My New Front Garden

17634739_10154795043526622_6429687954531524012_nMY NEW FRONT GARDEN

I wanted to tell you about the exciting new developments in my front garden, which is all the more exciting because of the challenges I’ve faced while designing it.

Those of you who follow my blogs and magazine articles will already know that I struggle with chronic health problems. My current diagnosis is Fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain disorder. Doctors think it may be caused by a malfunction in the nervous system which means that my brain interprets many sensations as pain that ordinary people would not experience as pain. I hurt all over in my muscles, tendons and nerves, which makes me also suffer from debilitating fatigue. And quite often I also get rather low too, especially when the pain feels relentless. unnamed-9This means that I have to design my garden so that I can manage it within my limits. I am happy to report that my design has already been successfully implemented and it’s looking great. So I wanted to talk you through the design process briefly, and show you some photos of how it’s going.

For this blog I am going to focus on the front garden only, so you can see the challenges I came up against and how I overcame them specifically for this space. In my next blog I’ll do the same for the back garden.

To begin the design process, I decided to use some of the time that I was feeling my worst (and stuck in bed) as research time.unnamed-5 Over the previous year, I had observed that my front garden is a north facing slope, with it only getting direct sunlight through the summer months between the Equinoxes. It gets frosty in Winter and the frost is slow to clear in a patch in the middle. For most of the year it gets a lot of reflected light bouncing off the white houses opposite us. I noticed that the front part by the pavement often gets direct sunlight for most of the day in summer. So I while in bed I did some research on which edible plants would be happiest in what location. I had to research plants that are happy in shade and partial shade, as this was outside my experience because my previous garden was in a sunny south-facing aspect. I also observed that the garden was actually an old rockery completely overrun with grass and weeds.

On a good day, when I was feeling a bit better, I took measurements and then drew up a base map. This is what I used when I started designing. 11148344_1223895354303548_3066816150175048919_n

The main challenges were that the front garden was full of rocks and therefore would take a lot of energy to move all the rocks and get rid of the weeds that grew in the cracks between them. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do that job, even if my husband did the heaviest lifting for me. He does a physically demanding job and the thought of moving all those rocks on a weekend or a day off was daunting for him as well as me! So when I was designing, I decided that I was going to need to pay someone to do this. I had put a budget aside of £500 for both front and back gardens, and so it had to come out of this. We also had been given £50 in vouchers to spend at Tamar Organics.

I decided to turn my thinking around about the rocks and see them as an opportunity and resource instead of a problem. So I decided to use them in my design.

 

17862542_1827202757306135_8036797901927526729_nMy implementation plan was this:

 

1 Move all the rocks to the top of the garden

2 Cut a pathway with steps down the middle of the space to make the whole of it accessible for harvesting

3 Put down sheet mulch of cardboard all over the new beds

4 Replace the rocks to hold down the cardboard to create the shape of the new beds

5 Cover with compost (and later on wood chip mulch)

6 Put membrane over the path and steps

7 Create steps out of hard wood left over from the building of the shed/cabin

8 Put down gravel on the path and steps

9 Plant out new tree 18119268_1849476821745395_8959626286495025161_n

10 Plant out plants

 

List of plants:

 

Shade tolerant:

Black Currant ‘Big Ben’

Bay

Mint

Chives

Salad Burnett

 

Partial Shade:17861623_10154795043786622_2060073187033160209_n

Bergamot

Strawberry

Rhubarb

Sage

Golden Willow

Silver Birch tree

 

Sunniest part at the front:

Lavender

Rosemary

Winter Savoury

Cotton Lavender17523648_1827202687306142_7127793429069799017_n

Thyme

Asparagus

 

I was recommended a local gardener called Jeremy Fields who is permaculture trained and does permaculture implementation. He was great and he did it all in just two 4 hour sessions, which cost £160. Plus £40 for a square metre of compost, £15 for waste removal, and £15 for the path membrane made a total of £230. He’d implemented stages 1-7 for me and that meant that all I had to do was to plant out the plants. My husband put down the gravel.

It was a very satisfying transformation which took very little time. All the time went into the observation and planning. I really enjoyed planting out the edible plants and herbs, and thankfully I had a window of better health during the Spring that meant I could get on with it. You might notice that the far left hand side of the garden on the other side of the steps is not yet done. We’ve covered most of it in cardboard and will be using that space for our delivery of wood chip. We hope to get that part of the garden done at a later date.

17634827_10154795043576622_3351391020869452862_nThe maintenance side of the design is that we’ll need to keep on top of the weeds that might want to start poking up through the edges of the garden where the cardboard meets the wall. We need to water everything regularly, and we plan to mulch with wood chip once all the plants are in to make sure the weeds underneath the cardboard don’t re-emerge once the cardboard breaks down. I’m sure that I will be constantly tweaking the design as time goes along to optimise which plants are happiest in which location. I will also be using the principle of succession too; where immature plants are widely spaced now to give them space to grow, this gives me the opportunity to plant out some annual veg grown in modules to fill in the gaps. Later on these gaps will be filled by the perennials.

Thanks for your patience – I know it’s been a while since I wrote but hopefully it was worth the wait!17634839_10154795043826622_4985980527157558595_n

By the way, if you’re having a kind of deja-vu experience reading this post, that’s because I already posted 2 blogs about my front and back gardens last week, but these were lost due to a fault with my website hosts moving my site to a more efficient server and losing my latest blogs in the process. So I’m re-posting them today. Thankfully I had the main content backed-up on my computer!

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