Tidying gardens in Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Knebworth & surrounding villages.
If you would like help in the garden, whether it's for a few hours a week, a month or more, then please get in touch.
Tel: 07963 291504

Fully booked for 2020.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Square Foot (….and a bit) Gardening

For a long time now I’ve yearned for a proper veg patch. For years all vegetation has been grown in pots dotted here n’ there…..there n’ here….oh….and over there too.
With a years worth of gardening mags’ to trawl through during the long winter evenings, I discovered
Square Foot Gardening. Legend has it that SFG was invented by a jolly decent chap called Mel Bartholemew (his website will tell you the story of SFG).
Now regular stalkers followers will know that the Tidy Garden has only just recovered from its latest re-vamp, so broaching the subject to Mr TG about ‘transforming’ the garden again so soon after its last transformation (6 weeks ago!) was going to be a delicate operation.
But my womanly persuasive skills convinced him that SFG could work in the Tidy Garden & that losing ‘some’ of the Circular Lawn wouldn’t be as bad as envisaged!

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Now, I have to say, loads of research was carried out prior to the arrival of all the materials above. Our local DIY store refused to cut the treated wood we originally chose, on the grounds of health n’ safety. It was to do with the copper content in the preservative that would be exposed in the sawdust. Further research on a selection of ‘grow your own veg’ sites & forums also suggested that in days of old, wood preservatives contained arsenic, copper & chromium. T
hat was all banned back in 2003, but apparently it does still contain copper & some say it could still could leach into the soil and as yet no one is sure of its long term effects on human health.

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So with all that scary stuff in mind, we decided that we’d take no chances (pointless trying to be healthy & organic and risking an unknown) and purchased some uber-thick-non-treated wood (double the thickness sold by many ‘kit sales folk’). At this point I’d like to give a big shout out to the terribly nice people at Chas Lowes in Knebworth who not only told me about TRADA (Timber Research & Development Association) but who also cut my timber into bite sized portions (1.5m & 1m lengths) & delivered for free, all at a fraction of the price at the DIY store!

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We were going to go 3 lengths high but decided at this point (above) that the sides were deep enough (approx’ 30cm / 1ft) and so the spare wood has been put aside for now. It took Mr TG and I an afternoon to screw all the lengths together, insert internal corner post & brackets for extra strength and then added woven polythene to the sides & a weed suppressant layer to the floor.
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I then cut away the lawn from around the beds, added more weed suppressant material, fresh purple slate to join up to the existing pathways & laid a new line of grey bricks as an edge for the lawn mower to slide over. Mr TG gave the outsides a lick of shed treatment (which won’t penetrate through completely) to give it some protection from our British weather and added a trim to the tops of the beds to give the perfect finishing touch.
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The lawn is now D-shaped rather than a circle but, if I say so myself, does look rather posh. There is enough room to walk all around the 2 raised beds & space to kneel to tend our crops…(Ha! Ha!) and the whole area looks like it’s always been there.
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I did go out & buy a selection of seedlings to get us going as well as sowing some seeds direct too.
Above….Chard, Cauliflower, Carrots, Leeks, Red Onions, Basil & Beetroot.
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And here they are…our finished raised Veg Beds. They’re both 1.5m x 1m & 30cm high. Sections inside have been divided with garden canes and planted up.
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Sweet Corn    Chard              Leeks                Chard              Leek
Carrots      Baby Lettuce    Sugar Snaps      Baby Lettuce           Onions
Rocket       Beetroot          Little Gems         Cauliflower              Basil
Parsley & mint troughs at the front, Tomatoes (weak seedlings) at the back.
 Our tomatoes are terrible this year…hope they perk up. Chives in pots at end (out of shot)
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 Chard             Leeks        Cauliflowers             Little Gems    Onions
Spring Onion   Carrots     Cucumber/Sweet Peas   Baby Lettuce  Onions
Beetroot   Little Gem       Carrots                Baby Lettuce        Rocket
At the rear (in troughs that I’d planted earlier in the year) Broad Beans and at the end (out of shot) a large pot of Runner Beans. 
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Mr TG’s as impressed as I am with our latest venture. It turned out much better than we’d both thought.
I’d like to say The Tidy Garden is now complete…. but you know me better than that….mwhahahaha!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Sunny n’ Shady Beds in the Tidy Garden–Spring 2013

The Tidy Garden is east facing, which means we have a shady side (perfect for us non-sun worshipping types) and a sunny side for those hoping to catch some rays.
Today’s ‘sharings’ are from a few weeks back of the Shady n’ Sunny beds. Since these photos were taken during my spring re-vamp a lot has happened but I thought I’d quickly share what it did look like. Be warned…there are images of bare soil, so turn away if you are easily offended my soil nakedness!
So we’ll start with the garage end of the Shady bed (see garden layout page)…almost too much soil nudity here for me…so let’s move on quickly…
….slightly better shot up towards the garage, last years Foxglove seedlings are filling out, Ferns unfolding, my trusty Lamium is giving us a bit o’ colour and wait….what’s that on the right hand side…a slither of sunshine.
A view down the Shady bed towards the shed…more Foxgloves, Doronicum (I divided the one plant we had into about a gazillion plantlets, give or take) and they’ve all taken so well. Our grass was edged with common house bricks about 13 years ago and they look so rustic now and not one has broken (despite warnings that they’re no good for edging lawns….hmpf!)
And finally the shed end of the Shady bed, our woodland section, where any old branches are laid for insects and other critters to hide in or nibble through. Our curly Salix is a major feature in the Tidy Garden, it’s branches providing the perfect dappled summer shade.
And now on to the Sunny bed…
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View from behind the apple tree, again these are all from a few weeks back. The Gunnera at the front is still in its winter slumber (I’d stay there til’ August mate…..still too cold out in May!) Favourite daughters old boots, that Mr TG recycled last year into planters, have been been planted with an Aquilegia in one & seeds (can’t remember what type) in the other.
Ranunculus have set seed but I don’t care. They’ve even turned up in pots in the front garden.
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In the background you’ll see 2 Palms, the offspring of our tall tree hit by the terrible snowy winter we had a couple of years ago.
Yellow Ribes, which was actually a ‘headstone’ plant for one of our cats Molly who was buried in that spot. In fact, the whole garden is a mini-burial ground for deceased pets. Archaeologist in the future will have a field day excavating the Tidy Garden.
Anyway, I wanted something special & I think the Yellow Ribe is just that.
Phlox, Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum Opulus 'Roseum') starting to form it’s snowy buds & Virburnum Carlesii at the end filling the entire garden with its sweet perfume.
So there you have it…the end of the spring re-vamp in the Tidy Garden
Or is it….mwhahahaha!
All I can say is Veg Beds….but I’ve said too much already!
Until next time ….

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Tulips From…Welwyn Garden City

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(Survivor – Pink, General de Wet – Orange, Fragrant)

I’m delighted to be able to share some images of tulips planted in one of my clients gardens last autumn.

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There were 400 planted at the time and I must confess when I heard someone on TV a few weeks back saying ‘don’t be surprised if some tulips don’t make an appearance this spring because of the extra long winter’, well…mild PANIC set in!!!

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(General de Wet – Orange, Fragrant, Attila – Purple)At that stage I hadn’t visited this client since planting so my return this year was with some intrepidation (….and fear that they might have thought I’d merely taken home the bulbs instead of planting them!)

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(Apricot Beauty)But I needn’t have panicked….Mother Nature wasn’t going to let me down. OK…we had a couple of ‘mutant’ looking stems & buds but all in all I think every single one grew. And they look amazing!

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(General de Wet – Orange, fragrant, Survivor – Pink)
They’ve mainly be grown to provide indoor cut flowers but there are so many…enough to supply the whole neighbourhood.
They look truly beautiful.
Now a question for you. We have a few tulips in the Tidy Garden that have been there for years and still pop up each year. So, do you lift or leave your tulips in?
Loads of conflicting opinions & advice out there…what works for you?
Thank you to the Edwards family for allowing me to share images from your garden.
All bulbs came from http://www.peternyssen.com/
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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Tidy Garden End Bed–Spring 2013

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Another part of the Tidy Garden that needed a bit of an overhaul this spring was the End bed. Tree & major shrub wise it was perfect but bed wise…hmmmm….let’s fast forward shall we.
Out went 2 more hand-reared Lonicera Nitida that sat beneath the Pyracantha tree collecting dead leaves and we said adios to a slightly ropey-looking snowball Viburnham that I’d grown from a cutting yonks back.
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In came a Yucca transplanted from the front garden and a white Ribe was moved to the left.

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I dug up a huge clump of Doronicum from the Shady Bed and split it into about 30 chunks and transplanted some into this bed alongside more Polyanthus (Gold laced) ‘splittings’…

Finally, the bed has been planted with more of Mr TG’s beloved fiery coloured Geums to create a zingy end to the garden this summer. I’ve also added patches of Campanula in between to create an evergreen carpet that’ll burst into a flash of purple later in the year.

This is the birds favourite part of the garden….places to hide, drink & be fed. There’s a white Lilac (Madame Lemoine), large Choisia, a blooming Magnolia & the Pyracantha is full of sparrows.

Sunny view from above of the End bed.

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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Re-Vamped Patio Bed – Spring 2013

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The Tidy Garden Patio Bed had got a bit…you know…boring. It looked ‘ok’ in the summer but only ‘ok’…the rest of the year it had got a bit….well…boring.
There were tired old conifers on either side of the French doors, like a couple of old, heavyweight bouncers, just there, not ‘luring in the ladies’, so they had to go. Woody Lavenders needed replacing, the Peony had used up it’s 5 lives & there were several Spirea more worthy of front of house than back stage positions. So everything, except the Acer, small Prunus & lollipopped conifer, was dug up, trimmed, roots buffed & replanted in the right place.

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A few purchases, a bit of tweaking and the spring Patio bed is complete & poised for summer.

So here yer go… centre stage has gone to a pink Flowering Currant (Ribe) which, believe it or not, just appeared in the Shady bed a couple of years ago from nowhere. I’ve put it in the middle to grow into an ‘architectural’ feature rather than a ‘blocky’ shrub.

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Multi-headed Tulips,

My all-time-favourite plant Auricula,


Some of Mr TG’s purchases, he buys plants like I buy wine, if the label looks pretty, that’ll do for him.

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Snake’s Head Fritillary and…

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loads of lupins. There’s also Eryngium, Alliums, fresh English Lavenders, Linum, Rudbeckias and Arenaria.

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Boring no more!

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