My New Back Garden

MY NEWLY IMPROVED BACK GARDEN

In my previous blog I told you about how I designed and implemented the design on our front garden (you can read it here). In this blog I’m going to tell you how we went about implementing changes to our back garden. I’m really excited about how this plan has come together actually, despite the challenges. By taking advantage of the good Spring weather and rising energy in our bodies, and paying attention to serendipity it feels like we’ve ridden a wave, and accomplished great things. 17884216_1839647046061706_5266374742279531243_nI feel pleasantly surprised! This is a photo of what it looks like so far.

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, having Fibromyalgia means that I have limited energy and I feel poorly much of the time, which means that I have to design according to these limiting factors. So as part of my design, I decided to pay a gardener to come and do the landscaping for the front garden, and he was also able to implement some of the back garden design while he was here too.

 

I had spent the whole 18 months since we moved here, watching and noticing what was happening in the garden, what was growing where, and where the sunlight was hitting the garden at different times of day and different times of the year.unnamed-6

 

For example I noticed that the sunniest part of the garden was on the patio outside our conservatory, and yet we couldn’t sit there and enjoy the sunshine because it was cluttered full of junk that had been dumped there after we moved in. We also didn’t have any outdoor furniture to sit on. I noticed that the top of the rockery also got a lot of sunshine so was the best growing space but it was currently overrun with geraniums and weeds. I noticed that the left hand border got dappled shade for half the day, but got the full strength of the sun during the afternoons in the Summer months. I noticed that the end of the garden was shady for all of the day and only got the occasional hit of direct sunlight on long summer evenings. And I noticed that roses and geraniums didn’t seem to mind being in the shade. These observations really helped to show me where it was best to locate elements in my design. And here is a photo of what the garden looked like during the Winter months before we started the changes.unnamed

 

I also decided to Zone my garden according to how frequent each part was visited and therefore how much attention it would get. For example, I put the sunny patio in Zone 1 as I expected that once we had garden furniture we would sit out there very frequently. I put the left hand border in Zone 3 because I expected that would get less attention as it was at the top of the steps and mostly out of view from Zone 1.

 

Features of my new design:

 

1 Clearing Zone 1 – the patio area – which had been left cluttered with junk after we moved here 18 months ago and creating a seating area so we can drink tea and eat lunch in the sunshine

2 Clearing the weeds out of the steps and rockery and then planting up some herbs in that area of Zone 1

3 Creating a raised bed in Zone 2 out of left-over Sweet Chestnut planks (from the building of the shed) in the sunny spot at the top of the rockery – so I have a little area to grow annual veg and salads that is visible from Zone 0 and 1

4 Taking out the invasive weeds in the left hand border of Zone 3 and creating a food forest

5 Clearing the weeds in the shady raised beds at the back near the shed and mulching heavily and planting fox gloves (Zone 4)

6 Clearing the narrow shady bed on the right hand side of weeds and planting it with shade tolerant plants

 

Zone 1unnamed

 

This all came together very quickly and synchronistically one afternoon. I’d mentioned my ideas to my husband and then one day I came downstairs to find him clearing the patio clutter into the back of the car, ready to take to the tip and recycling centre. It was a sunny day, so I went with him to the tip and enjoyed seeing all the old rubbish get sorted into various containers for recycling. It felt so nice to be out, that we ended up making a flying visit to a local flea market on the off-chance of finding an affordable set of garden furniture. We were very lucky to pick up the only one in the place, which was a faux-french table and four chairs that looked authentic enough in a shabby-chic way, a real bargain at £58. It was such a treat to come home to a cleared patio space and to be able to put out our new table and chairs and sit in the sunshine for the first time!unnamed-14

 

What a transformation this was. And now that we had a comfortable place to sit and drink tea in the warm Spring sunshine, this meant that I was now frequently out of bed and sitting in the garden, which gave me a new vantage point to continue designing from.

 

Every now and then I would get up out of my chair and weed out a few dandelions in the rockery or pull a few geraniums that had rooted in the gaps in the steps. This was more like the gentle gardening I could manage! One day when we got some food from the supermarket, we noticed they were selling herbs in good sized pots for a bargain 3 for £5 so I bought some chives and sage and planted them out into the rockery. Another time I picked up some violas, an edible flower that I just love at this time of year, and I potted it up in one of our old blue ceramic pots to put on our new table. This brings me lots of joy and it’s so pretty that I would rather look at it than eat it!

 

Zone 2unnamed-5

 

One Saturday morning my husband was cutting the grass when he asked me where I wanted the raised bed to be located. So I showed him the place at the top of the rockery and we marked it out. He then cut the Sweet Chestnut planks ready to be assembled into the new bed, and cut back some of the geraniums growing there with sheers.

Then later that week, our gardener who’d come to work mainly on our front garden design was able to put the bed together for me, mulch it with cardboard and then fill it with compost. That was very satisfying to get done, but when I looked down on it from my bedroom, it looked wonky. We realised this was because the ground sloped off to the right. So my husband was able to raise up the right hand corner of it the following weekend, and inserting Larch planks inside it to support it’s new height. Now it looked a lot less wonky. 17992221_1839648959394848_2054822158652601497_nAnd the first thing I did was add in some more peat-free compost from the garden centre, and some manure, and then I sowed some broad beans.

I’ve now got plans to make this bed into a ‘Square-foot Garden’, where I divide the bed into square feet and plant something different in each section. But I’ll write more about that in a future blog.

 

Zone 3

 

Our gardener was also able to help clear this bed on the day he was here. 17861962_1832953083397769_7026577108935229702_nIt was full of invasive weeds such as Rose Bay Willow Herb, grass, bindweed and Crocosmia which was coming in from the neighbours garden under the fence. We decided to keep a self-seeded oriental poppy, the mature rose bush, and an unknown shrub in the back corner. This left plenty of space to create our new food forest. We’d been given £50 vouchers for Tamar Organics (an online seed and plant supplier) by the Housing Co-op as a leaving present, so we spent this on a new Bramley Apple as well as other plants for the front garden.

 

So far we have planted in Zone 3:

 

Bramley Apple – 1 year maiden

2 x Golden Willow

Thornless Blackberry to grow up the trellis on the fence

Autumn-fruiting Raspberries **17862651_1832953020064442_8117846841536394124_n

Lemon balm **

Alpine Strawberry **

Chinese Chives **

Ice plant **

Sweet Cicely **

Comfrey (Bocking 14 – from a friend)

 

** we brought all of these plants with us in pots from our previous garden

 

Zone 4

 

unnamed-10I was blessed with a window of better health while all of this planting out was happening at the beginning of April, which was perfect timing. While I was planting in the border, my husband was clearing the dense layers of weeds in the two-tiered raised beds at the back of the garden. He did the heavy lifting with the garden fork and I sat on the edge of the bed and picked out the roots and put them into bags. We filled many many bags! When it was as weed free as we could get it, I planted out the foxgloves – a couple had been given to me by a friend and 3 I’d recently bought from a garden centre. Then we put down a permanent membrane over the top bed with the climbing rose in it, ready for the wood chip that we’d ordered from a tree-surgeon friend. The lower bed will be mulched with a layer of cardboard around the foxgloves and topped with wood chip.unnamed-11

 

We have yet to start on the narrow and shady right hand border, but I know it will happen soon. And we have plans to paint the ugly garage with masonry paint to make it more attractive to look at as well as the ugly retaining wall in zone 1 – which is rather exciting!

It’s amazing how my sense of wellbeing has improved with spending more time outdoors in the sunshine, my hands in the earth, listening to birdsong. This is what they call ‘Nature Therapy’ and it feels like the best medicine.

 

I had some trouble with my website recently which meant that my last two blogs disappeared into the ether, so I’ve had to repost this one and the previous one again. Sorry for any inconvenience. If you are interested in following my progress in my new gardens -front and back- then do click ‘follow’ in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. This means you’ll automatically be sent an email each time I post a new blog. I do not share your details with anyone. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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