I never thought I had green fingers. My Mum, on the other hand, is hulk like in her proficiency for gardening. The borders of our garden in Norfolk are teeming with flowers, bushes and bamboo; a variation of new additions and plants spliced from the soil of past houses. I love a garden. Perhaps it's that 'Little England' mentality of wanting to secure a small area of land for yourself. The proverbial raising of a flagpole, no matter how small the area.
Well, you can't get an area much smaller than my 'garden' in London. I didn't see it before we moved in, but if you know anything about London living, you'll know that any outdoor space, no matter how small, is something to have a bloody party over. That said, if you know London landlords you'll know that they never give you something for nothing. Our garden? A patch of mud that ran along the side of the house. No, I'm not exaggerating. It was just a mud patch. With some weeds. And slugs.
The slugs are still there, but after some 'outside of the box' thinking, my ever helpful parents and a few trips to the garden centre, I've managed to make a little urban sanctuary. I'm trying really hard to be humble. I am probably more proud of this garden than I have been about anything ever. I still do a little dance when a new tomato for a raspberry turns a dark, juicy pink. I swan outside with a watering can whilst still in my dressing gown and hope the neighbours can see what a bloody great job I've done.
It's not the rose garden at Chatsworth, sure, but it's my midnight runs outside in the rain with a handful of slug pellets. It's my sore back after digging up weeds for six hours. It's my Dad driving through Streatham three times to do 'gravel runs' from the garden centre. It's my bored visitors who come to the house and get a 30 minute tour of a 8ft patch of land. It's mange tout I've pushed onto my teacher training pals, whether they like it or not. Here it is, in all it's teeny tiny glory.
The first stage...
As you can see, it wasn't much of anything other than a place for foxes to noisily hump at three in the morning. This proved to be an advantage, as it left the door open in terms of what we could get away with doing. I mean, which landlord would be angry that we'd turned the garden into an actual garden?
First off, we de-weeded the mud strip completely. Now, weeding is way harder than I thought. It's absolutely exhausting. Weeds are like the Nigel Farage of the plant world. No matter how much people hate them, they keep popping back up. Then we dug a trough about 5 inches deep in the middle. After rolling out an anti-weed net (not the correct term) and putting in an edging border, we filled it with gravel and voila! A path was made.
Tubs are your new best friend
I'm now a firm believer that anything can be grown in a tub.
Knowing that we were going to be moving in a year's time, I wanted to put everything in tubs so that my beloved herbs can make the trip up North with me too. Luckily, I found a few abandoned pots under the bush which I cleaned up to use. Joe also found a few free pots in the street with a 'take me' note taped to them, like the horticulture Gods had placed them there on purpose.
I've planted and had a good crop of raspberries, mange tout, potatoes and expectantly tomatoes. Potatoes are well easy to grow. You get about 8-10 from one seeding potato and digging them up is like unearthing treasure. Seriously, I held them in my hand like they were rubies, the gorgeous bloody things. Strawberry plants, as I have found out, don't produce as much as you'd think. You need around 6-8 plants to give you enough strawbs for summer.
See what you can borrow/use from other people
The big garden jobs - the digging, the bordering etc, required more than the little trowel and weeder that I bought. Mum, being the afore mentioned expert, bought me a knee pad, thick gloves and this wire stuff that's great for training plants to grow up a trellis. I scoffed at the knee pad to begin with, but seriously, being impaled by gravel on the ol' knees necessitates looking decidedly uncool.
The 'garden furniture' left by the landlord was quite honestly horrendous. Unless you wanted a casual dose of tetanus, I wouldn't have had a cup of tea off it for anything. We borrowed a little table and chairs from Joe's parents that we're going to hand back again when we move. Garden complete! Obviously, fairy lights and bunting are exemplary extras too.
One day I'm holding out for enough of a garden to have little vegetable patches, or a raised bed (be still my beating heart), but for now I'm very happy with my little tubs. Let's hope that they agree with Yorkshire life next month!
Have you ever tried to grow anything under tricky conditions? I'd love tips/experiences from any permaculture enthusiasts out there.
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