Monday, 1 July 2013

My Fledgling Garden - A Series

Hello there! How are you all today? In fine feckle I hope. I have been up since before 5am with a seemingly fully recovered boy. How do little children do that? As soon as they feel well  it's ping, and all systems go! Thanks for all your kind wishes. It is horrid when they are poorly. I hated seeing him out cold on the sofa, only waking to be ill.


A Tour Of My Garden & How It Came To Be

So last week I tentatively suggested a weekly gardening post, and you were all very kind and supportive about it. I've been wondering how to actually go about a weekly post, and it occurred to me that it might give it a little context if I took you on a tour of the garden. It will be a warts and all tour. I've not tried to dress the garden. There are traces of us all over the place, and there is so much that needs to be done. So many plans for this space inside my head. So little time in which to acheive it all. You know the score. We none of us live at Chatsworth after all. I don't have a Mellors lurking in the bushes....

Here is a not to scale drawing of my little plot to give you an idea of the space I have:

Mt talents do not lie in drawing...

As you can see there is quite a lot of decking. Several years ago we had an extention built at the back of the house, and also bought a strip of land from a neighbour in order to make the garden a little bigger. We thought that it would be a good idea to deck most of this space for Sam and Alfie to play. Their climbing frame, and later their trampoline, were put there. It was a great space for careering around in scooters, playing with their toys and generally hanging out.

We planted some slow growing shrubs and a few perennial plants, and that was about it for at least six years.   It was only after having Olly, that a personal interest in the garden grew. I have written here before that it all started because Olly was (and is) an outdoorsy boy who was always in the garden. He was curious about the world out there (as young children are), and a fantastic second birthday present of a creature peeper by a friend galvanised this curiosity.

Table without pretty oilcloth. What was I thinking?!

I also got a huge amount of pleasure from our daily wanderings and all the little creatures that we gathered up and inspected. It took me back to my own childhood, one in which I gathered caterpillars, ladybirds and grasshoppers. My parents grew some vegetables - runner beans, beetroot  and the like - probably like many families did in the seventies. We always had a lot of birds visit the garden, and my Dad encouraged in interest in them too.

So here I was. A mother for the third time, with a child who was happiest out of doors, unrestricted by the boundaries and confines of a pram or car seat. I happened upon the fabulous Laeticia Maklouf and Sarah Raven, and my gardening journey took off. I loved (and still do) Laeticia's gardening philosophy. It is one underpinned by enjoying your outdoor living space in a way that is personal to you. She showed me that I didn't have to plant the 'right' plants. I didn't have to have a huge space in which to garden. I could enjoy the Dandelions as well as the Dahlias - each had equal merit.

Sarah Raven's television series about the decline of our pollinators had me hooked too. The idea that I could fill the garden with some wonderful plants, and encourage beasties into the garden was inspirational. I decided that I would like to observe one simple rule in the garden. I chose plants for their attractiveness not only to me, but to the pollinating insects too.

I had already dabbled in growing a few vegetables and salad crops. But this had gone to seed (ahem) when I was expecting Olly, and during his first year. Marc bought me a greenhouse, and I thought it would be nice to have a go at growing veg in earnest. I had visions of my boy eating tomatoes from the vine and peas from the pod. I should say at this point, that that has never happened. But he does enjoy eating the Strawberries that we grow, and picking the veg as they ripen and mature.

I've learnt that just because you grow doesn't mean that your fussy eater will automatically be encouraged to eat! I am not at all self sufficient, and have yet to embark on winter crops, but I am learning and growing in confidence one season at a time. Self-sufficiency requires a level of commitment (and space) that I don't have. That's not to say that in the future it may be an option, but for now I enjoy what I grow and am amazed by what can be produced in a small space.

The greenhouse has given me so much pleasure. I now grow most things from seed, and although it was a daunting process to begin with, I have found it an immensely satisfying process. For the past two years I have collected a lot of my own seed from the flowers and some vegetables that I grow. I always grow more than I need, because I love to give it away, and I love to watch it grow. It's alchemy - seed into soil, water and sun, seedling, shoot, plant.

I have collected loads of gardening books over the past three years. Most of them from charity shops. I refer to them a lot, but there is nothing like giving it a go. Yes I am disappointed when it doesn't work (I have broccoli seedlings that have frazzled this weekend because I didn't site them properly) but the beauty of gardening is that there is always something to be learnt and seeds are relatively cheap to buy (or free if you harvest your own).

Which leads me onto budget. Like most other people, my gardening budget is very tight. We do not have money to throw around, and the garden is quite low down in priority when it comes to spending. I buy plants at car boot sales, seeds when they are on sale, from supermarkets (Morrisons always have a good selection and they are very reasonable), budget stores and have blagged from people I know too!

I try and involve Olly with every stage of the gardening process - from weeding to harvesting. He is at that perfect age of having an interest in everything, and also able to really help. Although I need a lot of patience, for example when he is heavy handed with seedlings or has the devil about him and vandalises the odd flower!

I love the fact that he is learning about where some of the food we eat comes from. He is involved in the process right from the start. He helps plant the seed. He waters the soil. He helps prick out the seedlings and pot of the growing plant. He plants them in the ground and watches them grow and flourish (or not). Finally he harvests them with me. There's nothing like watching a young childs face as he sees a plump, round, bright red radish being pulled from the earth. It feels likes magic to me. I can only assume what it looks and feels like to Olly.

Last year, we added another dimension to the garden in the form of our two chickens, Beryl and Jean. Any of you who have read this blog on a regular basis, are familiar with these ridiculous birds. Naughty, greedy escape artists who drive me nuts, make me laugh, provide me with two gorgeous eggs every day and allow me to pick them up and cuddle them. I think they enjoy it.

So that is a tour and a summary of my garden adventure so far. I realise that it's been rather a long post. I hope you stayed with it, and allowed me to indulge in a rather rambling explanation and introduction to my gardening series.

Leanne xx


  1. I loved this post! Thank you for taking the time to write it and do all those photos, Leanne. Your garden is beautiful. I love your greenhouse, that is so nice to have. And the decking areas are really nice; are they regular wood or the pressed wood type of stuff? I think the main brand name here is called Trex. You have lots of interesting plants too. That was a really fun and interesting tour. :)

  2. Thanks for the tour Leanne - it's actually a really great idea to do a 'context' Post like this, loved it! And what a gorgeous garden you have. I love that there are so many different spaces for different uses, makes for a very interesting and fun garden. Your home is gorgeous too :-) Mel x PS Glad your little chap is feeling better x

  3. Wonderful What a lovely garden you have, and I am so envious of your greenhouse! My littlest chap loves to pick and eat all the berries in the garden - blueberries as well as strawberries and raspberries. And they all like sugar snap peas straight from the plant. I'm on a tight budget too - I've got masses of really wonderful strawberries this year though, from plants bought very cheaply (end of line bargain) from Aldi. They took a couple of years to really establish (last year was a wash out), but this year they are fantastic. I'm really looking forward to following your garden series.

  4. Your garden is absolutely wonderful with so many different spaces, which I love! If you have an Aldi close they are quite good for plants too. Well done for encouraging pollinators and not having a concrete/fully paved/stoned garden as so many seem to have now. The chickens are fab! x

  5. A very beautiful patch! Thanks for sharing...

  6. Your garden is amazing Leanne and so is your house!! Thanks for the context post and for the tour. I look forward to reading more about your garden. I so enjoy my garden and its great to read about other people's experiences with theirs. What breed of chickens do you have? Still thinking of getting some. Xo

  7. Hello Leanne, I can't remember by what route I stumbled across your blog - but I'm glad that I did! I too am keen fledgling gardener and interested in keeping chickens. I would be very interested in reading how you incorporate the two and how expensive it is. On a tight budget I wonder if I can justify it!? Thanks for all your lovely photos.

  8. Gorgeous garden, and house. You've made the most of every inch of space and it's all so lush and healthy-looking. Your hard work really shows. x

  9. It looks really wonderful Leanne. No wonder you love to spend so much time in the garden.

  10. Leanne that was a wonderful tour around your lovely garden. It's wonderful Olly loves his garden and that you have shared so much time outside learning new things together. I have never come across Laetitia Maklouf before her blog looks lovely too.Do you have any of her books?
    Sarah x