When we first received planning to convert the woodland office into a dwelling, our home – it was September 2013, Autumn was setting in so our plans to start creating a garden were put on hold until the Spring.
By Spring 2014 we had a 9 month old daughter and we were keen to create a space for her and us to enjoy. We set out to create a lawn, a space for her to run around without falling over thistles and weeds! This was a mammoth task, the ground here is hard, solid clay so we bought in four lorry loads of top soil and set about creating the lawn, once finished and we had a ‘safe space’ to enjoy, plans began for our vegetable garden.
Like with everything we have done here, drawings are done, discussions (heated debates!) as well as countless visits to the space to try and visualise how it would work. Two beds were made in the front corners for me to grow flowers, my small cutting garden, full of all sorts of blooms for us to enjoy both outside and cut in vases indoors.
Then came the raised beds; a decent height to save my back and made using offcuts from my husband’s oak framing work. A lot of work went into creating the ‘perfect’ growing soil, lots of nutrients are needed to grow vegetables so we knew it had to be right. We also knew that we didn’t want to grow more than we needed, or what we would never eat, so we carefully decided our first year we wouldn’t know what grew well here overnight, however we made a list of most of the fruit and vegetables we enjoy the most, those in our daily diets, and those seasonal treats that we look forward to every year.
We had blueberries and strawberries in pots from rental properties we had lived in however these were becoming pot bound so we planted the in a bed and planned to create a fruit bed at a later date.
Over the years we have whittled things right down; courgettes, mixed lettuce, spinach, rocket, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, and with the addition of the green house (we found in a local auction for £20!) finally a successful crops of peppers and tomatoes! We grew kale and brassicas in the early days, however the caterpillars devoured them, so this year we are planning on adding frames around each raised bed with butterfly netting to avoid the same issue.
One of the hardest parts of growing your own fruit and vegetables, is the ‘trial and error’ element, however since those early days, I refer to my gardening as ‘trial and development’ as I am a complete novice in growing food. It has been four years now and I have learnt that works well one year, might not do so well the next… worse still, there are years like this particular one where I felt so on top of things; our daughter helping us with sowing seeds in the greenhouse, getting things out in good time, only to have seemingly everything devoured by the slugs, thanks to the hot, wet weather we have been experiencing.
All but three of the birdie’s 15+ sunflowers, as well as my sweet-pea seedlings, carrots etc etc have been completely demolished by the slugs… a real kick in the teeth, however, the frames for the beds are coming, as well as some Strulch organic garden mulch in the hope of keeping the slugs off our vegetables.
The fruit bed has also now been set up; the strawberries in an amazing structure my husband made with the birdie to keep them off the ground, warm and wet; this sits next to the fruit bed, containing blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries and redcurrant. This bed also has my husband’s pumpkins in… as he is eagerly growing them for a competition he has with one of his oldest friends! The net needs to go up on the chestnut frame we have built, with some walk-boards to that we don’t disturb the soil under foot too much.
When I sit as I often do, just outside the greenhouse, with a cup of tea and my gardening books, planning and adapting what happens next as the season unfolds, I often have to remind myself of how far we have come, as just four years ago the whole garden area was just clay, thistles and weeds.
I remind myself that it is something I will never get 100% right, by it’s very nature, gardening is an ever changing hobby. All I know is that it is one of the places I am happiest; just like watching our birdie enjoy the lawn and play area we created for her, the vegetable garden gives me so much pleasure and provides me with a sense of pride, calm and wellbeing.
Oh and those looking for tips… whilst I know modern-day titles are probably amazing to read; I always stick to the older publications, the books I was photographed referring to in the photos below are books my mother-in-law gave me one Christmas; one, a copy of a book she has that once belonged to her father who was a keen gardener and it is so straightforward, with wonderfully simply illustrations and guides… a book I could be without now!
// FEATURED //
Celtic & Co – Supersoft Slouch Jumper
One of Celtic & Co bestselling womenswear knits that I have been wearing a lot during these recent cool Spring mornings. Relaxed yet luxurious, it has a softly scooped neckline, oversized shape and a wide hem that hugs the hips (without clinging!).
It comes in a range of absolutely beautiful colours, I would happily have one of each as they are so soft and I can even imagine reaching for it on a cool Summer evening.
TROY London – Khaki green, wax parka
This has been a Spring essential of mine in recent weeks; with such changeable weather, it is perfect to throw on during a rain shower, or if there is a chill on a morning walk. It has so many pockets which is ideal if you are out walking the dogs, or with a young child who likes to fill your pockets with all sorts of woodland treasure!
Made in England, this parka has been seen on HRH The Duchess Cambridge, and I’d bet she loves it as much as I do as it lightweight coat (made from 100% cotton milled in England) with a dry wax finish. It has a black lining which provides fully waterproof protection and with a cinched waist and drawstring hood, it has a casual yet elegant look to it.
As someone who is always on the look out for stylish, functional country clothing, I have been thrilled to find TROY London as their product range ticks all the boxes.