For a very long time now I struggled with the decision of making this post or not. When we moved into this house the backyard was in a rather dreadful state and we had to work quite a bit to turn it around. This is now about a year ago and then I did not have this blog and therefore did not really take any blog worthy pictures. The pictures I took were merely for planning reasons and for ourselves for when we went to the store. Simply to remember how much space we had of good sunny spots and how much in shadows. That is important because not everything likes direct sunshine and certain vegetables need sunny spots to grow. Here's how we did our garden makeover and made it a productive yet relaxing place to unwind.
The original state of our garden
So here they are, the first pictures I took of the garden. I took them with my tab so excuse the bad quality. It shows that there was literally nothing growing in there but patchy grass. We were faced with the problem of having half the garden covered in moss to the left, the center was totally dried up and the right side was full of weeds as you can see on the pictures above. It is not very hard to turn a garden into a nice place but this is a rental house and we didn't want to invest too much here since this is a temporary home for us. But we still wanted to get the most out of it.
Our first steps. (end of April - start of June 2014)
Since the grass was in horrible shape we raked the entire lawn several times, gave it a good dose of fertiliser and watered it well. The patches that were too dried up got a thin layer of fresh compost and fresh grass seeds. The areas with moss were raked as well as we could and we sowed some grass there as well. We gave the grass about 2 weeks to recover and planned ahead meanwhile. We also took our time to research the best option to get a compost bin. Where we live the local council provides a fantastic compost bin with caddy for a very low price. We parked it in the darkest spot, furthest away from the seating area. I wrote a post about how I compost everything here. We never throw away any material that can be composted anymore, and it sure helps to have some of the best soil available every year from what we throw away.
Assessment of the plot (start of June 2014)
The part to the right facing the neighbour's fence was so dry that all we could think of was adding a good layer of soil on top and placing our vegetable patch there. We were unsure how it would work out so we decided to make the raised bed as narrow as possible, in case it would turn into a disaster so we wouldn't have to remove a huge amount of soil. Firstly we turned the grass and moss up side down to get some air into the soil, and then we added fresh compost and manure over it.
The side facing the fence to the left was totally covered in moss, no matter how much we raked it away it came back so we opted for wine barrels. They are a cheap alternative to big planting pots. Depending on where you live you might be able to get whiskey barrels instead.
Wine and whiskey producers always have barrels that are beyond repair and you can get these for a very good deal, All you need to do it saw them in half and drill holes into the bottom for water drainage. Some producers even sell the barrels already cut into half. Things that grow well in barrels are herbs of any sort.
We tried salads in the first weeks but it was too shadowy for the little seedling and they died, then we tried kale, broccoli and swiss chard. That was a success as you can see! The picture below was taken with my phone September 2014.
Planting the vegetables and flowers (June - start of July)
These weeks we carefully looked through our seedpackages that we already had, went to garden centers and asked around what would grow best in this area. We had just moved to England and had no idea what would be a good fit. Much to our delight we found out that nearly anything can be grown here to due the mild climate and it didn't take us long until we moved the lemon tree and the cactus collection outside! For the first time since I had owned this tree it was about to spend the vast majority of the year outside. I still can't believe it. And on top of all our cactus family and the lemon tree enjoyed it so very much to be outside they instantly went into bloom. Here are some pictures I took directly off my Instagram.
Plants we opted for as first test run in our vegetable patch were different varieties of kale, leek, onions, sorrel, chinese cabbage, beets and lettuce. All but the cabbage were a success. The snails got to it! But the rest was growing really nicely. Especially the kale. We had so much of it that we had to start juicing because it was too much to eat.
Harvesting the first produce (end of july- august)
We couldn't wait for it. It is the most rewarding feeling to harvest your own vegetables. And when we finally could we were so excited about it. Everything turned out so beautiful and I took so many pictures with my phone that it was hard to decide which to show now! So here are a few pictures of my favourite produce of last year in a collage. Lettuce and sorrel in the first picture, beets in the second, heirloom tomatoes in the third and the last one broad beans. A "bread and butter" type vegetable that we ate a lot of that did not require any special treatment was mizuna. Try it!
The beets got another picture below completely on their own because they were so stunning. Friends gave me beet seeds because they are one of my favourite root vegetables. I love them. Little did I know there was a surprise waiting for me when I cut them open. They are striped!
Harvest during late summer and autumn (September - October)
We had so many tomatoes last year of different varieties. I had my first green tomatoes. They weren't underripe they just were a type of tomato that is green when ripe - and they were delicious! We also had yellow and almost black ones. At one point I collected all colours I could find and arranged them on a plate. Some of them made it onto a pizza which almost looked too good to be baked and eaten.
Harvest during late autumn and winter (end of october - december)
This was the first time I harvested my own butternut squash. I did harvest them before in my fathers garden but this was my first one. I was very excited about the pumpkins and the yellow courgettes. In fact all of them were extremely beautiful. I wish I had my dslr camera then already to take a beautiful still of these to hang up on the kitchen wall.
We also had lovely leek, kale and spinach until very late in the year. And not to forget the few visits from Mr. Frost who decorated the kale and parsley so very beautifully with intricate lace patterns.
All in all last year was very successful apart from the failed lettuce and the slug infestation that killed our Chinese cabbage. Learned lots, harvested even more and had a lot of fun in the garden.
The current before and after (April 2014 - June 2015)
Here is the direct comparison of how it looked in the first pictures to how it looks now. Lots has changed but effectively we invested very little money, but a lot of time. If we could do this with a small backyard then I am sure you can as well.
On the left is the first picture that was taken when we just moved in. The second one is after we made the raised bed and it was boasting with vegetables. The last one was taken two months after the vegetable patch expansion which I blogged about here.
We still can't believe last year went by so quickly but even so we didn't forget to enjoy it and take our time off in the garden. Especially our beagle Raja reminded us to do that every now and then. Even the neighbour's poodle Bradley came over a few times to inspect the produce or to lounge on the sofa and look at the flowers. There is nothing more relaxing than creating a safe haven that provides you both with flowers and food. Our four legged friends appreciating it on top of it all, well that is paradise to me.