Moving into my new home – the grotty outdoor area was nothing to be proud of. The neighbours told me the space had been left untended for SEVEN YEARS. And you could tell – with a rotten fence, crumbling walls and weeds everywhere. It took buckets of love (and FOUR MONTHS of hard graft) to turn this area into a real garden. Here’s how we turned a gravel graveyard into a lush garden. We did a little video on this garden makeover if you’d like to see if in the flesh.
Feb 2015: Before
This is my ‘garden’ just two weeks after moving in on a bright day in Feb. A pretty horrific sight (nothing you would see on Gardener’s World). The ground was covered with grey shale which the local cats used as a litter tray. They didn’t stop the weeds growing through either. Most of the fencing had rotted and then collapsed into the garden under the weight of the climbing plants/weeds. It was a bit of a struggle to get through the alley into the main part of the garden as it was so overgrown with leaning bushes. The garden looked tiny and closed in with all the weeds and large overgrown beds.
March 2015: A (Not So Simple) Clear Up Job
On a misty day, I decided to give my outdoor space a little ‘tidy’. Using an electric saw, I started hacking back one small section hacking back the ivy and with it the the fence. it was fun to star with and my neighbours were so happy that I was tackling the weeds that were growing into their garden, they came out and gave me a hand. I less than two hours, I’d filled created a huge pile of debris, leaves, roots, bits of bricks and plastic hidden in the bushes.
My previous house, I had a decked terrace which I grew lots of plant on – which you can see here. And I’d helped my mum in her garden before. I’m not an experienced gardener and I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing which became clear very quickly. My idea of clearing the garden ready for summer turned into an epic DIY project.
We soon discovered we had a bit of a snail problem too. Thanks to lots of gardening blogs, I’ve now become a bit of an expert on how to get rid naturally so as not to harm my dog, Teddy if he eats one (#Tip: Use left over coffee grounds in a watering can sprinkled over your garden).
April 2015: Calling In The Pros
After about two weekends of sawing, pulling, digging and so many trips to the local dump I’ve lost count – I admitted defeat. A gardener, Chris Quigley (and friend), helped me finish off the job. Chris spent a day (in the pouring rain – bless him) clearing and hacking back the garden for me. We filled Chris’s new van full with rubble bags full of rubbish. It still didn’t look much like a garden.
May 2015: Putting In The Fences
A very jolly Chris came back and fitted my fence panels (paid for as part of an early Birthday present from my family & friends). He had to dig out the old concrete posts deep in the ground to make way for the new panels. Look how happy he is at work (in the rain again). My green-fingered Mum came over and single-handedly dug out all the ivy roots that were deep in the flower beds (you can see how good the earth is in the photo above). I ordered these beautiful ‘hurdle’ fencing made from hazel branches from Primrose. Originally I was looking at simpler panelled ones but with the garden and house being ‘full of character’ these ones made from hazel branched woven together – just felt a more in keeping with the house. They make the garden feel sheltered from the elements.
End of May: Boyfriend Takes Over
In May, Jonathan, my boyfriend moved in. When I was working away from home on a telly show, he decided to have a look under all the shale ‘just to see what was there’. He started to turn over the gravel to make the basis for a lawn. It look him about a week of digging. He got so well spotted at the local dump, they banned him from coming back again with any more rubble and garden waste.
I came back from filming to this…my garden was turned from a gravel pit to a full blown mud pit. He found an rusty old oven and tons of metal piping lying around as well thick garden roots. We managed to get rid of a lot of the paving by giving it away for free on GumTree. The pets loved the mud and were sunbathing in it at every moment. My whole house (especially the sofa) was covered in dust and muddy poor prints. We bagged up about 20 bags of shale which we recycled.
STAGE 5: The Lawn – June 2015
Jonathan & I discussed for ages what to put down in the garden. We thought about astro turf but the prep for a fake lawn was the same as for a real lawn. A grassy lawn – even a small one – makes an outdoor area look and feel like a proper little garden. It was a no brainer for us:
1# It’s good for the environment as rain water drains away into the earth which helps stop flooding in the area.
2# A real lawn drains away rain water which prevents the house getting damp.
3# The pets love a real lawn to play on. Insects, bugs and worms can make a home there which in turn feeds smaller birds.
4# I want to do Yoga out there (and Jonathan wanted to top up his tan).
Pretty much over night we turned into a pair of GRASS GEEKS. We did a ton of research, watching videos on Youtube.com late into the night on different types of lawns (yep, we’re that sad). Jonathan insisted on ‘Medallion’ real lawn by Rolwan. He read up that it is the best for our area – a lush, green colour and it comes on a roll which is simple to lay out. Jonathan had to level the ground by stamping on it flat, then carefully roll out the lawn. Instant garden! (Well almost). After a week of Jonathan’s hard work, I came home to sunshine and grass.
We freecycled away my old shed which was too large, and bought this beach hut style one on Ebay for £60. It’s falling apart a bit so it needs a bit of fixing and a coat of paint. My mum salvaged the Victorian terracotta) tiles (stacked up against the wall in the picture below) for her vegetable patch. We reused as much of the shale as we could for the high traffic areas.
STAGE 6: Pottering Around – July 2015
I’ve been tinkering with the garden most weekends. First, I painted over the ugly concrete brick wall in green Weathershield masonry exterior paint. We’ve used vintage creates on the wall and filled them with potted plants in colourful pots to add colour. I’ve revived the rose bushes which have bloomed this year. I’m going to make the flower beds bigger so I can squeeze in more flowers & plants. My ideas it to fill the garden with pink and blue flowers only like lavender and rosemary bushes. And in the area just off the kitchen I’ve filled large pots with with salad and herbs.
Joanthan picked up these original deck chairs a campsite park in Rottingdean that was closing down. This is my flat mate recovering from a hectic weekend in one of them. We’ve still got lots of plans – from a recycling store to hide our bins to hanging up festoon lights above.
That’s a little rundown of my garden adventures. Has it been fun? Yes but I keep having to remind myself that a garden takes a while to blossom. When I look back at my first vlog home tour of my house, I can see how bad the garden was before. It’s little reminder of how hard we’ve worked. I’m still busy pinning ideas for what to do in the garden.