I’ve never exactly been ‘green fingered’. Ok, I may have kept several house plants alive in the past, but I’ve never achieved much more than that.
This year however, Dan and I decided to really sort out our garden. We had a few things to consider when planning our approach; it needed to be SAFE for Baby J to play in, SIMPLE to maintain (we definitely don’t have time to be weeding every weekend), and INEXPENSIVE to set up.
What we’ve ended up with really suits our lifestyle and has become a little outdoor space that I adore. I love to sit in the sunshine with a cup of coffee in the morning as Baby J kicks a ball around, or poke about among my tomato plants, willing the fruit to ripen faster.
It may not exactly qualify for next year’s Chelsea Flower Show, but I’m really proud of what we’ve done! Here are my top 10 tips for creating a safe, simple and inexpensive little outdoor haven of your own:
- Create some borders
- We were lucky in that we started with a blank canvas; our garden was freshly turfed with a neat little patio. We knew we wanted to put in some stone borders, so we began by digging up the edges. We managed to get some free bricks from the some kind builders and set these into the ground to act as a divider between the border and the grass. This was done partly to look cool, but also to make cutting the grass easier, so the mower doesn’t get gnarled up on the stones.
- Weed control!
- Who has time to spend their weekend crouching in the garden, digging up weeds? Not us. We laid a special material under the stones which prevents them from growing and poking through. If any weeds do make an appearance, Baby J is usually on the case and will help pick them out. She’s got this gardening thing pretty much sorted.
- Pots, pots, pots
- We decided to grow everything in pots rather than having flower beds because they’re much easier to maintain. Our pots sit along our stone borders. Pots aren’t cheap, so we’ve gradually been upgrading from to plastic to ceramic. The benefit of having pots is that everything is contained, nothing goes wild and takes over, and if something dies, you can just replace it with a new plant rather than having to dig up a flower bed.
- Grow some herb boxes
- We bought two old apple crates and planted 12 varieties of herb across them. Only 6 types of herb actually grew (!), but those that did have really thrived. Our successful herbs include tarragon, dill, giant parsley, chives, sage and thyme. Herb boxes not only look fresh and bright, but are great for enhancing mealtimes, too.
- This is the second time we’ve grown tomatoes. We planted them in grow bags last time, but as grow bags aren’t particularly attractive on the patio, this year we decided to grow them in pots. We started out with 20 seeds in a propagator, not expecting them all to grow, but they did! As we had so many young plants, Dan wanted me to get rid of the weaker looking ones, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Keeping them all has definitely paid off; even the scrawniest plant has managed to produce fruit! Most of our plants only have a handful of fruits on them, but one (we call it The Beast) has 47 tomatoes and counting. I genuinely thought this might be some kind of record breaker until I googled it and discovered that some plants can produce thousands!
- Look after your grass
- This is the most boring bit for me, but Dan has done a brilliant job looking after our grass. He waters it and cuts it regularly so it never really overgrows. He’s also careful not to leave anything out on the grass for too long – toys are always put away at night, so the grass never wilts or goes yellow.
- Be a friend to nature
- We don’t have many birds in our garden, so we put up a nesting box and bird feeder in the hope of attracting some feathered friends. I’d quite like to get an insect hotel at some point, to attract a variety of creepy crawlies. I think this would be really interesting for Baby J (and me), but I need to have a think about where it would go in our garden.
- Invest in a few key trees or plants
- Most of the plants that we have in our garden have been picked up for under £10. We did, however, invest in a Japanese Acer tree and a bamboo plant last year. Our Acer is thriving. Eventually, we’d like to get green and orange ones to go alongside it, but we’ll have to save for those.
- Our bamboo on the other hand, has been a bit of a disappointment! We were told that it can spread across the garden and take over, so we had a large planter made to contain it. We put the bamboo in the middle of our planter, expecting it to spread, but after a year it had done nothing. After a bit of umm-ing and ahh-ing, we decided it was make or break *gardeners, cover your eyes now. We dug up the plant and hacked the root into six pieces and replanted it. Some of it seems to be doing ok, but some of it looks pretty dead. We’re giving it some time. Eventually, I want to strip the leaves back on the canes, leaving a cluster of leaves running along the top of the plants.
- Pick up a bistro dining set
- No patio is complete without a little table and chair! I love to sit here in the sunshine with a coffee, watching the bees while Baby J plays. We’ve eaten outside a few times this year and it’s been lovely. Before summer arrived, I had visions of Dan and I drinking wine in the garden in the evenings, watching the sun set while Baby J was in bed. Hasn’t happened once! C’est la vie.
- We’ve got a few little accessories in our garden, just to add those finishing touches. We’ve strung solar bumble bee lights along the length of one of our fences, and they look so pretty lighting up the fence as it gets dark. Just a few little accessories like this really do make a big difference and add a certain charm to the garden.
So there it is, our garden! I hope you liked this post and found these tips useful. They’re pretty basic, but they’re at exactly the right level for people who, like us, don’t have much time or money to spend on their outdoor space, but want to create a charming, low-maintenance haven of their own. 🙂
Also, I just want to add in that I’ve not shown you quite ALL of our garden; this is just one side of it! Along the other side we’ve created a mini sensory garden for Baby J, although I’ll be writing a separate blog post about that. It comes complete with it’s own dinosaur park, so BE EXCITED and stay tuned!