a novice gardener …

a novice gardener, originally uploaded by gilfling.

The last few weeks (crooked back aside) I have been spending lots of time in the garden, pottering around, planting seedlings and trying to learn the basics of creating a small vegetable plot in such a tiny space. I have bought a couple of books from charity stores and a couple of new books and when not working you can find my nose buried in one of these trying to learn all I can in order to create some produce for ourselves.

This is only the second garden I have had as a grown up and the last one was even smaller than the tiny space we have now – well established, it required little more than the odd bit of weeding and cutting back. Now however we live in a brand new build house and so literally I have had to start from scratch. Also we are renting and on a very small budget so there is not much in the kitty for making any substantial changes as yet, nonetheless I am making a new discovery about myself, which is that I LOVE gardening!! I might only be the most novice of novices, but I love getting my hands dirty, I love pottering and I love seeing the progression of a pot of nothing but earth turning into bright green seedlings and hopefully if I have got the alchemy right, eventually some edible veg!

We have had weeks of sunshine here in the UK and I treated myself to a very cheap plastic greenhouse in which I have been starting things off. It feels a lot like art and crafting, this creating something from nothing, the time pondering and pottering and the slow wait for results and I guess that is why I am so drawn to it.

Most things I am growing in pots as the earth is so poor here with it being a new house but I am slowly learning what I can do in the future to help it along. I bought a brilliant book The Thrifty Gardener by Alys Fowler and I am learning that I will be able to plant crops that will grow quickly and then can be dug back into the earth to help condition it so I hope to do that soon so that I can begin growing things in the ground too. In the next couple of weeks I hope to build a composter and although we have no drain pipe down the side of the house (we live in a terrace and our neighbours have them but somehow our house has been missed out) I hope to find a solution to the dilemma of how to collect water.

The garden may not be pretty, with its parched lawn, empty half dug beds, the line of a rather mixed collection of wonderfully aged pots, ugly plastic ones and even uglier plastic containers but I am rather proud of how it is developing. I am growing tomatoes, courgettes, peas, runner beans, cucumbers, lettuce, beetroot, salad onions, peppers, and lots and lots of herbs. Not bad for such a small space! In amongst this practical plot which will hopefully save us some pennies on our grocery shopping, there are pockets of soon to be loveliness in the form of honeysuckle, hollyhocks, sweet peas, cornflowers and poppies and I can’t wait to see them begin to appear.

Anyway thank you for indulging me wittering on about my new love – Mark is definitely NOT a gardener and I fear that I bore him rigid with my endless updates on what seedlings are making an appearance and dilemma’s on what to plant where and what is working and not working! In the photo at the top you might also be able to see the fortifications I have had to put in place to stop the bunnies from using the pots as an assault course and their own personal dining area! It is a constant battle as they do like to try a bit of everything and the sweet peas I planted in the ground the other day might not survive the trampling they have been suffering the last couple of days.

I would love to read any blogs about your gardening ventures or any hints and tips you might have for a complete beginner so please feel free to put links in the comments to your own gardening progress. x

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3 thoughts on “a novice gardener …

  1. Hi Gillian, hope you’re well, the gardening thing really is addictive!! A couple of tips, car boot sales (my new discovery of the week) have really good value plants, we got 6 tomatoe plants for £3, and also you can get cheap composters from the Council, might be worth ringing them to ask, ours was a tenner, and we compost all our veggie kitchen waste, tea bags, loo roll inners, cardboard, egg boxes, garden waste and grass cuttings etc, and you get free compost at the end!! Good luck with the seedlings, I might have some spare basil seedlings if you want some, just got given a whole tray by a friend of mine, so will have some spare!!

  2. Hi Gillian, I too LOVE gardening! Your vegies are coming along nicely! Seeing little bits of green emerge fills me with joy and excitement.
    Here are a couple of my tips: For green manuring (planting seeds for later digging back into the soil) you might get cheap seeds from birdseed: try sunflower seeds or millet seed. If you buy a bunch of spring onions (or scallions) at the shops, use only the tops and cut away the bottom 5 cm with the roots, either pop these straight in the ground or put them into a glass of water (only enough water to cover the roots) and within a day you will see the tops growing again. Then when you harvest them instead of pulling out the whole plant only take one leaf at a time and pull it down along the stem and leave the rest to grow. If you have garlic in the pantry and it’s shooting plant those as well, same goes for potatoes. The cheapest way to get your vegies will be growing them from seed. Also, your rabbit droppings and spoilt hey or straw will be great mulch and fertiliser for your garden. And don’t forget scavenging for soil improvement. If you can get your hands on horse poo, moo poo, sheep poo or chicken poo that will REALLY help kickstart your poor soil. If you have the stomach for it, burying dead animals you might come across (roadkill) in your garden or compost will help as well. You can make a super cheap compost area with 4 tomato stakes and some sort of netting (shade cloth, fencing mesh or even feed sacks cut open). Do you have worm farms in the uk? If so they would be a great investment as the resulting fertiliser both liquid and solid will boost your plants alot. The only things worms hate is onion, garlic and citrus.
    When you buy tomatoes, chillies or capsicums safe the seeds so you can grow them (make sure you don’t buy hybrids as their seeds won’t come true). If you have a lawn put the mowed grass clippings on your future garden beds, if you are really dedicated either contact a local lawn mowing business, or neighbours and ask for their clippings. It is amazing how many people put them in the trash. If you are really dedicated go and volunteer mowing the grass in a local sporting ground, school, club or park and take the clippings home. Things to avoid putting on your garden: dog, cat and pig poo.
    In autumn you can collect fallen leafs for your compost, if you have access to oak leaves they would be specially good to make leaf mold with. Also, if you can grow comfrey, tansy, and get your hands on stinging nettles they are all really good compost activators or you can make a weed tea with them and use that as a liquid fertiliser on your plants. If you go to the beach take a bag with you and collect seaweed, it makes a great liquid fertiliser or you can even just dig it into the soil. Good luck with your garden and keep posting how it all comes along! xoxo

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