Five years ago our lives were very different. My wife and I were both commuting for at least 2 hours a day whilst using a childminder to look after our young family. We were on a treadmill of long days and early mornings without a great quality of life. Something had to break and unfortunately that was me. From that point we decided to work our way to a different kind of life and now here we are on the Isle of Wight. We have opted to try and simplify our lifestyle.
We recently moved house and I was talking with a neighbour at the weekend whereby he asked me if I was a gardener. I answered negatively – that sounded like a profession to me, but it did get me thinking. I like the idea of gardening, but not being a gardener – to me that means doing it for others and that’s too much responsibility.
Our new garden is much bigger than any we have ever had before and has been neglected for some time. There is an area of raised beds for a vegetable patch, these are overgrown with weeds right now, but I’m using a small corner of one of them to attempt to grow some runner beans. First lesson – use long canes!! This is my first effort. I am also growing some tomatoes (in a grow bag), chilli’s in a pot, and a cucumber plant.
I would like my children to get some appreciation of where food comes from and the effort involved in producing it – that’s really important. I also want to be able to prove to them that it can be done and its cheaper / healthier / tastier / better for the environment to grow your own food if at all possible. As ever, time is the main problem, but now that I have left the rat race behind there is more of a chance that I’ll be able to spend some proper time in the garden.
Other jobs that I’d like to be sorting in the garden sooner rather than later (but I’ve got to get used to the fact that the seasons affect what grows and when so I’m not sure when the best times will be yet) include:
Weeding, digging over, and planting up the front garden so that it has a cottage garden feel (I’m investigating what this actually means)
Encourage the front hedge to be consistent (fill in gaps, grow higher). Its brambles, ivy, and bind weed right now
Sort the lawn out so that its actually more grass than weeds
Clear out the pond, relining and refilling it, re-bedding slabs, and restoring the waterfall that used to run into it many years ago
Behind the pond is a shady area – I’d like to try and see what kind of “woodland” planting I can do here – I’m thinking ferns, moss and so on
Establish a hedge along the side of the garden for privacy
Recommission the raised beds for a vegetable patch and then work out what needs to go where
Have a wild meadow patch to encourage the bees and butterflies
Build a greenhouse or similar – something to keep the plants warmish in the winter
Replace the dilapidated shed before it falls down – this will require proper money
So my problem is that, other than watching Gardeners World on a Friday and having a bit of enthusiasm, I have zero gardening knowledge. I can dig a hole and that’s about it. I’ve tried learning some plant names but then promptly forget. I generally describe plants as red flower, purple flower, long grass, dead twigs, so I really need to get my head around this and work out a strategy for remembering the names.
However, armed with the internet and the team at Gardeners World (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mw1h/episodes/guide) I’m sure I can make a pretty good go at this. I just need to fit it in along with everything else. I’ll be keeping you updated with what I’m doing and how it’s going – please let me know how you think I’m getting on and if you have any advice!
I’m Amanda and I blog here too. The secret to gardening is…there’s no secrets, it’s all trial and error. What works for one person might not work for another, however the first thing to do is see what type of soil you have, then choose your plants accordingly.
A cottage garden, is basically where cottagers would grow anything they could get their hands on for free or cheaply as possible – as a result they would grow fruit and veg and beans in their plot in the same beds as their flowers. Cotttage garden styles nowadays tend to pick elements from gardens long ago. Most of them have delphiniums, hollyhocks, foxgloves and Veronica’s. These plants can also be incorporated into a wildlife border.
We have a wildlife border that has poppies, foxgloves and corncockles in it, as you are probably aware, these are toxic to humans if ingested, so ensure children are told not to put anything I their mouths, and wash your hand after being outside.
Can’t wait to read your next blog to see how you and the family are getting on.
Thanks for reading my post and the advice is very useful so I’ll look into those further. One of my concerns is that the border for the cottage garden is that it’s north facing and I’m guessing that I’ll need to plant accordingly. It is sheltered though.
Check out the isle of wight college and see what horticultural courses they run. Many years ago I did the RHS course there, every Friday morning. This course covered all aspects of gardening and gave me the confidence to take cuttings & grow from seed. Good luck and look forwsrd to hearing how you get on
Thanks for checking the blog out Jan. Funnily enough I was on the RHS website last week checking out courses. Maybe someday !
Dear Jack, I enjoyed reading your blog and am very interested to hear how you get on. You mentioned your front garden and you might like to look at my own blog called londoncottagegarden.com which shows our garden which I believe has the cottage garden style but without any edibles. Have a look at our front garden and see if there is anything you would like to ask me about. Very best wishes, Julie
Your garden looks lovely – many years of hard work I suspect. Did you put down the brick paving yourself – that really suits the back garden. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog its much appreciated. Is that a wysteria growing at the front of the house ? I have one in the back garden and it seems intent on taking over everything close by !!