Autumn is here and as my favourite season starts, the plants finish blossoming and the tasks to complete in the garden slow down, I wanted to look back and share with you our summer of projects in our small urban garden. Earlier in the year I decided that it was the year to make our outdoor space more productive and for the space we have to to look better so we would spend more time outside in it. It felt like a special way for me to personally link to my word of the year, Thrive, and to allow our urban garden to thrive and come alive this year.
We have a narrow garden surrounded by brick walls in a typical Edwardian terrace. Over the past three years since we moved in we have been on a slow journey to making the space feel like our own. We cleared the existing plants and added a raised bed in 2015 using reclaimed scaffolding planks, bought a greenhouse in 2016, and this year we made the space feel a little more loved and spent time growing different plants to eat.
A few of the projects this summer included…
…Adding pebbles and small stones around our E shaped raised bed. Doing this transformed the look and feel and made it a more enjoyable to tend to our plants and weed.
…Investing in some shelving for the greenhouse so that we could grow plants from seed as productively as possible. It has made a huge difference to what I am growing and the amount of plants that I can grow from seed.
…Restoring and painting our wooden table and chairs giving a few more years of use to our garden furniture that was looking unloved. I painted the chairs a light blue and table in a off white clay colour.
…Investing in a shed and painting it light blue inside and out. We now have a place for all of our garden equipment, including foldaway chairs, our deckchairs, garden tools and supplies. At the start of the summer I up-cycled an old wooden cold frame that we had and made it into a small potting table that fitted the corner by the shed window perfectly. Inside the shed things are organised and accessible and I recently added hooks inside to hang up my hand tools and garden lanterns.
…Mr C flexed his mathematical and DIY skills early on in the year and made six raised planters for our patio space. We wanted a specific size of container to fit into the spaces we have in our garden and to also keep the costs down. Mr C built the planters and I painted them and they have proved really useful planting spaces, and a big benefit is that theyseem to attract less slugs and snails than the raised beds!
The main motivation for the gardening projects was to spend more time in our garden and increase our growing space so that we could grow our own organic vegetables for the summer months. I invested in an Urban Constant Garden from the lovely people at Rocket Gardens, a small company in Cornwall that grow organic small plants that get delivered to you at the time when they should be planted up. It was a little present to myself following my change in job, and was a project to help me focus on growing something new, making a fresh start and having a mindful and therapeutic gardening project to work on, which would encourage me to spend more time in nature.
We grew masses of green beans, a big handful of carrots, and beetroot that we roasted and ate with a salad and cous cous. I have eaten lollo rosso lettuce and other varieties of lettuce for my lunch each day during the summer which felt really good as it is was grown in organic compost and watered with rain water from our water butt. Our tomatoes weren’t quite as productive in volume as previous years however we did end up with quite a few large tomatoes. I have also grown potatoes, chard, celery, purple sprouting broccoli, rocket, a few courgettes, cucumbers, strawberries, and a few chillies. One of my favourite and most successful seed grown crop was sweet organic basil that we have used with salads and have turned into homemade pesto. There are still a few leeks to harvest and our final set of plants to grow over the autumn including brussel sprouts, and a set of winter greens including kale, spinach, pak choi and a few others including land cress to nurture over the coming months.
Alongside the food we grew a few companion plants giving pops of bright orange colour from the nasturtiums and marigolds, they didn’t quite do the job as the caterpillars attacked the cabbages over our holiday but it was worth trying. Red and light pink gladioli filled other areas of our planting space, the nigella from last year self seeded and grew where it wanted to, and a mass of wild flowers grew in a raised planter attracting lots of bees. I also decided to grow sunflowers from seed and we had a brilliant display of two giant sunflowers and a set of smaller dwarf sunflowers adding different shades of yellow and size to the space.
There are still projects to finish off (as I’m sure there will always be in any garden!) and I’ve started to make a few plans. The space outside the shed and greenhouse is in need of a better surface, so far the reclaimed bricks that I dug out of our garden are creating a small surface to stand on. I’d like to level off the space and add some pebbles in-between the brick surface to finish it off. We would also love to have a real patio to replace our ‘poured’ concrete patio surface that we have at the moment but we will probably plan this for next year or the year after as it is quite a big job! We are also going to add some trellis along our short wall for a little bit more privacy and space to grow some trailing plants like Jasmine, clematis and provide support for other flowers next year.
I’ve loved spending more time this summer in our garden. Taking the time to disconnect from technology and screens, to be outside in nature come rain or shine, and to learn new practical skills, has been something I will endeavour to do more of. So whilst things were quiet over on my blog, Mr C and I were enjoying being outside and making some really wonderful changes to our garden, setting our space up for even more planting, we were growing our own food and flowers, and creating wonderful summer memories.