The start of another year is a time of hope, excitement and good intentions. This year I’ve more reason than ever to be excited. We’re moving house you see, which means a new garden to whip into shape and a whole raft of projects to get underway. The move-in date is set for the end of February, so there really isn’t much longer to wait, but like any gardener I’ve a real itch to get dirt under the fingernails as soon as possible – the unpacking will just have to wait!
But no excitement can match a youngster’s. Long-term readers may recall the moment we planted a crab apple in honour of our daughter’s arrival into the world. Well, Isla is now four and has specifically requested a growing area of her own. It seems that she too has been bitten by the gardening bug – and we’ll be encouraging her every step of the way.
A New Garden
Most of the garden is currently laid to lawn, with established shrubs and a smattering of fruit trees (plum and apple) to create a leafy hideaway from the world beyond. It’s all on a slope but some clever terracing by the current owners has created some useable level areas for family fun and relaxation.
There’s already a vegetable area, complete with a couple of dedicated beds to bring order, but I’m not convinced that efficient use of space has been made. So the plan is to see if another bed or two can be squeezed in while allowing for workable paths between that are neither too narrow nor awkwardly shaped. One of the beds appears to be overshadowed by a billowing shrub (yet to be identified), which will need judicious pruning to allow the light back in.
Planning a New Vegetable Garden
Immediately next to the vegetable beds is something I’ve always dreamed of: a proper, solid, glass-glazed greenhouse! It’s about 3.5m (12ft) long by 2.5m (8ft) wide, giving ample room to finally indulge my fantasy of a space chock full of heritage tomatoes and heat-raising chilli peppers. For flexibility and for somewhere to harden off seedlings I’ll also use a simple wooden cold frame, ensuring a garden nursery setup capable of supplying a steady stream of young vegetable plants for succession planting.
The current owners have invited us over a few times now so we can pace out the garden and work out what will go where. It’s also allowed us to identify potential challenges, one of which appears to be pheasants (an especially well-fed one landed in the garden on one visit). Pheasants are renowned for scratching up seedlings, making dust baths out of bare ground and generally being a bit of a nuisance in the vegetable garden. I’ll wait to see how much of a pest they are in practice, but I’m fairly certain a sizeable chunk of the vegetable garden will be kept under netting!
It’s important that children aren’t discouraged with a substandard plot, so Isla’s garden will be in a sunny area to give her the best chance of success. Isla has already given me her own seed order. In it are firm favourites including carrots, cucumbers and strawberries, together with a few unexpected items. I’ve had to let her down gently with her request for banana plants, which would struggle, to say the least, in our cool, murky climate! No doubt plenty of fun growing projects, such as potatoes in sacks, will complement her permanent plot.
An Easy and Fun Way to Plan a New Garden
If there’s ever been a time to use the Garden Planner, this is it. Just like browsing the seed catalogues, nothing stirs anticipation quite like settling down to an evening of virtual gardening.
Having measured out the position of the key features, the first task is to mark out the boundaries and key elements of the vegetable garden. I can then play around with various combinations of raised beds and growing areas, including that cold frame, my collection of pots and tubs, and perhaps even a modest-sized polythene tunnel for year-round salads and greens. All these features can be resized, copied and moved to my heart’s content, while adding a compass to the plan will allow me to fine-tune their orientation to maximise sunlight.
As well as essentials such as netting, crop covers, irrigation, bean supports and compost bins, the Garden Planner comes with an outstanding variety of flowers to accompany the hundreds of vegetables, herbs, fruits and green manures you can drop into your plan. I’ve always been a fan of mixing flowers with crops, mainly to attract pollinators and pest predators, but this time round I’d like to plan out a floriferous perimeter to the vegetable garden that will provide plenty of food for the soul too – and a few cut flowers for my ever-patient wife. The Garden Planner’s Companion Planting feature will be invaluable for working out what will work best with what, while the Succession Planting feature will help to ensure ground isn’t bare for long.
Planning a new garden is impossibly exciting! I’ve lots of ideas whirring around in my head - now all that’s required is a little restraint and methodical thinking to make intelligent sense of them all! I’d welcome any words of advice you might have for new garden owners; don’t be shy, drop me a line below and share your tips and suggestions.