6 min read

Garden Project (so far)

When a week off to recharge from burnout turns into a week of heavy lifting and gardening, you know it’s been a good week…
Garden Project (so far)
Five raised planters, two apple trees and a lot of lifting later.

I've never had much of a green thumb, but I've always loved gardens with a lot of life to them. When we moved into our current home about 8 months ago it was a blank canvas. The fence panels at the back of the garden had aged, with new fence panels placed down the sides showing a clear colour difference.

Grassy garden with two dogs surrounded by unpainted fences
Before: featuring fragments of a torn-up football in the foreground

We wanted to start work on the garden back in spring, however, faced issues with flooding due to poor drainage. As this is a new build, we had to wait for the landscapers to come back and fix the drainage in both our and our neighbour's gardens.

In the meantime, we made a start on painting the fences black.

The dogs look almost disapproving of the painted fences...

It was still lacking some life to it, so the best we could do while we waited was hang up a few hanging planters filled with Marigolds and English Ivy.

In June, the landscapers finally fixed the drainage and for an evening the dogs were able to enjoy beautiful muddy trenches in the garden.

The dogs enjoying the garden trenches

It took the landscapers two days to restore order to the garden, though we won't know the full extent of the improved drainage until winter when the heavy rain comes back.

Newly laid turf (while our neighbour's garden was still in progress)

Once the garden was in a good state, we humoured one of the landscaping companies who posted a leaflet through the door. They quoted us almost £14,000 to completely level our (almost flat) garden, put up some decking, and planters, and lay some pavers around the garden.

That seemed a bit ridiculous, so we're now on a mission to do it all ourselves. We're keeping track of how much we're spending so we can compare when the garden is finally complete.

We've had multiple trips to the garden centre so far (see below for Elliot enabling me with all the plants, yay!)

I am enabled with a visit to the garden centre

We found that Keter offer a composite raised planter solution that was perfect for what we were looking for: easy to put together, no bottom (to reduce the plants suffocating each other), no maintenance and it fit the aesthetic that we were going for. We found 1m x 1m planters in Homebase, and online on Charlies found 1m x 50cm rectangle planters.

The first few planters in place

We started with three planters to see what it would look like, and decided that we would proceed. I used to have an established apple tree in one of my old houses where I would get roughly 300 huge baking apples every year (seriously, it was amazing). Since then I've been obsessed with the idea of growing our own apples again.

Fun fact about apple trees: most need a second, different breed of apple tree nearby to guarantee pollination. We picked a Jonagold tree for the corner, which is self-fertile and requites another tree nearby.

The accompanying tree that we picked is a Gala apple tree, which is a common combination of apple trees to allow both trees to thrive. Hopefully in a couple of years we can have our first proper harvest!

Another project alongside the planters was to finish of the fencing, the builders only put one "good" side on each of the fences, apart from along the back fence. For us, this meant that there are two small sections of fence where we're looking at the bad side, and in an effort to make our garden look a little nicer we also decided we would fix this ourselves.

I have a love-hate relationship with painting fences, in that it looks good once it's done but is such a painful job. But, apparently painting the boards before they go on the fence is slightly less painful!

Side quest: Additional boards so that we also have a "good side"

Once the boards had dried, and we had the horizontal boards cut to length, it mostly just a case of borrowing a nail gun and attaching.

We worried about the grass and weeds that would grow in the void between the two sides of the fence, so decided to put down a strip of membrane weighed down with stones. We know this isn't a perfect solution, but hoping it will at least minimise some of the growth for a while.

Once all that was done, we just needed to touch up a few areas of paint and the fence was complete! One gripe about this is the fact that the fence is "on the ground" which it should be an inch or two higher to reduce rotting, however in order to line up with the existing fence boards we had to just go with it.

Boards almost finished: missing one half board at the end

With the fence fully painted and put together, and all five planters (so far) fully planted the garden is looking so much better already.

For each of the planters:

  • We dug up the grass underneath
  • Levelled the area
  • Put a layer of cardboard
  • Filled with compost
  • Put down a layer of membrane
  • Planted the plants (along with complimentary compost, water at the roots)
  • Laid stones on the top for aesthetics

Over 240 kilos of stone, and I don't even know how much compost at the point. But after a week off work, and a lot of TLC we're delighted to see some bees enjoying the fruits of our labour! We haven't (yet) spotted any birds at the bird feeder yet, but give it time.

For anyone interested in the plants we've planted so far from left to right:

  • Planter 1: Gala apple tree, 2x lavender,  garden lupine, (not pictured:  chamomile in front corner planted after this photo)
  • Planter 2: False buck's beard and a spider plant
  • Planter 3: Deer fern, common foxglove and a hosta
  • Planter 4: "Black diamond" hydrangea and a yellow lily
  • Planter 5: Jonagold apple tree, 2x lavender, 2x chamomile (also not pictured)

We are aware that some of these plants can grow huge over time (here's looking at you, hydrangea), so we will be taking each year at a time and assessing the health of the plants: if any look like they are struggling then we'll move them to somewhere else in the garden.

Our garden project isn't done yet, as we've still to put up decking, lay more pavers and have a plan to put up a trellis in front of the garage wall so we can grow rasberries, and hang strawberry plants. Watch this space!

If you've taken the time to read this, thanks! These blogs are for my own benefit, and I don't actually expect many people to read them. :)