Friday, 17 November 2017

A Garden Makeover on a Budget

Shed and patio of stone chippings. I've been working on the garden for a few years now. There are a few reasons why it's taken so long; there isn't much money to spend on it, I'm not very good at it, and time and weather are not always our friends. So, this is this season's update, and I have to say, I am really, really happy with it. The aim has always been to make the garden effort-proof and I think that part is almost perfect. Aside from a little mowing and picking up stray leaves, there's not much to do day to day, but it still looks pretty good. I am still very much an amateur and gardening for me will probably always be trial and error, but it's so great when something actually grows! Here's how we did it, what we've added recently, what worked and what didn't. 

Saving time working in the garden is something that appeals to a lot of families, when they would rather be relaxing in it! It's really not that hard to achieve, and doesn't have to cost the earth. We started the effort-proofing project in 2014, following an initiative I organised for my son's school, where we tidied up an area that was really overgrown and unsafe. I learned all about using weed suppressing membrane and stone chippings to make a neat finish without constant weeding. This area hasn't changed much since then, except I've finally got rid of the horrible plastic border around it. The idea was to keep the chippings from straying onto the path, but it turned out to be pointless, as we used wood chippings and they don't move. I added a few pansies and primroses to the pot recently, just for a low cost splash of colour. In 2015 I finally blogged about my crazy shed design, although this was completed in 2014 too. The shed is still the same, thank goodness, as I am really fond of it. I think the litres of boat varnish we got through might have something to do with it! 

Side border with plants and stone ornaments.

In 2015 we tackled my nemesis, an area at the back that gets no sun and is constantly damp and shady. We used blue stone chippings to create a patio area, which really gave it a lift, and added plants, to complete the transformation. It has been really tricky to find anything that grows there but, this is mainly where the trial and error comes in, I think we've cracked it. For some reason the fuchsias seem to be able to take any abuse that is thrown at them and have continued to flower long into the winter every year, despite the conditions, and have even survived a very determined campaign by an army of bindweed that has reappeared a few times now. This year we added yellow and orange Chrysanthemums, as they seem pretty hardy, so I have high hopes for those. The bindweed does seem to be finally in retreat and I think the wood chippings have had a lot to do with that. A generous layer of wood chippings provide a really good mulch to improve the quality of soil, but they are also brilliant for keeping the weeds down, which, if you do have a bindweed problem, can really lessen the workload in the growing season. It probably won't stop it completely, but it will slow it down considerably.

Stone chipping patio area with seating and a small pond.

There are still some areas for improvement. Our biggest challenge is finding a fence that will actually stay up for a year. As soon as the wind gets up, usually around now, it falls down. Every year. We are on a hill, and the design of our housing estate seems to have created some sort of wind tunnel, so the wind destroys everything in its path, all the time. I am hoping that somebody will invent a wind-proof fence that can actually handle the British weather. The other aspect that really needs attention is the patio and the wall, in parts, too. You can see on the right of the photo above that where I've cut back the apple tree, the wall is looking decidedly unloved. After nine years, it's all just a bit grubby, especially the patio. We did try a technique we found on YouTube, where you use bleach and a stiff broom, but it didn't make a world of difference, and I'm not sure it was really worth the effort it took. I don't think I can put off investing in a pressure washer for much longer. It would really finish off the garden to brighten up the slabs. Here's the before and after, from when we tried the bleach, see what you think. The photo on the left was taken just after we started and the one on the right was taken this morning, because I forgot about it and it is insanely sunny this morning, so it really ought to be dazzlingly white, but I think it's just too old now.

Before and after shots of patio cleaning.

The last, and most important, addition to the garden this year has been a little memorial to my friend Lynn, who passed away earlier in the year and is still greatly missed by all of us. As her nickname was LynnyLemon, I really wanted a lemon tree, but our local garden nursery were fairly confident that it wouldn't grow, so I settled on the wonderful burst of sunshine, that is this Chrysanthemum. With the bench and the new cherub I added to the other side, it makes the perfect spot to sit and remember how much she cherished her own garden and the gnomes guard the flowers for her too. I think she would have loved it and it is providing a welcome splash of colour on this cold November day.

Memorial bench flanked with a cherub and a huge yellow Chrysanthemum

It's taken a long time to get the garden exactly how I want it, but it's been really worthwhile and I know that it will stay neat and tidy now, without too much to do. I will probably carry on adding the odd plant here and there and the lavender grows like a plant possessed, so that will still need its annual haircut, but I'm pleased with the overall result and with the unseasonably good weather we've been having, I've had lots of opportunities to enjoy it too! In an ideal world, I would probably replace the turf with something a bit more... grassy and maybe have a patio where the stones are, perhaps a garden swing, swimming pool, hot tub, etc, but it's tidy and full of colour, which is really all I wanted, so I'm happy with it. I am wishing I moved the spare bike wheel to the bike shed before I took this last photo though!

Most of the garden, taken from above.



  1. Oh Lucy look how good it looks! If you want to come and do mine feel free... it's a jungle!
    We definitely need to make ours effort proof.
    Also, if you miraculously find fence panels that don't get distroyed in the wind let me know...

  2. What a lovely job you have done

  3. Some lovely ideas, we have recently moved and finally have a garden well a front and back, so our children have somewhere to play, I can't wait until the spring to plant seedlings and tidy it up, have barbecues and use our new fire pit xxx

  4. It looks gorgeous! Some great ideas

  5. Your garden looks really lovely and a memorial bench for your dear friend is a really thoughtful idea xx

  6. That looks really gorgeous and I am very jealous as it makes my garden look so untidy. The bench is such a lovely thought and I love your shed design, how cool is that?!

  7. Looks great! Neat and tidy and child friendly too!

  8. You did a great job. It looks fab


© The Parent Game. All rights reserved.