School Garden Design Workshop

Today I had the pleasure of working with pupils at a local school, Carrfield Primary Academy, as part of their ‘Eco Day’!

I worked with four different year groups, first explaining to them how we turned our overgrown garden from this:

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Continue reading “School Garden Design Workshop”

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River Paths through the Garden

I’ve been creating various posts over the last few weeks detailing how we have renovated our garden from an overgrown wilderness into a productive vegetable plot!

Once the greenhouse and raised beds were in place, we needed to plan how we would link all the parts of the garden together and what materials we’d use to do it!

On our original plans, the paths were very rigid and straight, but this just didn’t fit with how we wanted the garden to feel.

Revised_Garden_1We wanted the area to feel like it had evolved and grown over time, and we’re not ones for formality, so out went the sharp angles and instead we mapped out a series of ‘flowing’ walkways, initially using loads of branches that had been pruned from our trees!

IMG_4677We knew we wanted to recycle some of kind of material from the house or garden to construct the paths, and our first plan was to reuse the surplus of red bricks that were once a chimney breast and porchway in our kitchen before we started the internal renovation, using them either as an edging or in a herringbone pattern for the base of the path, but after some research and several failed attempts, we decided this wasn’t our best plan!

IMG_5938We looked at various path edging options on the internet and in local garden centres, but none of these would fit with the look we were after, until we hit upon the idea of making our own log-roll edging from the hundreds of branches we had been storing for firewood since we cleared back the original overgrowth of the garden!

Logs and sticks waiting to be chopped up and stored
Logs and sticks waiting to be chopped up and stored

With this plan in place, everything came together pretty quickly! My Dad was enlisted (again) to cut the branches into usable stakes and Richard set about hammering them into place!

House & Garden 385 House & Garden 386 House & Garden 391 House & Garden 395We dug down about 10cm so that the log-roll edging was purely ornamental and not having to hold the path together, and Richard lined the base with groundcover fabric to prevent weeds and also stop the top covering from mixing with the mud on rainy days, using the stakes to secure the fabric in place.

IMG_6802 IMG_6806 IMG_7081There were times when we thought we might run out of branches, but we just about had enough to line the length of all the paths!

We’d considered various options for filling the path, and settled on a plum slate chipping, as it’s robust but also looks in-keeping and gave us a contrasting colour between the turf, the patio area and the bark chippings we’d laid between the raised beds.

IMG_7082 IMG_7083 IMG_7085 IMG_7106We’re really pleased with the result, despite our back garden primarily being practical and productive, it gives the whole area definition and a bit of style! A friend of mine, on seeing a photo on Facebook, commented that he thought we’d got a stream running through the garden – and that’s how it feels, flowing and natural!

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Building the Greenhouse

Once we’d finalised the layout of the vegetable garden, our first challenge was to get the main feature installed: the greenhouse.

We had set our hearts on a brick based, wooden framed greenhouse but unfortunately our budget wasn’t as ambitious as our dreams, but we were determined to find something that was eye-catching and not just a basic shape and frame.

We dropped on this design at our local Dobbies garden centre, and decided to construct it ourselves; how hard could it be, right?

Once we’d established where it was to be situated, we dug out the foundations on a very cold February day!

Camera Photos 1078During this time, renovation was ongoing on the inside of the house too, and our helpful builder (who also happens to be our brother-in-law) put down a concrete base for us to start from.

Camera Photos 1085We enlisted my Dad to help construct the framework, but the day that we chose just happened to be the coldest, windiest, winter’s day we’d encountered for a long time! Teamed with the fact that the assembly instructions were challenging to say the least, progress on building the greenhouse was much slower than we expected; in fact what should have taken a day took us well over a week to complete!

Dad making a start on the framework
Dad making a start on the framework

Camera Photos 1089Camera Photos 1100My mum and her husband were drafted in for extra help to finish the frame and add the glazing.

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We escaped inside to build some of the sections!
We escaped inside to build some of the sections!
Richard 'topping out' the frame!
Richard ‘topping out’ the frame!
Adding the glass and perspex panels
Adding the glass and perspex panels
Nearly finished!
Nearly finished!
In pride of place!
In pride of place!

I’m pleased to say that, a year later, the greenhouse is standing strong so although it might have been easier to have paid for the construction, we saved ourselves money and learned a few new skills by erecting it ourselves!

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Designing and Planning a Vegetable Garden

At the time that we bought our house with its overgrown wilderness of a garden, we had no idea how much outdoor space we actually had, but we were certain that whatever the size, a large part of it would be taken up by raised beds and become a productive vegetable plot.

Once we’d cleared the overgrowth I started to map out different designs using growveg.com‘s garden planning software (this is by far the best software / app I’ve come across for this job, and I’ve tried a few!)

We allocated some space for a new driveway as we previously had no parking area, and we knew we wanted a new greenhouse to feature somewhere, but apart from that it was a blank canvas.

This was my first design:

Back GardenWe were very fortunate to have some expert help in the form of Monty Don visiting our garden as part of a TV show we had agreed to feature in, who advised us to make a feature of the greenhouse and not hide it away in the back corner. He also questioned why we felt the need for a lawn and we conceded that it was because, well, it’s ‘what people have in the garden’ – but that’s not really what we’re about!

I then went through various adaptations of the original plan, all quite rigid and angular, until it dawned on me that I really wanted a ‘cottage garden’ feel, and that simply didn’t work with straight paths and symmetrical beds.

A revised plan that was ditched:

Revised_Garden_1

I threw all the angles out of the window and created curved pathways (which also lead exactly to where we’ll want to go, and prevent us taking short cuts across the garden) laid out the raised beds in a very informal pattern and included different shapes and sizes so it would look like the garden developed ‘organically’. We decided we did still want some lawn area but that it wouldn’t be the dominant feature of the garden.

Here’s the final ‘on screen’ design before we started work:

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 14.01.23A lot changed once we began the physical work; we switched the patio area and the lawn area round, moved the chickens over to the back right hand side where there was more room, and created a raised terrace area at the back of the garden to catch the last of the evening sun, which also meant moving the compost bins to behind the greenhouse – a much more sensible position!

Here’s a shot of the final result:

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I’m in the process of creating individual posts about various aspects of the back garden to go into more detail about how we achieved the final look:

Building the Greenhouse

Constructing the Raised Beds

Creating the Path

Introducing the Chickens

TIMBER!

Some very exciting things have been happening in the garden this week! The two big imposing trees that have been left to grow out of control and overpower the garden, are coming down!

Tree 1 – The Giant Conifer

Before
Before
Nearly gone...
Nearly gone…
The Stump!
The Stump!

Tree 2 – The Overgrown Christmas Tree

Before
Before
Christmas tree in front of the house
Christmas tree in front of the house
Front of the house without the tree!
Front of the house without the tree!

I’m gutted that I haven’t actually seen any of this for myself yet – I’ve been at work all week and it’s dark by the time I’ve finished – so I can’t wait for Saturday morning to see it all in real life!!

All this has been done by the lovely people from Selwyn Trees, who totally get what we’re trying to achieve and are helping us loads in clearing the overgrown garden!

Selwyn Trees
Selwyn Trees

 

 

The ‘before’ photos outside