The word ‘yard’ immediately makes me think of a boxy, concrete space; I picture weeds, dull paving slabs and dilapidated fences. On the other hand, ‘garden’ conjures up images of lush foliage, sprawling green lawns, and colourful flowers. My outdoor space – we’ll call it that for now – is currently halfway between the two. It’s no longer just a yard, yet it certainly has a long way to go until it can rightly be called a fully fledged garden.
Prior to moving into my little terrace house in Manchester two years ago with my boyfriend, I longed for some outdoor space. The flat that I had lived in previously had no garden, yard, or sizeable window ledges, and so growing things just wasn’t an option.
However, now that I have an outdoor area, I’m beginning to realise that gardening is certainly no walk in the park. Over the past two years I’ve made mistakes in terms of my choice of plants, suffered from brutal slug and snail invasions and scoured the internet for advice more times than I can remember. So, as my first post on this blog, I’m bringing you my journey to date as I attempt to turn my paved back yard into a beautiful urban oasis.
When we first moved in, the yard was a mass of paving stones and weeds. That was it. no plants, no grass, nothing. Two years later, and things have started to change.
Things I’ve learnt
- It is possible to source cheap garden furniture. We bought a wooden table and chairs off eBay for a mere £60 from a couple who live about twenty minutes away.
- Cheap, standard plant food works well and helps to nourish plants that are in pots and therefore cannot gain nutrients from the ground.
- Plants can be hardy little things. One of my early purchases – a green, shrub-like thing – took a real battering from snails last summer. However, I’ve persevered and it has returned from the near-dead!
- Snails and slugs are relentless and capable of getting everywhere! Keeping them at bay is tough, but not impossible. They dislike tea and coffee granules (save your tea bags and dregs!) and hate moving over broken egg shells. The ultimate method of attack is to round them up two or three times a week and move them elsewhere – a tad time consuming, but certainly worth it.
- Gardening takes time, patience, and some money. Mature shrubs, trees and perennials are expensive. The cheapest way to cultivate a garden is to be patient – buy things young and help them to grow. I’m envious of my next door neighbour’s foliage, but she kindly reminded me recently that it’s taken her sixteen years to get to the stage that she’s at now.
- Lifting up paving stones to plant stuff underneath isn’t as easy as it sounds – there is no saying what the soil will be like. We have managed to do this, but it resulted in lots of raking, the disposal of loads of stones, and a HUGE bag of new compost.
Mistakes that I won’t make again
- Certain plants do not flourish in certain environments. It may sound obvious, but to a novice, there is no knowing which plants will work and which won’t, particularly since the labels in garden centres can be fairly sparse. I discovered this the hard way when my peach tree suffered from a serious case of ‘peach leaf curl’ this spring – a fungal infection caused by lots of rain over the winter. Unfortunately, the North West of England is a rainy place which means the peach tree has to go. I’m hoping to re-home it in my parents garden which is in warmer, more southern climes.
- It is possible to plant too many flowers in a hanging basket – as the image above suggests!
- When it comes to planting in beds, aim for taller plants, shrubs or trees at the back and work down in size as you get to the front. I’ve had to re-jig my newly-planted bed due to the fact that the front plants seemed to double in size very quickly and blocked out the light from the little flowers behind them.
Fingers crossed for a good summer, and even more growth.