them with soil and compost.
We plan to grow carrots, beets, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. I will be leaving the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in pots in the greenhouse since I will have space in my three mini-greenhouses. I don’t really understand that yet!
Once those are established, I plan to follow the “no-dig method”. This essentially involves adding a new layer of compost to the top of the raised bed without disturbing the soil below. Obviously, it seems like a win-win to me as it minimizes weeds, fills the soil with nutrients and makes the gardener’s life much easier!
My herb boxes
i bought these planters on eBay and I’m thinking of using them to hold salad leaves and herbs, but…umm…I’m not sure. I bought it before I decided to make a raised bed, so I don’t think I’ll need it right now, but I’m sure I’ll find a use for it somewhere.
If you have any ideas, please let us know!
Vertical wall planters for strawberries
I purchased a vertical wall-mounted planter with the intention of growing strawberries. I bought it on sale at Aldi, but I also saw it on Amazon! I had never grown strawberries before, but I thought that a vertical planter would make them very easy to harvest and I wouldn’t have to worry about slugs. Birds could be a problem, but I’ll worry about that at some point!
I’ve had a compost bin in my garden for years and added grass clippings, food scraps, and garden clippings to it. I don’t think I did a very good job as the compost was very wet. I now know I should have added more dry brown things like wood chips, bark, and shredded newspaper or cardboard.
But I wanted to move the compost bin to another corner of the garden, so I emptied it and spread the wet compost on the new flower beds anyway. I just spread it on top of the soil, so I hope the soil dries out and the bugs can work their magic.
I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to composting and started doing a lot of research. I found her video about bokashi composting in her 86 square meter plot (actually a great video about a less glamorous topic!)
Bokashi composting basically involves putting food waste into a sealed tank with a special “bokashi bran.” Leave it to ferment for two weeks, then dig a hole in your garden. If you leave it for another two weeks, it should decompose and leave you with beautiful, nutritious soil.
I’ve just started, but I’ll show you how.
I’ve been busy planting seeds these past few weeks. With large glass doors and plenty of afternoon sunlight, our kitchen is sure to be a great place for seeds. The room is warm with floor heating, making it the perfect environment for seeds to grow!?
I try to grow almost everything from seed. Seeds are cheap and I have the space, so I thought I’d give it a try. If some of your seeds aren’t doing well and you really want a particular plant in your garden, buy young plants from a garden center.
Sweet peas are the only thing I really love and can’t live without. I think it’s okay because it already looks better.
These are all the seeds I grow (please ignore the spelling mistakes here, I spell them the way I pronounce them):
- sweet pea
I put most of my seeds in these trolleys that I bought on Amazon last year. I usually use them in cupboards under the stairs because they’re a convenient way to organize messy spaces. My cupboard is a mess at the moment but the trolley makes a good seed holder!
It’s helpful to be able to move or rotate the seedlings to a sunny spot when you notice them bending toward the light. You can also drive outside to water your plants without making a mess indoors, and when you’re ready to plant them outside, it’s easy to slowly acclimate them to the cold weather outside.
Recycling pots for sowing seeds
When I started buying things for my flower beds and vegetable beds, I was really surprised at how much single-use plastic is used in gardening. I think gardeners are the kind of people who are environmentally conscious and avoid single-use plastics, from cheap seed trays that won’t last more than two seasons, to plastic flower pots, compost bags and fertilizer bottles. Plastic is used everywhere. It’s pretty hard to garden without picking up tons of plastic along the way!
So I’m trying to grow some of the seeds with things that I would otherwise throw away in the recycling.
Grape punnets, milk cartons, yogurt pots, etc seem to be selling well. I think you can use anything that has soil in it and is deep enough for roots to develop. However, don’t forget to cut holes in the bottom of the non-hole tub to allow water to drain.
I also made some individual pots from the toilet paper I had collected over the months. It was easy to make, but less than half of the seeds germinated and mold grew on them. I checked some online forums and apparently the mildew is fine and part of the normal decomposition process. However, be careful not to overwater as this will worsen the mold problem! There’s something strange about growing seeds in a moldy pot, but I’ll tell you how I deal with it.
My mini greenhouses
We had originally planned to purchase a nice large greenhouse/hut combination. Until I saw the price! Wow, who knew greenhouses were so expensive!?
So rather than paying over £1,000 for a greenhouse, I bought three mini greenhouses from Aldi. At 54 pounds each, they may be small, but I think they have plenty of room.
I also like the idea of being able to move and reposition it around the garden as needed. You can also hide them in the winter (I have a hidden unused area in the garden, so they’ll hide there perfectly) and cover them to protect them.
And my last project in the garden is this lawn. Hmm. I’m so confused. I’ve never cared for a lawn other than mowing it every 2-3 weeks in the summer, so it needs some maintenance. Actually, I didn’t know that I had to take care of my lawn. I thought I would just mow it. I’m going to put down some “bait, herbicide, moss killer” and maybe reseed the area that looks like a complete mess.
Plans for the future
I have two more plans, but I think I’ll have to put them on hold for now (as you can probably tell, I’ve already spent a small amount of money on them!)
I would like to create an archway leading to a garden filled with climbing roses. How wonderful it would be to step through the rose arch! And I would like to grow a large wisteria along the fence. I love wisteria, and since these two fences face south, I’m sure lots of beautiful plants will want to climb it.
I would love to plant alba roses in my garden. Alba means “white” and her middle name is Rose, so she’s also a little Alba Rose herself. Alba roses come in white, blush, and pink, are very hardy, grow well in difficult conditions, and (unlike the real thing!) don’t require much care, so I think they’d be perfect for our garden!
There it is. First month in my garden! I’m really looking forward to seeing how my garden progresses and hope to share updates in July and August. While we’re at it, we’ll have lots to share about our giant baskets of gorgeous flowers and homegrown vegetables!
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