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I'd like some gentle but firm advice pls - gardening spirit lost

(7 Posts)
Lictionary Wed 09-Dec-15 14:47:42

I have been a vegetable gardener since I bought my own home, 12 years perhaps. Not so interested in herbaceous borders or ornamentals but more of a productive garden with sections for wildlife and pollinators.

I started off with a little patio garden in a terrace, I loved that garden so much. It was mine and I completely renovated it. I would get up early and have breakfast outdoors in the summer, go to work, come home and do more weeding and planting, had a series of raised beds and trellises and a little lawn with a flower bed and an arch. It started small with a tomato plant or two and three or four beans, by the time we moved it was a productive and fantastic space.

New garden. Unloved. My oldest was 18m and we spent the first summer just hacking back and putting in a greenhouse and raised beds. Then dd2 came along and I lost a summer. Then last summer I was working all hours and never got into the garden, things started to rot, we lost a shed, fence blew down. The crops I planted didn't do well; very few tomatoes, horrendous slug problem which ate most of my veg and my beans never really took off. Of something like 250 seedlings very few survived. My buddha ornament was broken and the fruit trees we planted died - the garden is very long and narrow and I designed a series of spaces but in fact they don't work and the section meant for the children is muddy and covered by trees most of the year. Its good for shade in the summer (!) but means their little garden which I created for them is a washout.

I love my garden - but I look at my kitchen garden magazine and I admit I have mislaid my garden spirit. The only way I can think of getting myself motivated is to spend some money on getting some help in to repair the damage (and it will doubtless get worse over the winter) and put in some hard landscaping ready to try again next year. I know exactly what I want it to look like but at the moment it seems impossible.

Has anyone any advice? My children will be 3 & 5 by next spring and so not able to help without some watching. DH is great at demolition but less so at construction, I feel I fighting a losing battle and it looks so awful now both front and back.

cooper44 Wed 09-Dec-15 16:11:14

I think you have to plan to do achievable projects - I moved to a house with a lot of space and tons to do about a year ago and it's relentless but I just do one project at a time and the first thing I put in was landscaping.
My kids are 3 and 6 so similar situation to you -although I am freelance so spend quite a lot of the week doing my work as fast as possible so I can do stuff outside.
At the weekends I try and coax them out as much as possible even if it's chaos. It often just means a few hours snatched here and there.
I consume endless magazines and am on Pinterest all the time so I always feel inspired, excited by whatever the next project it - BUT it is exhausting and I am constantly way, way overdrawn because of my garden spending. It's always worth it though - it gives me more pleasure than anything.
If you can afford to get someone in just to get some initial structure.

funnyperson Wed 09-Dec-15 22:08:19

,,,,lost a shed: fence blew down: fruit trees died: section for the children is muddy and covered by trees

Well I'm not surprised you feel a bit despondent.

I would get a really nice potting shed and do it up to make it your space to replace the lost shed, and fix the fence.

Get a tree house for the children if the budget stretches and the trees are suitable.

I'm not a hard landscaping fan as I prefer plants to do the talking.

But if the fruit trees died then it is worth just standing or sitting and looking a lot at your new garden and closely at the soil and aspect and light and shade so that the right plants get planted in the right place.

I dont think one ever gets over missing one's first garden. I still miss my first garden and I left it 20 years ago and I still think of what will be flowering each season.

But the 'new' garden has got better and better with time and really only took off when I stopped trying to recreate the old one.

Front gardens are very 'in"; at the moment so maybe you could start with planting that up for the spring.

TurduckenForDinner Wed 09-Dec-15 22:21:56

For the slug problem use Nemaslug in the spring when the soil has warmed up again. It's a nematode that infects the slug's brain and kills them, the best thing is that the slug looses it's appetite as soon as it's infected. It's slug specific so it won't hurt anything that might eat an infected slug, so it's much better than slug pellets.

If you did well previously with a paved area and pots, then maybe try that again. Or build some raised beds in a sunny area. My raised beds have a very wide lip so they can also be used as a seating area. I haven't used my raised beds for a couple of years, we have had terrible summers here and I just couldn't get enthused. I went to a lecture by James Wong a couple of weeks ago and I'm now thinking that I will start up again in the spring. He did a three year scientific study into things than you can do to improve the flavour of your crop, he has a book out called Grow for Flavour that has the results of the study.

What is currently the children's area could possibly be a mini woodland, with a bower seat and bluebells and wild flowers. You could set up a children's area closer to the house and use some sort of impermeable, soft ground cover while they are still at the rolling around and churning up the ground stage of play.

HaveYouSeenHerLately Fri 11-Dec-15 22:35:57

Could you post a couple of photos? Even if it looks less than perfect (especially at this time of year) we might be able to suggest simple fixes to get you back on track smile

Lictionary Sun 13-Dec-15 23:40:05

Genuine thanks for taking the time to respond. It's an indicator of how little time I have that this has been my first chance to reply.

So I have sat and thought about being realistic - managing expectations of what I can and can't achieve in this garden. The front garden needs to be done too, we have a major programme of work staring in March and we will get the builder to put in a gravel garden with some rainwater harvesting.

The back garden I have gone back and reread my small garden books which I bought years ago for my first garden and decided that we need one finished space by easter. That will be the bit by the house - DH has said he will manage that bit and he wants a Japanese low maintenance garden with grasses and decking. Until now i had unsuccessfully been attempting to make it into an edible courtyard spilling out into a herb garden; something which has been fairly labour intensive ans requires a lot of watering as our patio is south facing and roasts the plants.

The second section was where I had tried to make a grass garden (that will now move up to the house area) and will become a low maintenance wildlife garden with the children's play things. We will prune the trees to allow in more light.

Third section was a wooded area where the children have a veg patch mud bath which I will take out and put in a mud kitchen and lay some kind of path through to my veg patch where I need to do the most work. Having a mud kitchen/water wall etx here will hopefully entertain small children while I work in the veg patch.

So by making the rest of the garden low maintenance we should be able to concentrate labour on the veg patch. I've also sourced some irrigation pipes for the raised beds, and DH has promised me that he will get a skip and clear the old sheds/fences dead trees etc as well as lay some decent paths in time for easter.

So I feel we have a plan. I just need to pluck up the courage to try growing again and to enjoy it rather than get stressed about it. Life seems so ridiculously busy these days.

funnyperson Mon 14-Dec-15 02:47:45

Sounds ambitious!
I do like the idea of a gravel garden but I've never visited Beth Chatto's so I dont know what its like in the realisation but it does sound like a lovely solution for a front garden
I thought a lot about grasses and have come to the conclusion that unless one has swathes of space these can be boring and its nicer to mix in the grasses eg miscanthus with the flowers of a perennial border. Roses do it for me every time for example.
The mud kitchen sounds brill. I want one!
Your south facing hot patio could have mediterannean plants: rosemary, lavender, olives, santolina, cistus, saffron crocuses, if not already there
Do join the potting shed thread

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